Case studies
Culture & Values
Refocusing the culture in the context of a new vision & strategy

Frontline is the UK’s leading magazine sales and distribution company. Faced with a declining market space, changes in the senior management team and downsizing initiatives, Frontline wanted to refocus its culture in the context of a refreshed vision, mission, and strategy that was dedicated to achieve their shareholders’ objectives. They utilised the cultural transformation toolkit to give them a robust view on where they were working from and a platform to track progress. The result has positively impacted market share, operational excellence, and employee pride.

Quite early into the tenure of the new MD, the Executive Team went through a strategic visioning process, facilitated by The Transformation Agency. They talked about the industry, the marketplace, changing customer and consumer needs, and dialogued about the culture, values and behaviours needed to create change within the Frontline business. They utilised the cultural transformation toolkit to provide a clear framework and tracking mechanism, as well as a robust platform for planning and communication with the business.

In the 18 month period of the cultural transformation work, Frontline achieved a market share gain and demonstrated its ability to outperform competitors – a significant success on behalf of the publisher owners. Other KPI’s include operational effectiveness; one of these metrics is around getting product on sale at retail in line with the published on sale date – quite a challenge when you are distributing around 40 million copies of magazines per month to 55,000 retailers throughout the UK. Between 2009 and December 2011, there has been a 88% improvement in this critical KPI – this is one of the most striking examples of progress, demonstrating teamwork and an ability to think the impossible – a target originally thought too ridiculous to even express, says Mark Churchill, the Supply chain Director

In addition to the business metrics above, there’s an energy and buzz back in the Frontline business. The culture is moving quickly – this is demonstrated by some of the metrics around people – in the last year, 45% of all vacancies have been filled internally (creating a significant cost saving in recruitment) and 25% of vacancies have been filled through the ‘recommend a friend’ initiative – again testament to the fact that Frontline employees believe they have a great place to work.

Greg Hayden, Head of Information Services comments: There’s no question that this process has been worthwhile. In addition to the significant progress in our business metrics, there’s a whole new level of dialogue going on in the organisation. Concerns are being aired and addressed quickly.

Refocus for growth & profitability in a changing market

CRU International is a privately owned B2B research, analysis and consultancy business which serves the global metals, mining and fertilizer industries. In 2008, just before the failure of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent financial crisis, the business appointed a new CEO. The business faced a number of challenges – over and above the impact of the global financial crisis, including low profit growth, a paper-based portfolio, a silo culture (silo by commodity and by business function) and production inefficiencies.

The Transformation Agency has been working with CRU International for circa 24 months and has mapped the current & desired culture and identified the values & behaviours that were critical to moving the business forward (including getting a real ‘handle’ on what was getting in the way of success). This was achieved through the utilisation of the cultural transformation toolkit which entailed a survey to all employees, followed by workshops with the senior team and focus groups with a cross section of the employee community.

In addition, The Transformation Agency worked with the senior management team to design and implement a range of initiatives (including holding focus groups with staff, initiating blogs from senior management to communicate progress, and introducing for the first time, modular leadership & management development programmes) to implement the transformation of the culture of the business in line with an ambitious growth strategy.

The results have been significant – the organisation has achieved a double digit increase in revenue and profit each year since 2009, and operational efficiency has increased significantly. In addition, there has been a dramatic increase in employees’ awareness & understanding of how the business is performing. Voluntary staff turnover has been reduced by 30%, and the rate of the rate of people moves across business units has moved from a low point of 0.5% in 2009 (i.e. it hardly ever happened) to 4% in 2011.

Leadership Development
Building High Performance through conversation

“The Transformation Agency partnered with us on a new programme to build high performance conversations across the business. What I love about the way they work is that they really listen and understand what your needs are, what you want to achieve as an outcome and then truly partners with you to design and deliver what is right for you and your business. We built a programme that was highly interactive, that focused on great conversation and how to build this into the workplace every day. Helping managers build and practice feedback skills and to use these every day, not just once a year. The Transformation Agency took the lead on the design of the programme, utilising World Café principles, with the belief that the answer is in the room and then used her excellent facilitation skills to enable real practical interactive learning for the participants”.

Tracey Gray, People Director, emap

“We delivered the programme to around 300 managers across the business (including our senior managers and our CEO Team) and the feedback has been immensely positive. People are taking more care with the conversations they are having and recognising that if they choose carefully their input and response that they get different outcomes. The Transformation Agency’s skills are not only in the excellent design principles that they brought, but also in their ability to listen and flex with each group that they trained, challenging and supporting in equal measure and doing all this in the context of our company culture and values. People walked away with the ability to immediately put their learning into practice, and did! I would highly recommend The Transformation Agency to anyone who is looking for someone to work with to design and deliver a programme that is relevant for you – don’t expect off the shelf solutions – but do expect something that will really make a difference to your business.”

Tracey Gray, People Director, emap

The growth agenda

Medium size (2500 employees) privately owned consumer media business publishing high value (multi-million) household brands, across magazines, digital & radio platforms. The organisation had come through 2-3 years of resizing and not surprisingly, had some challenges around low morale & employee engagement. They also needed to get growth back on the agenda as their core business was experiencing challenging times – in order to drive ideas & creativity, it was imperative they regenerate the vibe & energy normally associated with a media business.

The Transformation Agency was brought on board to work on two significant activities:

The Growth Agenda

The Transformation Agency designed, facilitated and project managed a Leadership Development programme to equip future leaders to come up with (and set the tone in their respective teams, to come up with) new ideas of driving growth for the organisation;

A range of ‘experts’, including real life entrepreneurs were brought in to provide tools, develop skills and most importantly to rejuvenate creativity & innovative thinking in the leadership groups across the various business divisions.

Growth is now definitely back on the agenda, a ‘filtering’ and business planning process for new ideas has been introduced to make sure the best ideas ‘rise to the surface’, and each of the Divisions within the business has a range of ideas to select from for the new financial year ahead .

Getting the Best out of People

A major drive to demonstrate an investment in people was required – this was designed to ensure managers were aware of the talent in their teams, and to equip them to set their teams up for success and to generate creative thinking; they also needed to take an active role in engaging and retaining these individuals in the organisation.

The Transformation Agency designed a programme for all levels of managers (entitled ‘Getting the Best out of People’), which included work with the leadership team and all tiers of managers.

The programme was designed to provide the tools, skills & mindset to Get the Best out of People across the organisation in a highly interactive, experiential format (in line with the culture and energy of the business) – and actors were utilised throughout.

The programme was very well received, and managers have been putting very practical and immediate action plans into place (to ensure they are setting their teams up for high performance) as soon as they returned to the workplace.

The programme was such a success, that The Transformation Agency delivered a third iteration.