THE CHILDREN’S SOCIETY – PROGRAMME MANAGEMENT
Client Situation and objectives
The Children’s Society was established in 1881 when Sunday school teacher Edward Rudolf found two of his pupils begging for food on London’s streets. Like The Children’s Society today, Rudolf was a pioneer and wanted to do things differently.
In 2007 UNICEF published a report which stated that on measures of well-being, children and young people in the UK were at the bottom of the league of the leading 21 industrialised nations – View report online.
This stark wake-up call came during the same period of time that The Children’s Society set up The Good Childhood Inquiry, an independent inquiry with a panel of 11 experts in the field. This was chaired by Professor Judith Dunn who is MRC Research Professor at the Institute of Psychiatry in London and included Lord Richard Layard Programme Director at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. The output from this inquiry was a book targeted at the general public with the objective of igniting a debate and encouraging the first small steps towards a societal change that would place children and young people at the centre of society.
In the summer of 2008 the Directors of the Charity realised that while the inquiry was running to plan and that the book ‘A Good Childhood – Looking for Values in a Competitive Age’ would be published by Penguin the first week of February 2009, that their plan to develop a series of activities to build on the inquiry was under-resourced, incomplete and in need of dedicated leadership.
The situation was further complicated by the fact that The Children’s Society was itself going through a major shift from a targeted focus on the most disadvantaged to more universal services. To make this possible The Children’s Society wished to significantly raise its profile as a charity. In addition a 12 month gap between the last 3 year plan and the next one was planned and this led to a considerable level of uncertainty and concern amongst the staff at all levels.
Sourcing the solution
The Children’s Society gave the brief to Michael Page Marketing who was their regular supplier of interim staff. I had been notified by Marketing Week’s web service of two roles for which I was amply qualified and after telephoning them I went to their offices and met three consultants. While the two I had seen advertised were of interest the complexity of The Children’s Society role (although I did not appreciate how complex) fascinated me.
Agreeing the brief and price
Two days after meeting Michael Page I was interviewed by a The Children’s Society. At this stage the written brief was quite clear with a heavy focus on the external elements of the launch. The project had two key deliverables, a launch plan for the first week in February 2009 and a plan covering the following 12months. In terms of price, I was to be appointed as an Assistant Director on a 6 months contract with the additional benefits that this brought. So a few days later I was appointed and on 1st September I started.
It was clear that to be successful it was essential to involve all parts of The Children’s Society in the planning process and therefore a virtual team was created representing all areas at a senior level. Then individual meetings were held with as many managers and staff as possible to get the best possible feel for the organisation and its mood and to get myself known and recognised.
Project strategy and implementation
The original project strategy was to create a functional ‘virtual’ team to identify the best opportunities and plan to maximise the benefits. The next step was to agree objectives that I defined for the project. These were, to maximise the awareness, saliency and authority of The Children’s Society building on the shoulders of the publishing of the Book and the newly created ‘Vision for a Good Childhood for All. This vision had been developed by The Children’s Society policy team from the Society’s accumulated knowledge, practice base and the output from the research concentrating on the evidence from children and young people.
The first meetings of the team, and subsequent other senior management forums I attended soon revealed some major issues that would need to be resolved. In simplistic terms, in the absence of a clear strategic direction each senior manager had created their own, and given both the high calibre of the team and their strongly held beliefs, this proved a major barrier. The differences were not trivial. This meant that managing relationships became a very significant part of the role on which successful delivery depended. In addition the failure to meet with agreed time schedules was widespread.
These problems were mainly nullified by working with the top team to create short-term areas of focus including target markets and distribution strategies. In addition I identified that good communications with all internal and external stakeholders would be a key element for success. Until then, no comprehensive database of stakeholders existed and it was not even clear who owned those who belonged to more than one segment. The failure to manage stakeholders had led to lasting problems in the past and I was determined to both avoid this and start a process that could be developed into a functional database and management system in the future.
Since it was identified that the book launch had significant media opportunities a specialist media interim manager was brought in and joined my virtual team. The launch plan was completed and approved at the end of December, the all important communications programme started, and training of spokespersons and children and young people involved carried out.
The book, ‘A Good Childhood – Searching for Values in a Competitive Age’ was launched on 2nd February receiving huge media attention, the statistics of the first week were:
Over 400 news stories in all major press across the full political spectrum nationally and internationally
More than 50 UK national television (7) and radio (46) reports, interviews and programmes
400 high profile attendees at the lecture on Wednesday 4th in Westminster Hall
20,000 unique visits to the web site with average viewing of 5 pages www.thegoodchildhood.org
Reached no 4 in Amazon Best Seller List
House of Lords elected to debate the Inquiry on 12th February.
Media interest continues and it is clear that the objective of starting the public debate has been successful. The next step was the plan to enable The Children’s Society to capitalise on this success over the next 12 months. So, in parallel with the launch, this was developed. This had to overcome two further major problems. The first was practical, a major element in the next 12 months was the release of a major piece if research into Well-being which had been delayed 4 months through analysis errors. The second was an endemic tendency to work in departmental silos and thereby fail to gain the benefits of cross organisation co-operation. This plan was therefore created as a very practical and user friendly working document indicating the opportunities and designed to be used in March, and in updated versions through the year, as an aid to the organisations annual planning process and focused upon achieving both the external goals and internal synergies.
To emphasise this I called it ‘The Really Useful – The Good Childhood Promotional Plan’. This was approved in outline by Management in January and delivered at the end of February.
Finally, in my role I was able to observe the whole of the head office organisation and so, in addition to the project objectives, I provided the Chief Executive with proposals covering a number of other areas including processes for product development, partnership development, the creation of a stakeholder database and management system and confidential recommendations about the organisation’s management.
“Peter provided a key role in ensuring coordination across departmental functions in The Children’s Society, at a time when effective team work, under real time pressure, was essential to our delivery of a successful launch of ‘A Good Childhood.”
Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society.
COMMERCIALISING FURNITURE DESIGN
“I have just signed a deal with the largest manufacturer in the sector I targeted for a royalty and advance which seemed beyond my wildest hopes months previously and Peter Henry’s advice was a key factor in making this happen.
Good ideas are two a’ penny, getting them to market is the real challenge. Product designers often present all the signs of clinical depression in their work and exhibit the protective instincts of an elephant towards its calf, while being almost as destructive! Totally absorbed by the wonder of the solution to a problem no one knew they had.
BEWARE! Therapy is needed before the funds run out and the market evaporates under the weight of the designer’s ego, and for me there was no better “counsellor” than Peter to transform the grand idea into a commercial opportunity.
Carefully coached by Peter a product cv was compiled which spelt out the commercial opportunity and proven status of the product presented. On receiving it the director of one of the companies targeted phoned me personally from Germany to find out more. A pitch followed and with some final advice and encouragement from Peter on terms and negotiating the deal was done”
John Harding – Furniture Designer
THOR INTERNATIONAL LTD
THOR International Ltd is a company manufacturing and selling medical hardware in the UK, USA and the Rest of the World with a turnover of £300,000. THOR consisted of four separate companies each run independently by a shareholder.
One of the founders wished to reorganise the company into a single entity capable of becoming a multi-million pound world class corporation and approached Peter Henry to hep achieve this. Initial objectives achieved and the company was sold to a wealthy American Entrepreneur in February 2007.
Specific Project Achievements:
Sales Doubled in each of the years 2004/5 and 2005/6.
Moved the company from being product to outcomes based, to increase margin by increasing the perceived added value.
Developed and wrote the business plans that led to both the first and second round of investment by Angels.
Developed Marketing Strategies and Plans to be implemented once funding was available.
Developed the Sales Strategy and Plans to be implemented once funding was available.
Sourced Vantis to advise with fundraising via Venture Capital Trusts
Sourced Angel Investors and maintained excellent relationships with them
Responsible for raising £387,500 via Angels in the initial round that enabled the unification of the company.
Raised a further £250,000 via the Small Firms Guarantee Scheme
Raised a further £137,500 from existing and new Angel investors
Brought a manufacturing expert into THOR leading to the employment of the entire current team and the outsourcing of manufacturing.
Sourced the Head of Sales for the UK.
Managed the founders’ activities to ensure productive output on key projects was achieved in a timely fashion.
Acted as the company’s completer finisher on a wide range on strategic projects.
Developed product packages – contents and packaging
Creation of the structure that created market driven pricing while delivering consistent margins.
Coordinated the input from the various stakeholders in this key development project to both update and completely redesign the core products.
Effective lead generation despite very limited funds, focused on the web
Creation of packages Web sites and redesign of THOR site www.thorlaser.com focusing on outcomes to increase effective lead generation in mainstream market
Maintained THOR as the premier brand in the market place
7 Waste Case Study Results
Working with a £5.0million distribution company the process identified nearly £455,000 of wasted costs; the first three selected accounting for £200,000 of this.
In addition, at the stage three review meeting to discuss progress and decide the next wastes to address, the team was able to drill down further discovering that two previously defined wastes were in fact symptoms of more serious problems and that higher levels of waste needed to be addressed.
In reviewing the value of the process the Company’s management team concluded that:
- The sessions were very effective in opening up the issues and getting to the core of the problems.
- The independent external facilitator was crucial in challenging what was being said and in driving the discussion forward.
- The imposition of timescales, whilst not adhered to fully, does ensure they are acted upon and the savings delivered.
“As a chartered accountant I’ve always been keen to maintain rigorous financial control of the business. Even so, I have found that the seven wastes process has been highly effective in getting significant costs out of our business. While it was case that to some extent the identified wastes were already known, the exercise, which depended for its success upon the Azure facilitator bringing them into sharper focus, digging into the root causes and maintaining the pressure on the plans to remove them, produced savings estimated at £200,000.”