Strategic support to reflect a restructure

YMCA London City and North

“I was very satisfied with the service, and the focus and attention to detail that Maurice gave me meant that I never felt that we were an add-on to something or that time was not available. The level and type of support was appropriate at every stage. Where we needed to do more, we did more and Maurice was available. When we needed less, that was fine. Maurice always made a point of checking in, though. I never felt forgotten about.”

Gillian Bowen, CEO, YMCA London City and North

In October 2020, two London YMCAs merged to form YMCA London City and North, and a transitional strategy was agreed to take the combined organisations to March 2022. As this date approached, CEO Gillian Bowen began to put together a new strategy, reflecting the new organisation, to come into effect in April 2022.

Gillian wanted to set a strategy and direction that spoke to all aspects of the organisation, uniting the voice, thinking and sense of direction of all the Trustees and making sure staff were all working to the same agenda. To help her in this endeavour, she came to Action Planning for a consultant who could support her through the strategic planning process.

We put forward three suitable consultants, from whom Gillian chose to work with Maurice Adams. She says, “I felt Maurice had been through that real cycle of change in the charitable, not-for-profit field. He had sat in the chair as a Chief Executive and could understand the nuances of what I was trying to achieve. Therefore, I felt he appreciated how he could support me, both as Chief Executive and strategic adviser.”

The assistance Gillian required was for six months of objective and practical support for the strategic planning process, so that the new strategy would be ready and approved by the Trustees in March 2022.

Maurice and Gillian worked closely throughout the process, with some periods requiring intense involvement and other times less focused. Flexibility and sensitivity were essential as the charity was still in the transition stage of the merger. It was important to offer input and direction whilst ensuring staff and Trustee engagement and contribution.

The process included a review of the charity’s vision, mission, strategic objectives and values. Maurice offered a strategic framework so that input from staff and Trustees were aligned and interconnected. In addition, he helped to design an operational plan template so that the strategic objectives could be operationalised to identify activities, responsibilities, timings and budgets.

Maurice facilitated a video training consultation session with the Board of Trustees, asking what Gillian needed to achieve from the Board’s perspective and how she should work with the Board to achieve it. He and Gillian also ran a couple of video conferences with staff, to gather feedback and involve them in the planning process.

“Maurice was able to bring the enhancement factor,” says Gillian. “He was very good at being patient and assistive, so that I was not left feeling guilty about changing the timeframe and actually allowing me to just take stock of different situations as they progressed; to say what’s on track, what’s not on track, what can we do differently, does his support need adjustment at this point etc. And how that related to my Board.”

“From our first discussion about what I wanted to do, which was this ambitious, engaging, consultative approach, I discovered that the real world came into play. With Maurice's help I did not have to cut my ambition, I just had to view it differently. I had to build it in to my day job. His flexibility on that was a pleasant surprise. And he reminded me that I shouldn’t beat myself up during the process.”

In March 2022 the Board approved the new strategic plan, which included the charity’s reimagined vision, mission, strategic objectives and values. In addition, Gillian was equipped with an associated operational plan to assist with the management of the new objectives.

“We have got an annual work plan that people understand, that we are now able to link to performance indicators for all the staff,” says Gillian. “Everyone, in this new merged world, now has a tool and a template. From a cultural perspective it really has helped to root us.”

YMCA London City and North has launched the strategic framework and the values and Gillian writes a monthly Chief Executive’s newsletter, which includes a value a month, to help embed the values and keep everything live.

Consultant’s insight:
The importance of this consultancy was to help the CEO to navigate the process of strategic planning by offering professional and practical guidance through one-on-one discussions, senior staff engagement and board meeting workshops. Following the demands of the merger, it was important that Gillian had an objective and supportive companion who understood the complexities and challenges of leadership and was able to adapt to the organisation’s fluctuating timings and requirements.

It was encouraging to hear how the senior team and Board endorsed the new strategy. I was privileged to have assisted the organisation and, specifically, Gillian. I learned much from her as she negotiated the repercussions of the merger of two organisations.

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