Case Study: Fierce at Stockport Homes: the organisational development team

When Sam Netherwood, organisational development (OD) business partner, and the OD team at Stockport Homes were designing their leadership development framework they knew what they didn’t want.

It was a ‘no’ to any approach that was too theoretical and which might leave some managers struggling with implementation.

Stockport Homes is an Arm’s Length Management Organisation (ALMO) with over 30,000 customers. It manages and develops housing on behalf of Stockport Council, owns properties as a result of property development, and manages others on behalf of private landlords.

Sam and the team need outcomes in engagement and continuous improvement against the backdrop of a changing environment. They came across Fierce being used at another housing group, and then met PDA’s Sarah Vogel to discuss the approach.

Fierce at Stockport Homes (clockwise): Sam Netherwood and colleague Liz Chadwick from the OD team, some of the 70 Stockport Homes people taking part in Fierce training, Liz Chadwick, Rob and Chris from corporate services are putting Fierce into action in their daily activities,  PDA's Sarah Vogel delivering a Fierce workshop. 

Fierce at Stockport Homes (clockwise): Sam Netherwood and colleague Liz Chadwick from the OD team, some of the 70 Stockport Homes people taking part in Fierce training, Liz Chadwick, Rob and Chris from corporate services are putting Fierce into action in their daily activities,  PDA's Sarah Vogel delivering a Fierce workshop. 

Sam Netherwood takes up the story.

“We realised how much of the elements of that leadership development framework Fierce would deliver. And not only would it deliver in terms of the principles in helping us to drive a consistent leadership culture in the organisation, but it gave you practical models.

“It mirrors what we want to try and achieve in our approach to organisational development… that is all centred around conversations. Conversations are the heart of changing an organisation. It’s the heart of developing people, it’s the heart of recognising their potential and using it.”

 As of April 2016, seventy Stockport Homes people with line management, supervision, and business partnership responsibilities have been on Fierce workshops. Another seventy staff are learning Fierce Conversations this summer. The OD team is following up their progress with evaluations and work to embed learning.

Sam explains further:

“Fierce works on a number of different levels, so for a start we are using the coaching model. We are using the [Fierce] questions: ‘What are the most important things we should be talking about?’; ‘What conversations are you avoiding?’.”

 Fierce can help staff find answers to questions and problems they routinely encounter. “So it has practical applications for us far beyond the delivery of the workshops and the energy in the room. It really works on a practical level, long term,” Sam says.

“Fierce aligns so uniquely with everything that we set out in the leadership and development framework anyway, the principles match perfectly to a change environment.”
— Sam Netherwood, business partner organisational development, Stockport Homes

 Sam and the OD team are seeing Fierce work in others way.

1.      Succession Planning. The Fierce delegation approach of ‘decision trees’ is beginning to be used as a development pathway as part of succession planning.  And using Fierce is also reducing the need for additional courses and cutting through the jargon of ‘talent management’ and ‘horizon scanning’. “Each time where we spot a gap, we define the requirements, find a person, and use the decision tree to get them there,” Sam explains. “These pathways we’ve put in place are almost all experiential—we’re not putting a person on an [additional] course.”

 2.      Focusing management meetings. The Fierce method of ‘beach ball conversations’ (where people are given the space to give their own viewpoints) is helping change key management meetings. The managers’ forums are moving to be more think tank based rather than ‘a communication exercise’. Sam explains the approach;  “…to take a problem or an issue that needs solving, perhaps at a senior management level, and bringing those managers together to ‘beach ball’ the problem, work out a solution. “

 3.      Getting managers on board to the organisational development agenda.  Fierce is helping Sam and the team get organisation-wide backing to the employee engagement agenda so key to Stockport’s OD agenda.

And Sam notes

We said look this is completely different way to approach leadership development. This is part of a much wider cultural change in terms of leadership behaviour. But at the same time it is delivering models that… the moment you leave these workshops you can go and start to use.

“Fierce aligns so uniquely with everything that we set out in the leadership and development framework anyway, the principles match perfectly to a change environment.”

This is the first part of our case study on Fierce at Stockport Homes.