Case Study - Organisational Development


Executive Summary

What is organisation development? Some people have different interpretations of organisational development and design and this case study outlines one example.

This article looks at the complexity of the issues involved and how they were unpicked and analysed to enable a project plan to be agreed and implemented.

This not only embraced a redesign of the organisation but also the creation of a full HR strategy, policies and procedures..

The result - the organisation was turned around with the achievement of new clients, retention of existing ones, significant reduction in staff turnover, improvement of morale and achievement of Investors in People.

  • Review organisational structure
  • Advise in the design & development of a new structure to improve operational effectiveness
  • Plan the project to manage change and work with a cross-functional team to manage implementation
  • Formulate an integrated communications strategy
  • Design and implement a performance management process and ensure all staff were trained
  • Develop & integrate standard procedures & process
  • Provide development opportunities for all staff through coaching, design and delivery of training and sourcing of further technical training

Issues Faced

  • This was a young and quickly growing organisation with little management experience and no experience of managing human resource issues.
  • No formal HR processes or procedures were in place and most activities were on an ad hoc and inconsistent basis.
  • A management style that looked for scapegoats when things went wrong, rather than seeking solutions and fixing the problem
  • While the project was sponsored by the part-time Chairman and the Managing Director, and the Directors understood that to turn the business around required a major change, they saw no reason to change their own management style. Initially they did not realise that they must play a major part in the human resource aspects of the project for it to be successful. They believed that the interim executive would manage human resource issues.
  • Unclear company and individual objectives and unrealistic timescales for achievement meant that staff worked in an atmosphere of confusion and stress
  • Long hours culture without any expectation of reward
  • In this area of high employment staff were being recruited as ‘people in seats’ simply to fill the space rather than against clearly defined requirements.
  • Unclear management reporting lines led to confusion
  • Deficiency in management and skills training

The Approach


The first priority was to ensure that staff were appraised of the proposed activities and to seek their input and involvement.   This was achieved by:

  • A whole company briefing by the Managing Director outlining the objective of the Interim Executive’s project brief, followed by an open forum discussion.
  • Nomination of staff representatives from each department who would act as spokesperson for their colleagues and provide project support
  • Monthly project updates for all staff to include achieve against company milestones and those of this project
  • Monthly staff surveys throughout the period of the project to be a barometer of staff morale
  • Management to introduce an ‘open-door’ policy
  • Weekly one-to-one surgeries
  • The views of the staff were anonymously reflected back to the Directors by the Interim Executive, raising awareness of their need to play a significant role in the project.

Staff Retention and Recruitment

A high priority before the project which was fully achieved, was to stem the flow of staff leaving the company as each one added a further delay into the project through delays in recruitment and training of new individuals.

The first staff survey was completed immediately and this provided some very revealing results on the reasons for low morale, staff turnover and poor performance in meeting the customer requirements.

To demonstrate that the management were committed to improving conditions following the staff survey, a ‘quick fix’ was implemented by reducing standard weekly hours and introducing flexibility on start and finish times. Further research was put in progress to develop an improved remuneration package that rewarded team achievement.

The communication process was inextricably linked to improving morale and this became part of the plan to retain staff. Further steps were implemented later following a review of the organisation structure.

Organisation Structure

The existing structure was reviewed and it became apparent that reporting structures were muddled with several staff reporting to all three Directors for different activities. A new organisation structure was implemented which provided greater clarity in reporting by aligning departments with the sales and support structures.

Job descriptions were written and agreed for each new role and function heads appointed with a clear remit of activities.

As the project progressed, further steps were taken:

Implementation of Company Competencies – a cross-functional team was set up to create a set of company competencies which reflected the culture and objectives of the organisation. All staff had an opportunity to input their views via the staff representatives to ensure the competencies were embraced by the whole organisation.

Introduction of Job Descriptions and Person Specifications – for both existing and new roles. Standard job description templates were developed and with the assistance of the Interim Executive, they created their job descriptions, ensuring greater transparency across the business.

Introduction of Performance Management – the introduction meant that each person agreed individual performance objectives with their manager. Each manager was trained in the objective setting and performance review processes.

Coaching – the Directors received regular one-to-one coaching sessions to improve their management style, encouraging them to play a more effective role in managing their staff. Coaching was rolled-out into the organisation through training for everyone to promote a coaching culture

Skills Assessment – all staff were assessed against both the company competencies and results of their individual performance reviews.

Development Planning and Training – as a result of the skills assessment, individual development plans were agreed and implemented to include a number of activities including coaching, reading materials and attendance on external training programmes. Some courses were developed and delivered in-house while others were sourced externally.

360° Review of Directors - a 360° questionnaire was developed based on the company competencies and anonymous staff feedback was collated. Directors received individual feedback, which again fed into their coaching and development plans.

Induction – a simple and effective induction programme of activities and information seeking was introduced for all new staff to accelerate integration into the business and aid retention.

Standard Policies and Procedures – which had formerly been ad hoc, were written and put in place across a range of activities from holidays to dress-down Friday to ensure consistency, transparency and fairness. These were subsequently developed into a staff handbook.



The initial expectation of this project was to introduce a human resource process from zero base and to recruit and retain the right staff.

The expectation, however, was far ex ceeded;, following a complete organisational review, at the end of six months the company:

  • Had improved its product standard and specification, resulting in the maintenance of existing customers
  • Had signed new customer contracts
  • Staff turnover had reduced from 25% to 5%
  • Existing staff now had the appropriate skills to continue meeting and exceeding individual and company objectives
  • The Directors had greatly improved their management style and actively managed staff
  • Staff morale was significantly improved
  • They had achieved Investors in People, providing greater status with current and potential clients

Key Learning Points

  • Ensure staff understand the organisation’s objectives and their role within it
  • Clearly define what skills are required and only recruit those with the appropriate ones or provide training
  • Agree clear individual performance objectives and conduct performance reviews
  • Treat staff with fairness and flexibility
  • Let staff play a part in the future of the organisation




Heading - Clients

Genuine Client Case Studies

Additional Clients

  • Royal Yachting Association (RYA)
  • London Borough of Harrow
  • QSA Limited
  • Plenham Limited
  • British Parking Association

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