Here are just a few of our clients’ stories.
Transforming Cultures: Making Legacy Work Today
“Our market had changed, but we hadn’t.”
A specialty, health services organization affiliated with a university faced growing complexity, competition and declining revenues.
With over 20 years of continuous operations, the organization had developed into a culture of academics that had segmented into self-serving silos and fiefdoms. Although the mission of the organization was to provide groundbreaking services to its clients, this culture seldom allowed these professionals to give clients—and the increasingly competitive marketplace—a second thought. Moreover, its sustainability came into question as new, more flexible, adaptive and innovative competitors entered the market.
Through targeted research, insightful discovery and multiple conversations with a highly diverse group of employees, we developed a road map for transforming the organization into a high performance culture. Integrating teaching, experiential learning, coaching and practical assignments, we molded highly accomplished professionals who were not predisposed to teamwork into a solidly collaborative team aligned around a new vision that included stretch goals.
Plus, we built advanced leadership and management competencies into senior leadership teams while transferring management of the institution from academics to staff.
- Best successive quarters in the organization’s 20-year history (over a two-year period).
- Greater effectiveness in leadership, management, and teaming.
- Increased efficiency and success in cross-cultural communication and coordination.
- Greater efficiencies across the organization.
Creating Frameworks and Standards: A Map for Global Growth
“Continued global success depended on integrating global expertise while honoring local needs and business practices.”
A global technology client was experiencing extremely rapid growth. There was a pressing need for the design, introduction and integration of global standards and expertise into local delivery systems and practices on multiple continents. In order to manage quality assurance during growth, the client declared the objective of melding diverse operational units into one well-coordinated team. However, it was also important to develop that consistency of services and delivery while allowing for flexibility to accommodate regional customs and practices.
Starting with assessing optimal zones of focus for leadership and management, we helped align roles and responsibilities. We also introduced standards for communication and coordination, elevating and bringing consistency to monitoring the success of fulfilling promises and commitments at both global and local levels. In addition, we developed “right people” profiles for new hires and existing team members. It created a strategy for hiring new executives into an environment of rapid change, escalating growth and intense media and analytic attention.
- An organizational structure and leadership architecture in which global expertise supports local delivery and change is embraced as a gateway to innovation, rather than a impediment to success.
- A more effective and efficient application of strategic expertise in support of global consistency that still allows for differences in needs and customs of local cultures.
- Public recognition – and celebration – of the success of the business unit by the CEO.
- Routine increases in business performance and results.
Making Mergers Work: Four Companies Become One
“Redundant processes and duplicative departments made it hard to achieve our vision.”
To achieve new efficiencies and optimize effectiveness, four nonprofit organizations chose to merge into one. In so doing, functions were to be consolidated, overhead reduced, and services and social impact sustainably improved. A new CEO was announced and a timeline was established for the merger to take place.
Choosing to be proactive rather than allow events to unfold as they might, the CEO invited Aperio to work collectively and individually with three key executive teams that incorporated the ten Directors of the merged enterprise. Our job was to facilitate the development of a comprehensive plan, incorporating milestones and timelines, to delineate how the merger would take place. Along the way, we were also asked to transform three teams into a unified, high performance leadership unit capable of generating optimal success for the merged venture.
As we began our discovery process, we realized that there were unforeseen hurdles to be overcome before the goals of the initiative could be accomplished. There was a significant lack of trust among the leaders of the four organizations. The true intentions of the merger were being questioned and the culture that would be created as a result was of concern.
Could the wide diversity of the ethnic groups that would combine to form the merger be protected and retained? Would the cultures that had served a diverse population well for years be lost in the process?
Moreover, many feared that the merger was simply a takeover being maneuvered by the largest of the four organizations. After all, the new CEO came from that organization.
To help all the stakeholders see and understand the hidden roadblocks to making the merger successful, we developed an interactive tool to help bring the executive team’s concerns to the surface.
Then we created a space for lively discussions to help teams bring to the forefront the successes each organization had achieved in the past. These conversations allowed for debate about the direction of the new organization and the exploration of ways to retain diversity and cultural integrities from all the groups concerned.
Once all issues and ideas were out on the table, we helped the team crystallize a new vision for the organization that gave a mission and clear direction to those internally and inspired confidence in external stakeholders. As a result, we created strategies and road maps for executing the integration of four different systems and processes for each group.
- The merger was successful for both those in the company and stakeholders outside the company.
- Accelerated the fulfillment of goals.
- Launched implementation of plans ahead of schedule and within budget.
- Increased capacity of executives to maintain focus and discipline when unanticipated outside influences created chaos and generated unexpected breakdowns.
- Built competencies in leadership and management skills, as well as optimizing the capacity to team, communicate and coordinate with each other.
Scaling for Growth: Maintaining Standards and Pace
“We grew so fast globally, we were in danger of failing.”
A global financial services organization needed to facilitate the successful growth of its firm from 10,000 to 20,000 employees over a roughly two- to three-year period. But first, deeply skeptical executives had to be convinced that an extremely aggressive program of growth and expansion of services for the company could be pursued without letting the company lose its culture of entrepreneurial focus and discipline around the world.
In order to prepare the company for such tremendous growth, we started by working with senior leadership and management teams, giving them tools for innovation and proactivity. In addition, we broke down walls between departments and disciplines to create a solidified team-based approach to growth. This instilled a can-do and highly productive attitude throughout the organization and allowed learning to cascade from the most senior levels of management down to the most junior employees. A program that combined instruction, experiential learning and assignments was created. New tools and practices were integrated into day-to-day work-flows. Implementation and developmental coaching offered ongoing and supplemental support.
- Rapid and successful global expansion occurred.
- Industry leadership in expansion of services was achieved.
- Radically elevated competency in leadership, management and teaming.
- Inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary communication and coordination was significantly improved.
- Overwhelmingly successful cultural transformation.
Changing with Changing Markets: Finding New Opportunities
“Technology meant we’d die if we didn’t innovate and re-invent.”
Almost overnight, the introduction of a new and disruptive technology erased 40% of the revenues of a 50-year-old company. For over five decades, the company could rely on sales from direct mailings and multiple channels of advertising. Now, their world was turned upside down.
After extensive internal analysis and advice from a leading global consultancy, the leadership of the company settled on a strategy—launch new initiatives to generate innovations that would combat declining revenues while positioning the company for sale.
In the meantime, second tier executives along with line managers and teams began to express widespread cynicism about the ability of the enterprise to survive. This declining mood and focus eroded trust within the company and began to severely curtail the chances of success for the new initiatives. To avoid further erosion of the viability of the enterprise, carefully targeted action was required along with a rethinking of the strategies recommended by the global consultancy as well as the ultimate vision and direction of the company.
We began the process by introducing new tools and practices while building the skills of sustainably successful entrepreneurship. Our process involved a dynamic combination of instruction, experiential and cognitive learning, as well as practical application with coaching. Almost immediately, the mood shifted and executives regained excitement and deepened commitment. This new energy helped create the trust required to allow key issues to arise that had preciously been kept below the surface. In turn, roadblocks were quickly identified and people could move to swift and direct action. Revenues began to grow again.
However, along the way, we also realized something was missing. While the organization prided itself on its marketing acuity, it was organized around analysis. It became clear that the architecture of the business demanded rethinking.
We engaged with the senior executive team to crystallize and articulate a stretch vision for the future. Once this vision had been defined, we followed up by providing senior management with the strategy, tools and capabilities required for successfully introducing and executing this vision throughout the organization.
This also involved putting into place an efficient decision-making process that could help staff clarify priorities and follow standards for allocating resources. Performance milestones and timelines were put into play. We coached key teams through the execution of targeted projects and senior executives in developing advanced leadership, strategic and tactical skills. Furthermore, a process was designed that let ideas bubble up and allowed senior management to consider new initiatives from a wider array of sources.
We introduced tools and practices that allowed leaders, managers and teams to develop advanced critical thinking and lively internal debating skills to produce lasting results that aligned with vision and strategy.
Candor replaced avoidance. Well-grounded risk-taking supplanted analysis paralysis. And new revenue streams were found to move beyond the changes that technology had brought to the marketplace.
- The enterprise found its voice and the courage, focus and discipline to take on the market with a revitalized sense of gamesmenship and verve.
- Created a sustainable business model in a rapidly changing market with constrained organizational resources.
- Turned outlook of senior management and staff around into a positive and energizing asset.
- Accelerated the achievement of strategic priorities.
- Increased revenues.
- Increased enterprise value—eventually leading to the profitable sale of the organization to an outside buyer.
Acquisition Strategy: Integration and Initiatives
“We merged to become one, stronger company, not two weaker ones.”
A leading global technology enterprise acquired a leading global consulting practice to expand its services and open new channels of revenue generation.
Hand in glove with the acquisition, the acquiring CEO launched a new strategy. The strategy required, in tandem, the successful integration of two very different cultures and the transformation of the overall focus and culture of the organization.
To effectively execute against the new strategy, individuals and business units would have to learn to: team and cross-sell with each; transform customers into clients; build mutually advantageous partnerships with new and existing clients; and shift the balance of revenue generation from hardware and software to services.
In the meantime, however, team members from the two cultures had created an ‘us vs. them’ dynamic that was making the merger less than successful. Mood was deteriorating. Opportunities were being sub-optimized and/or missed. Sales were impacted.
Through our discovery process we learned that the success of the acquisition was at risk due to a palpable lack of trust and very limited interaction among team members and the two organizations. Adding insult to injury, the acquired organization was experiencing rapidly elevated attrition among professionals who came with and remained loyal to the culture and history of the acquired venture.
Little effective action had taken place to get members of the two teams in the same room together to get to know each other, understand joint concerns, and build functional relationships. Cross-planning was almost totally absent. Lead sharing happened by chance rather than by design in most client sectors. There was little to no effective structure in place for coordination between executives sharing sector responsibilities.
Furthermore, even though the CEO’s global strategy was built around teaming, teamwork and partnering, the legacy culture of the acquiring organization had historically emphasized individual performance over teamwork and continued to provide incentives only for individual performance. As a result, most of the executives we worked with were functionally unskilled at teamwork and partnering.
We began our work by bringing the senior executives (business unit leaders) of each side of the two organizations into joint design sessions. Acknowledging that one of the merging cultures was organized around transactions and the other around relationships, we utilized tools and practices that helped the two executive groups align around a structure of interaction and collaboration. We jointly agreed on and began the implementation of an architecture of meetings, agendas, shared objectives and strategies.
Into these conversations, we introduced the characteristics and practices of high performing teams as a means of introducing the business unit leaders to standards for teamwork and partnering that were absent from their cultures.
Once the business unit leaders were fully aligned and had adapted standards and expectations for teaming and partnering, we brought together the balance of their executives to get to know each other, design and begin the execution of joint planning and coordination, and to align around ongoing practices for improved communication and coordination moving forward. Integrated into the process were standards and practices for high performance teams.
- The two companies successfully integrated into one, stronger and even more successful company.
- Two seemingly incompatible but complementary cultures embraced each other and became one, working together in a coordinated and planned fashion.
- Greater competency in the practices of high performance teams and teaming was achieved through the organization.
- Communication, coordination, collaboration, teaming and teamwork were measurably improved.
- Teams exceeded stretch goals by 30%.
Building a High Performance Business: Finding New Capabilities
“We needed to find new skills, not new people.”
The new chief executive of a fully established non-proﬁt organization with a track record of mixed results over two or three decades sought to blend the organization’s senior leadership and management teams into a coherent whole. His ultimate goal was to transform the bureaucratic culture of the organization into one of innovation and entrepreneurship: to transform an under-performing business into one that would become best in market.
Team members included a diverse group of individuals whose entire career had been spent in the organization, as well as newly hired and short-term executives. The organization was populated with cliques and silos. Cross-functional communication was poor and interdepartmental collaboration and coordination suboptimal.
We designed and led the execution of an initiative that combined instruction, cognitive and experiential learning with rubber-hits-the-road practices. Working with the executives and employees that were already with the organization, we integrated these practices into day-to-day operations with the support of executive and team-based coaching.
Along the way we built advanced competencies in leadership, management, communication and coordination among the senior executives and management. By increasing cross-departmental communication and coordination, we broke through barriers and silos that had blocked paths to innovation. This ignited individual and collective creativity and innovation within the organization. An entrepreneurial culture of innovation and collaboration was created, with clearly deﬁned values, standards and guiding principles.
- Exceeded financial goals each successive year since completion of the initiative.
- Doubled prior year’s performance during year one following the initiative.
- Ultimately attracted exponential increase in funding and a leading corporate sponsor.
- Increased ability and capacity to provide educational and cultural programs to the widely diverse community the organization serves.
Executing on Vision: A Startup Story
“We wanted help building the right culture from the ground up.”
The CEO of a startup nonproﬁt with a global vision for combating poverty through innovative asset-building sought our assistance in providing executive coaching for him. He also asked us to help him design and implement a growth strategy, execution architecture and critical path road map. Additionally, roles for an executive team were to be deﬁned, top talent recruited and retained to ﬁll the organization’s leadership team.
Aperio embarked on a year-long schedule of executive coaching to cultivate leadership and management development in senior staff. This was combined with brainstorming, planning and problem-solving sessions, through which a comprehensive strategy for achieving the organization’s goals was established, including critical path timelines and milestones. By building advanced competencies in leadership and management among the senior executives, we also helped deﬁne roles, responsibilities, characteristics and qualiﬁcations for the senior executive team. To ensure these successes were sustained, we created a system for monitoring and assessing integral results.
- An organizational culture rooted in constant innovation and bold leadership grew quickly but methodically.
- A top-notch leadership team was attracted and retained.
- Strategic goals were met well ahead of schedule.
- Financial performance and social impact far exceeded goals.
- Became a recognized, national thought leader, with multiple awards as a pioneer in the movement to empower the working poor with asset-building financial tools within three years of start-up.
Optimizing Focus and Performance: Sustaining Success
“The goal was to sustain success without burning people out.”
A dynamic business unit within a leading national ﬁnancial services organization consistently exhibited a very high level of performance. The business and the business unit leader was very satisﬁed with the team’s level of work and commitment.
Yet, as the team was structured at the time, the team leader and key team members recognized that the quality and nature of the services the team provided to internal customers varied widely from manager to manager. In the interest of designing and integrating consistent standards, services and methodologies throughout the team, the business unit leader decided to launch an initiative.
Concurrently, the business unit leader held the concern that the pace, volume and intensity of the team’s work could lead to burnout and attrition among team members. Adding to her concern was an increasing level of discord and conﬂict between team members and their in-house customers. These conflicts not only compromised the upside contribution potential of team, but was also diminishing its mood.
We launched and completed an initiative that involved a period of discovery, assessments and recommendations, teaching sessions, experiential learning using business simulations, practical assignments and in-progress coaching.
In the process, we facilitated the design and integration of consistent services, standards and procedures for a high performance team. As part of this, we developed capabilities in team members for reducing “noise” and increasing the ability to work with less stress.
Our session improved intra- and inter-team communications and coordination and introduced practices for developing and aligning around collective understandings and interpretations. This provided for successful horizontal collaboration and optimized effectiveness across the organization.
- Facilitated the design and integration of standardized intake, discovery and start-up practices for new initiatives.
- Designed and integrated consistent architecture for meetings, reporting, tracking and knowledge-sharing.
- As of last report, the team had doubled its output per team member, scaled up substantially, and greatly enhanced cross-departmental relationships and collaboration.