Company Leadership Development

a case history by Orchard Leadership

Bramley (name changed) is a company that works hands-on with forward thinking organisations around the world to help them get more out of complex operational processes and supply chains.  They deploy over 100 talented engineers, not management consultants, who are able to identify issues that limit cost, delivery and quality performance, and then implement practical solutions that rapidly generate measurable, sustainable financial returns.  They have grown from the 3 founders to their present size at a rate of 30% per annum.  In so doing they have recognised that although their business performance continues to excel, they do not have a culture of leadership development; nor is leadership embedded in any of their internal processes.  In a young, highly capable and career mobile group of employees this was causing increasing concern.

Orchard Leadership was asked to advise on an imaginative, credible and sustainable programme to upgrade all aspects of leadership, and its development, throughout the company – working with one of the founding executives.

To start building confidence and mutual understanding of the issues a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis was conducted.  In particular it was important to understand the linkage between effective leadership and business performance, at a time when performance was in many respects outstanding.  This opened up the route to consideration of the Qualities and Application approaches to leadership – as described in Leadership in the Office, a small pamphlet published by Orchard Leadership.

Rigorous matrix based analysis was done of a lengthy list of leadership attributes against individuals, peer group, team members and clients.  Good and poor behaviours were identified across all domains, based on real events and behaviours.  This thorough understanding of the internal leadership map of Bramley then had to be boiled down to 3 core values, each of which had 3 attributes, making 9 in all – examples being Integrity, Innovation and Doing the Best Every Time.  These nine attributes were readily accepted by the Board and direction given to infuse them into staff behaviours, customer relations and all internal HR processes, from initial selection through to eventual departure.  Appraisal and promotion systems were of particular importance to capture the 9 attributes.  Less formal processes also had to be addressed, such as appointment of team leaders for particular pieces of work.  In future every operational decision will be addressed in a leadership context, as well as commercial, financial, risk or other considerations.

Given that there had been two previously unsuccessful attempts at corporate leadership development, and against a background of “We are doing really well, what is the problem?” the Board were unsure whether this renewal of leadership throughout Bramley would be well received, let alone embraced.  In the event any doubts were misplaced.  Cynics and diehard opponents of such approaches “saw the light” in a remarkable way, which in turn gave a great boost to the whole adoption programme. 

For Orchard Leadership and Bramley it was a hugely rewarding journey from nervous curiosity, through satisfaction with the rigour of the analysis, to a hoped for, but yet unexpected, fulsome embrace.  Bramley now has a solid, sustainable and comprehensive leadership platform upon which the company can continue its spectacular growth.