Strategic Development Through People




A major UK distribution business had grown over many years by acquisition, in many cases the Regional branch offices had kept their original trading name in an attempt to retain their loyal customer-base. Branch Management vacancies were often filled by ‘poaching’ from the competition.


There were limited People Development programmes, and each division had their own approach to Learning & Development. At this point in time, one arm of the business had ‘outsourced’ their complete training and learning requirement to my company Pt Learning and Development. Over the course of a short time period I had developed several bespoke courses aimed at both levels of work and development level.


This situation, whilst not being ideal, was fine until business became more difficult to secure and parts of the business found themselves competing against each other with the same customer base.


The key problems being faced at this point in time were:


·         No clear role descriptions or competencies

·         Confused boundaries in terms of trading

·         Little, and in some areas no people development, and a duplication and different approach to development

·         Low morale and motivation in some areas

·         Different cultures across the Regions



The holding companies aim was to begin to realign key operational functions into single functions in one location, covering all divisions. Trading conditions were incredibly tough and very competitive.


It was at this point I met with the Chief Executive to discuss the key priorities and challenges for the business in both the short and long-term.


The key focus was upon director and middle management development and the identification of capability within the business. The external talent pool had dried up, so the objective was ‘to grow some of our own’.

The Alternatives we Considered


1.      Buying-in training, or sending people on a generic development programmes

2.      Using some existing managers to Mentor others

3.      Doing nothing



We decided:

·         Point one - needed to be ‘bespoke’ for the businesses current market position, and the development level and decision-making level needed.

·         Point two – time was a huge issue, and the level of required competence was spread too thinly in the business

·         Point three - was never really an option


My Proposed Solutions


The overall solution was for me to design and develop the Director Leadership and Management Programmes. Of course, as it stood, I realised this needed careful planning and a major commitment from everyone involved.


Having previously designed programmes aimed at a host of topics, and with my company knowledge this gave me a head start in terms of design.


The Director programme consisted of several elements including Situational Leadership, 360 Degree Behavioural Feedback from the MD, peers and direct reports. There was also an element of Total Quality Management, part of this focussed upon their views of desired behaviours and competencies in the business (this was fed to HR to begin mapping job descriptions and competencies).


Sections of this were from the Middle Management Leadership proposal I had completed, one of the director’s tasks was to communicate this to their Managers, therefore preparing them for attendance on the Middle Management programme.


Whilst this was happening, it gave me time to design the full Middle Management programme.


The completed programmes consisted of six two-day workshops for Middle Managers and a Director Development programme. Each workshop was supported with a mini project for each delegate to complete before their attendance at the next event. Time was given at the beginning of each workshop for delegates to chat through their mini project, which in turn allowed for some group action learning.

There was also a major project to complete, which needed to be agreed with their respective Regional Director. This project needed to have a significant impact on the business and had to describe:


·         The business issues

·         Why it was chosen

·         Any budgetary considerations

·         Any costs incurred

·         Time spent, and who else needed to be involved

·         The impact on the business, revenue generated, or costs saved, the impact on the individuals and their respective teams


All projects were reviewed by me and feedback was provided. This was against a very stringent set of guidelines. The Chartered Management Institute also reviewed my process on project reviews and feedback.


At the completion of the programme, each delegate presented their major project and plans to the senior team.


Whilst HR spent more time on job descriptions and competencies, which would be incorporated into the management programme, and included in the people management module.


I suggested taking parts of this programme and using this as an introduction to management – for those thought to have potential, or for those very new to management. This was also adopted and delivered.


I designed a process whereby people could apply to attend the Introduction to Management Programme, this consisted of profiling personality, and application and competency-based selection interviews.


Those who met the stated criteria were then eligible to attend the programme.


We identified Branch Managers who had a desire to Mentor people, and who the Regional Director felt would make great Mentors. Their task was to Mentor those who were not successful to attend the introduction programme. I developed a Mentoring approach, which was a formal process, focusing upon those areas identified during the screening process needing developing before attendance on the programme.


This process was a resounding success, and I met many people on the next introduction intake who were not successful the first time round.

The Outcomes

Although this was a long-term process, and a real challenge for me to design, deliver and complete.


The key outcomes were:

·         The business became more profitable

·         Staff retention increased

·         Promoting from within became the norm

·         Some key business issues were solved

·         A desired employer in their field

·         Objectives & Appraisals were introduced and aimed at the business’ strategies and goals.

·         Over 200 people were developed, and each had a process for managing their own future development.

·         Over one million pounds of additional sales, revenue and cost saving were made through the project work and knowledge application


I had the management programme bench-marked against the national standards for management and endorsed by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). CMI certificates were presented during attendees’ presentation of all their learning and outcomes of projects.


If you would like to discuss how I might be able to help your Business please do contact me.