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Mindfulness for Leaders at Activate Learning

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Mindfulness for Leaders at Activate Learning

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Activate Learning is a training and education group with more than 500 teachers focused on training and education for 16,000 students and 1,200 business clients. Its Learning Philosophy underpins development of all students and staff, including leadership development. Activate Learning trains its staff in a wide variety of disciplines to help them help the students and to ensure that everyone in the organisation shares the same vision of what the organisation wishes to achieve and how they want to achieve it.  Included in this training is ‘mindfulness’.  As part of the organisation’s Leadership Development Programme for its top 40 staff, Pablo Lloyd, a Group Executive Director, decided to give a ‘taste’ of mindfulness to the management. So that they would understand what their front-line teachers were doing and also be able to use mindfulness to support themselves during changing times.

Verve Consulting Ltd (Verve) was referred by a well-respected business acquaintance, as a company that could provide such training in a professional environment. The whole process was tailored to Activate Learning’s need. Vari McLuskie, Director at Verve, met with the top management to discuss options and approaches before the session was scheduled.  The objectives of the ½ day workshop were clearly defined:

  • Help top management to understand more about mindfulness and what the organisation is offering to learners
  • Instil an appetite to use mindfulness to support the changes in the organisation

The session itself involved around 40 individuals and began with an explanation of what is actually meant by ‘mindfulness’ and the science supporting this. Then, Vari began by ‘learning through doing’ and led the participants through 3 different, mindfulness exercises with time for a review and debrief on the experience.

When asked about the success of the day, Pablo Lloyd responded “I am very glad we did the day. It met all its objectives. It was interesting to see that – while most people enjoyed the process and the entire top team bought into the idea – there were a few who really struggled. Having said that, this workshop is part of a longer process of creating a relevant business culture and there may be those individuals who find this change difficult.  I would definitely recommend Vari McLuskie and Verve Consulting to anyone who wants to explore the application of mindfulness to their business or organisation.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process.”


Improving operational efficiency at Plan UK

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Operational review for the UK organisation of a global children’s charity

Plan UK has been experiencing a period of significant growth and wanted to review its operational effectiveness and seek the improvements that would support the sustainability of further growth.

Plan is a global children’s charity that has worked for over 75 years with children in the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future. With 8,000 staff and a presence in 68 countries across the world, Plan empowers children, families and entire communities to move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.

Plan UK is one of 20 national organisations that support programmes, raise funds, campaign, and manage sponsorship relationships to fulfil Plan’s work. Over the last 6 years Plan UK has trebled its income and staff numbers have more than doubled.

In 2010 the organisation was restructured and a new tier of management was introduced to maintain the effectiveness of the rapidly growing charity. However the Senior Management Team at Plan UK felt that they could make further improvements. Then feedback from the 2011 employee survey reinforced their view and confirmed that the priority was to improve decision making.

Verve Consulting was appointed by Plan UK to review the decision making processes across the organization, then devise and implement a standard methodology to achieve improved clarity and transparency in decision making.

Angela Beerman, Director of Human Resources explains: “We engaged Verve following a tender process because Verve showed the right balance between the vision and the practical issues. Verve demonstrated a clear grasp of the key needs and we felt confident that Verve would be able to lead the project and deliver solutions within the budget constraints and demanding timescales.”

Working closely with the senior management team and the departmental heads, Verve documented the current situation and identified the main issues as responsibility for decisions, delegation and communication. Through a series of workshops with representatives from all the employee levels, the issues were addressed and the way forward agreed. Verve then developed a top line decision making map, a decision tool covering accountabilities, responsibilities and communication, and an implementation plan.

Director of Human Resources, Angela Beerman continues: “Because this project involved cultural change and the introduction of a new methodology, it has been invaluable having objective input from someone outside the organization.  Verve’s input also ensured the workshops were productive and engendered enthusiasm in the participants. The work Verve has done is making a difference already at the senior levels in the organization and the decision making tool gives us clarity for our plans and business cases.”

Angela recognizes that Plan UK still has work to do in embedding the outputs from the project right across the organization, however she is delighted that the latest employee survey is already showing great improvements in satisfaction scores for the management practices that were in the scope of the Verve project.

Summing up Verve Consulting’s overall contribution, Angela added,”It is great news that we have the improved employee survey results as evidence of the successful outcome of the work Verve has done. I have thoroughly enjoyed Verve’s direct, realistic and enthusiastic approach. Verve’s drive and determination kept us focused and the project on track to meet the deadlines. Verve delivered what they said they were going to deliver.”


Accelerating progress for YoungDementia UK Homes

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Strategy development for a new dementia charity

Following the appointment of a new chairman, YoungDementia UK Homes wanted to accelerate progress toward the establishment of a care home for people with young onset dementia.

YoungDementia UK Homes is an Oxfordshire-based charity established in 2009, by YoungDementia UK, to focus on the delivery of a residential home offering long-term accommodation and support for people with young onset dementia.

Geoff Shepherd was appointed Chairman of YoungDementia UK Homes in May 2012. Prior to Geoff’s appointment the charity had been exploring various options for developing the home, without much success. Such an undertaking is a complex and ambitious capital project and, without full-time resources, progress had been slow. Geoff recognised that the charity needed to change the way it was working for the project to succeed.

Verve Consulting was appointed by YoungDementia UK Homes to work with the charity on the vision for the Home and on development of the strategy. Chairman, Geoff Shepherd explains: “We engaged Verve, following a recommendation by one of our Trustees, based on Verve’s reputation for strategy development and track record in improving the commercial efficiency of not-for-profit organizations.”

Working closely with Geoff and the Board of Trustees, Verve managed the strategy process, preparing and facilitating a workshop that covered discussion and agreement on the vision for the Home, the action plan that would enable the tight deadlines to be met, and a business case.

Geoff continues: “Verve Consulting’s facilitation of the strategy session, with their action-oriented approach, empathy for the charity’s cause and great sense of humour, meant that all the Trustees felt able to contribute to reviewing progress and agreeing a plan on the way forward. Verve helped us identify the activities that were critical to achieving our aim and then kept us focused on those key action points.”

The charity has made impressive progress since Verve’s involvement and, although Geoff recognizes that he and the Trustees still have much work to do, he is pleased with the results so far: “We have 2 key positive outcomes as a result of the work with Verve. We have appointed a full-time Director with responsibility for delivering the project and, thanks to Verve’s commercial expertise, we have produced an up-to-date business case for the Home.”

Summing up Verve Consulting’s overall contribution, Geoff said, “Working with Verve was a very, very invigorating experience. They have a sound commercial approach and are results oriented, which was a winning combination for us. We would not have made the progress we did without Verve and overall I rate Verve’s involvement a 5-star contribution.”


Ambitious new strategy for YoungDementia UK

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Strategy development for an award-winning dementia charity

Following new government initiatives on the delivery of dementia services and changes within the charity, YoungDementia UK decided to review its mission and develop an ambitious new strategy to ensure the charity continues to be well placed in providing a full range of support services for people with young onset dementia and their families.

YoungDementia UK is an Oxfordshire-based charity providing award-winning services for younger people with dementia. Since 1996 the charity has provided support and services for people with young onset dementia, their families and friends. YoungDementia UK was an Oxfordshire charity of the year finalist in 2011 and won a European Foundation’s Initiative on Dementia (EFID) award in 2012.

YoungDementia UK has built a strong reputation in the field of young onset dementia for the quality of support and services it provides. However, following changes in the chairmanship and Board of Trustees of the charity, and the potential changes in the delivery of dementia services as a result of government initiatives, the Board of Trustees together with Director, Tessa Gutteridge, felt the time was right to review the charity’s future strategy.

Verve Consulting was appointed by YoungDementia UK to work with the charity on the development of the strategy. Director, Tessa Gutteridge explains: “We decided to engage Verve because we wanted someone who was independent of the Board, but who had a proven track record of understanding strategy and the charity sector.”

Working closely with Tessa and the Board of Trustees, Verve managed the strategy process, including setting up and facilitating a workshop that covered the mission, strategic options and development of a new 3 year strategy.

Tessa continues: “Verve Consulting’s involvement meant that we were able to commit quality time to discussion about where we wanted to take the charity in the future. With Verve’s knowledge of the charity sector they were able to challenge our assumptions and help us get clarity into our thinking. And finally, Verve’s experience with strategy work ensured we focused on achievements, rather than the process, to give us a far better outcome.”

Summing up Verve Consulting’s overall role, Tessa added, “Verve’s contribution provided us with a number of benefits, but above all their involvement excited and motivated the trustees about planning and the future. Everyone was bubbling about the workshop afterwards and it’s up to us to keep that going now. It’s a period of significant change in dementia care and we now have a great opportunity to build on our reputation.”


Improving global collaboration

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Strategy implementation for a global telecommunications group

This leading telecommunications group needed a well-defined, global, change management programme to drive improved collaboration across international boundaries and business groups.

The client wanted to improve efficiency and effectiveness through greater collaboration between its subsidiaries around the world. To achieve these aims the client developed and planned to introduce a common global business networking tool.

A major internal change programme was essential in order to achieve these objectives and, after a slow start using internal resources, the Client brought in Verve Consulting to re-establish the implementation of this global change programme. Verve Consulting had previously worked for this client and demonstrated its skill in achieving results in large international programme management, which combined business issues and technology.

Working closely with the selected members of the client’s Board and other key staff, Verve initially developed a plan to deliver the programme on time and within budget. The complex nature of this strategic work demanded an equal measure of experience in large-scale technology projects and sensitivity in managing behavior change with culturally different groups and diverse working methods.

Verve established ownership for delivery of the key work streams in the plan and developed relationships with key stakeholders around the world, and in the global business units, to gain commitment to implement the changes required. As part of this work, Verve coached a new internal programme director to take over the work when the first, key milestones had been achieved.

Verve led the direction of the plan which covered over 30 countries and included the standardization of IT hardware platforms, specifications of user requirements for the applications, engaging the community to develop the content for the first phase roll-out of the system, setting up common user standards, gaining buy-in and traction with key influencers in the user community and homogenizing different company practices around the world.

Verve’s leadership of the programme resulted in a successful outcome for this global telecommunications company. The launch of the tools and global roll out was delivered on time and to budget, with users actively bought in to the new, standardized business networking systems and the company benefitting from a more efficient way of working.


Procurement Strategy saves over £500,000 per annum for Anthony Nolan

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Procurement Strategy Development and Implementation for Anthony Nolan

As part of a new, ambitious five-year strategy, Anthony Nolan reviewed its commercial operations early in 2011 and identified procurement as an area that needed improvement if it were to achieve its goals.

Anthony Nolan is a very successful charity whose mission is saving lives. The charity created the world’s first register of people willing to donate their stem cells, saving lives by matching donors to patients suffering from leukaemia or other blood-related disorders. It now runs the UK’s largest and most successful stem cell register, with over 400,000 potential donors, and set up the UK’s first dedicated facility for cord blood banking and research.

With an external spend of over £6million, in a turnover of around £30million, Anthony Nolan identified the procurement of services and supplies as a potential opportunity to make significant savings that could contribute to its mission of saving lives. Anthony Nolan considered appointing a Procurement Manager but, unsure that the savings could be realised, decided a permanent post could not be afforded.

Verve Consulting had already worked with Anthony Nolan on facilitating the production of the charity’s commercial strategies in 2011 and began talking to Alan How, Finance and Resources Director of Anthony Nolan, about its procurement strategy.

Following proposals from Verve Consulting, and satisfied with Verve’s procurement credentials, Alan appointed Verve for a first phase trial project of up to 3 months: “We know Verve well, trust them and like their outcomes. We decided to engage Verve for a trial procurement project with the assurance that the cost of the project would be covered by savings made, or the charges for the project would be reduced.”

Working closely with Anthony Nolan’s staff, Verve analyzed the procurement processes and examined the procurement spend in great detail. Verve then developed a procurement plan that identified where savings could be made and, perhaps most importantly, confirmed that savings were achievable by undertaking a “quick win” procurement assignment that covered the cost of this first phase trial project.

Achieving the quick win involved Verve in gaining an in-depth understanding of the spend and existing suppliers for the service selected, applying procurement techniques to the buying process, identifying a range of strategic buying options and the competitive position of potential suppliers, then launching a series of request for quotations (RFQ’s). This detailed and methodical process led to a successful outcome for Anthony Nolan with immediate savings made available.

Having identified in the trial that savings were possible and achievable, and with the price of the first phase covered by the quick-win cost savings, Anthony Nolan awarded Verve a six-month strategic consulting project to implement the procurement plan.

In the implementation phase Verve systematically applied procurement techniques to the areas where the greatest possible savings had been identified. This covered a range of services and materials bought by Anthony Nolan including the recruitment of donors, the laboratory analysis of donor samples, specialist clinical couriers and the collection of stem cells from donors.

Verve established relationships with all the key stakeholders responsible for buying the services and materials in the scope of the procurement plan, ran workshops with the in-house teams to pull together a coherent approach to the potential suppliers of each of the services or materials, allocated clear responsibilities for specific suppliers, set up tender processes, and negotiated with suppliers. The implementation of the plan has led to the successful delivery of annual savings of over £500,000.

Alan How, Finance and Resources Director of Anthony Nolan explains, “Verve has delivered an extremely successful project for Anthony Nolan. The result is a large annual cost saving that allows us to expand our services and help Anthony Nolan to achieve our goal of doubling the number of lives to whom we give the chance of life.”

Verve Consulting’s work with Anthony Nolan on the procurement strategy has helped the charity appreciate the importance of sound commercial principles and attention to detail in obtaining maximum value from its supply chain. With those philosophies in place, and proof that savings can be made, Anthony Nolan is now confident in recruiting a Procurement Manager. In this next phase of the development of the procurement strategy, Verve will continue to be involved, both in the recruitment of the Procurement Manager and in the subsequent mentoring of the procurement function.

Summing up Verve Consulting’s overall contribution to the procurement strategy, Alan added, “Verve brings a maturity of approach and a high level of professionalism that has achieved successful outcomes within a contained cost, which is extremely important for a charity like Anthony Nolan.”


Maximizing Commercial Efficiency for Anthony Nolan

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Implementing Commercial Strategies for Anthony Nolan

When Anthony Nolan began transforming its organisation to turn an ambitious five-year strategy into reality, the charity identified the need to maximize its commercial efficiency to meet its challenging goals.

Anthony Nolan is a very successful charity whose mission is saving lives. The charity created the world’s first register of people willing to donate their stem cells, saving lives by matching donors to patients suffering from leukaemia or other blood-related disorders. It now runs the UK’s largest and most successful stem cell register, with over 400,000 potential donors, and has the UK’s first dedicated facility for cord blood banking and research.

Recognizing the need to maximize every penny it earns and everything it spends to ensure it fulfils its mission of saving lives, Anthony Nolan chose Verve Consulting to develop the strategy for maximizing the commercial efficiency of the charity’s key activities, based on previous successful work with the charity by Verve consultants and their proven track record in commercial strategy development.

Working collaboratively with the in-house teams, Verve Consulting initially developed a vision and principles to guide the organization’s commercial activities within the framework of the overall vision and mission of Anthony Nolan.

Verve ran focus groups and opportunity workshops to establish the direction, clear priorities and a commercial plan of action. The work undertaken included market and competitor research, market and customer analysis, pricing and costing strategies, contract negotiation and reviewing procurement processes.

Finally, the foundations were put into place for the successful continuation of the efficiency programmes with the agreement of a governance structure, and the short and long-term plans for the continued delivery of the commercial improvements.

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan explains, “Verve’s consultants have helped to galvanize our staff, bringing clarity and focus to our work on contracts and procurement. This has allowed us to make more informed decisions on our income and expenditure, generating money which can be spent more efficiently to help us achieve our goals”

Finally, commenting on Verve Consulting’s overall role, Henny added, “Verve has been key to the successful implementation of the commercial strategies, ensuring we maximize the contribution to our mission of every penny we receive or spend”


Turning Strategy into Reality for Anthony Nolan

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Strategy Development and Organizational Effectiveness for Anthony Nolan

Faced with an increasingly competitive market, changing customer requirements and a burning desire to achieve its challenging goals, Anthony Nolan recognized the need for a transformation to turn its ambitious five-year strategy into reality.

Anthony Nolan is a very successful charity whose mission is saving lives. The charity created the world’s first register of people willing to donate their stem cells, saving lives by matching donors to patients suffering from leukaemia or other blood-related disorders. It now runs the UK’s largest and most successful stem cell register, with over 400,000 potential donors, and has the UK’s first dedicated facility for cord blood banking and research.

In 2010, to achieve its challenging goals and save even more lives, Anthony Nolan embarked on strengthening the organization. Verve Consulting was selected to work on the transformation project for the laboratory, because Verve has a proven track record in strategy development and implementation with a deep knowledge of the not-for-profit sector. Equally importantly, Verve demonstrated an understanding of the sensitivities required to work within that environment and relevant scientific expertise.

Working collaboratively with the in-house teams, Verve Consulting began by conducting a review and analysis of the situation with staff, senior management, trustees and customers. Verve then facilitated senior management workshops to evaluate the strategic options arising from the analysis and agree the way forward for the laboratory.

Verve led the production of the business case for the investment required to allow the laboratory to pursue the chosen strategy. As a result of the business case the charity decided to make significant investments in the laboratory, improve the processes to maximize efficiency and reorganize to meet the new challenges.

In the ensuing design phase, Verve worked with Anthony Nolan’s teams to manage the detailed implementation of the strategy. Verve led three work streams covering the new investment in equipment, the design of the new organization and efficiency improvements from contracts and procurement.

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan explains, “Verve’s consultants have made a phenomenal achievement in the time available. Verve established trust with the staff and led a transformational project for the organisation. Verve did a brilliant job. They never let you off the hook, with great determination to keep the project on track.”

Finally, commenting on Verve Consulting’s overall contribution, Henny added, “Working with Verve made a huge difference to our ability to deliver the strategy successfully, helping us to save more lives by halving turnaround times. Because for Anthony Nolan time is of the essence.”


Implementing a strategy for efficiency and growth

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Marketing Strategy and Implementation for Ready Steady Store

When Ready Steady Store’s growth was not meeting expectation, Mehran Charania, Chief Executive Officer, undertook a full review of the business.

Ready Steady Store opened its first store in 2006 providing secure storage facilities with a high level of customer service that differentiates them in the self-storage industry. With their bold new business model, challenging the traditional approach to self storage, Ready Steady Store has grown rapidly since its inception, adding stores each year. However CEO, Mehran Charania, convinced that growth could be stronger, conducted a thorough review of all aspects of the business and developed a new marketing plan.

With their proven expertise in strategy development and implementation, Verve Consulting was appointed by Ready Steady Store to validate the plans and make recommendations on the marketing strategy.

Verve Consulting initially undertook an analysis of the current business and marketing activities, the competitive landscape and developments in the media. This involved staff internally and researching externally.

From the analysis, Verve Consulting recommended a strategy that challenged the industry’s traditional views on the marketing mix and expenditure required for a successful storage facility. The strategy addressed all aspects from internal resources and collateral to target audiences, the use of new media, and perhaps most critically of all, measuring the return on investment for marketing spend.

Following the approval of the strategy, Verve Consulting has managed the implementation of the plan involving not only internal and external marketing resources and budgets, but also operational and sales personnel, helping Ready Steady Store to gain the added value from the synergies of an holistic approach.

Ready Steady Store is now seeing tangible benefits from the new strategy with more efficient spending on marketing and revenues growing significantly at a time when the industry overall is experiencing severe pressures with many businesses losing revenue.

Mehran Charania, Chief Executive Officer, explains, “ Verve Consulting has impressed us by challenging the industry’s preconceived notions, and with the methodical approach to accountability and justifying returns on marketing investment.”

Finally, on Verve’s overall contribution, Mehran added, “ Verve Consulting has made a valuable contribution to our start-up business by reducing risk and increasing our credibility with investors.”


Creating a new organization

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Programme Management for The Office for Legal Complaints

When The Office for Legal Complaints was established to set up an impartial Ombudsman service by the second half of 2010, the new CEO & Chief Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, was faced with all the challenges of starting up a new business.

With aggressive deadlines to meet, and an organization of 350 people to get up and running to deliver their statutory function, the newly-appointed Chief Ombudsman has had to move very quickly. With no permanent staff in place, his first step was to engage advisors to help with the design, planning and implementation of the Ombudsman service.

The nature of the OLC’s requirements called for a supplier who not only excelled at programme management and delivery, but who also understood the cultural sensitivities of creating a new organization of this complexity.

The OLC retained Verve Consulting following an open market tender run through government procurement processes. Adam Sampson, CEO and Chief Ombudsman of the OLC explains, “Verve Consulting stand out as consultants who are adept with the cultural aspects of creating a new organization and who can be relied on to roll up their sleeves and go beyond the project plans and charts to get the job done.”

The Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) has been established by the Legal Services Act 2007 to set up an independent and impartial Ombudsman service for consumers of legal services who have complaints against their legal services’ provider.

The overall aim of the OLC is to establish an Ombudsman service, which is independent in its decision making, effective, modern, responsive and efficient. It will remove the current uncertainty amongst consumers as to where, or to whom, they should address their complaint by creating a single gateway for these complaints. The Ombudsman will be empowered to deal with all consumer complaints about legal services that cannot be resolved directly with the Law firm concerned.

The OLC is accountable to Parliament through the Lord Chancellor and is sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. The OLC will begin to resolve complaints in the second half of 2010.

Verve worked initially with the Chief Ombudsman on designing the key operational and organizational elements of the new entity and gaining approval with the key stakeholders. The focus then shifted to implementation planning for all aspects of creating an organization – premises, infrastructure, systems, processes and people – and finally, most critically, on the implementation of the plans against challenging targets and deadlines.

Verve’s role in implementing the plans has been to lead the Programme Office, which has directed all the work streams involved in creating the organization. This has involved owning the business process, overseeing procurement and the induction of new staff, being the guardian of the culture, dealing with the OLC’s stakeholders, presenting to the OLC board on progress, managing risk and not least, managing change. In short, everything needed to get an organization up and running.

Inevitably, as when starting any business, some plans have needed to change, requiring a flexible approach and skilled change management to ensure the programme remains on schedule to deliver the vision.

Commenting on what has been achieved, the Chief Ombudsman said, “Verve has done exceptionally well in handling change and keeping the OLC on schedule to deliver the Ombudsman service successfully.”

Finally, remarking on Verve Consulting’s overall contribution, Adam added, “Verve’s people have delivered on their promises and in some cases have gone considerably further than they promised. Verve were employed to deliver and go the extra mile – and that’s exactly what they have done.”