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Improving operational efficiency at Plan UK

News Archives

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.”


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.”


Building performance teams

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Team building for a UK IT services company

Every organization has teams – its just that not every team works as a team.  Teams don’t happen by accident, they happen as the result of thoughtful selection, team development and ownership of shared goals coupled with a common desire to achieve.  A high performing team really is much greater than the sum of it’s parts.

This UK based IT services company wanted to break into a new sector and build a serious presence – but they came from humble origins and were not seen as a player by the market.  Not only did they need to target new customers they also needed to shift to higher value deals.  So they brought in new sales people, but knew it would be an issue to mesh them with the existing team and deliver the challenging targets.

We worked with the team as a group and as individuals to agree clear business and personal goals – because we recognized that to commit to outstanding personal effort, each person would need to feel inspired by the challenge.  We used team building techniques focussed on the real business, creating a motivating vision, and making sure each person could see the part they needed to play to ensure they were successful.  We provided performance coaching for them individually and as a group to keep them on track with success.

The company pulled together, gained focus, impetus and traction.  They are now winning significant deals which have given them exactly the market presence they wanted.

“We became productive quickly, in fact we realized the expected benefits and more.  The team has fully met their goals and we have clear development plans for the future.” Senior Vice President


Embracing change

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Major change programme for a UK charity

You know that change is constant, that it’s unavoidable. Some organizations feel permanently exhausted by the sheer amount of change they have to handle.  But you know that the alternative – doing nothing – isn’t an option.  If you let change be forced upon you by the outside world, you’ll always be on the back foot and your people will know you’re not the one really in control.  Embrace change, give the organization the structure, tools skills and support to succeed, and get out of the way while they astonish you with what they can achieve.

This is the story of a UK charity that found change a challenge and a tonic…

This medium sized UK charity had become seriously stuck in its ways – something the new CEO wanted to fix fast.  He set about rejuvinating the organization so that it could get on the front foot with energetic campaigning and effective delivery of advice and support.  He quickly kicked off a large number of new initiatives. But this resulted in as many questions as it did answers!  Why was each initiative important?  How did it all fit together?  Who was doing what?  Initial progress was limited, people were confused.

We worked with the senior management team to pin down the key purpose of each initiative, and to form them into a structured change program.  This meant we could communicate clearly to staff and get them behind the program.  The team also agree common ways of reporting so that progress was clear, and adjustments could be made quickly if an initiative was struggling.

Three years on the charity has increased effectiveness on all fronts; from coverage to impact; and from customer satisfaction to money in the bank.

“They enabled us to shape and drive needed changes through our organization.  The support and challenge provided was invaluable and enabled us to focus on the priorities”  CEO


Shaping up for the future

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Organizational Effectiveness for a Leading UK Charity

Having reviewed front line operations, a leading UK Charity needed to take a hard look at the way the HQ functions worked – particularly in light of increasing economic pressures.

The economic downturn has affected the charity sector as much as anyone else. Falling income from all sources made it essential for this UK Charity to reduce HQ operating costs accordingly. With each division operating in a largely separate way, there were few examples of reuse to ensure economies of scale. Working with Verve, the senior management team carried out an ambitious 3 month programme of strategic reviews, leading to a plan for structuring the organisation to reduce unnecessary costs, balance the budget and rebuild reserves.

As the new organization was rolled out, many structural changes were made and some groups were disbanded.  A program of cost controls and redundancies was also implemented.  Operational management within each division, led by a newly-appointed COO, is driving organisational change, leaving the senior team to concentrate on strategy and managing the external environment.

As the Charity’s CEO said “… Verve gave us a proper business analysis of where we were and what was happening in the outside world. In addition, Verve provided process and a focus on driving through decisions that allowed us to make the changes we needed quickly, keeping the uncertainty for the rest of the workforce to a minimum.”


Turning vision into reality

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Implementation planning for a leading UK charity

With a clear strategy in place for a major shift in their front line operations, a leading UK charity needed to ensure effective implementation to deliver the benefits.

This involved hands-on engagement from large numbers of staff, translating a strategic vision into practical activity. This was all done to a very tight time-table, defined by external factors. Verve worked intensively with key managers to finalise the design work. We then moved onto implementation of a plan that required coordination between all functions, with changes affecting all 750 staff.

A team of internal Change Managers led the process and Verve ensured that they were equipped with the skills needed for consistent, high quality management. The process has so far met all the identified milestones and been flexible enough to accommodate additional requirements that emerged during implementation.

Commenting on this phase of the project is the Services Director, “The challenge in this phase of the project was to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the key managers. In this respect, Verve’s work has been fantastic.  It would have been impossible to do without help and it has been useful to have consultants from ‘outside’ to act as a foil.”