All change at the top

The creation of the food and environment Research Agency (FERA) from five different organisations was a big change for its 1,000 plus staff. Not only did this result in a major structural redesign, it included the hiring of five new directors and the creation of 18 separate organisational programmes. This in turn created more than 80 ‘Team Leaders’ or ‘Line Managers’ – many of whom had not received specific management development.


Our task was to enable this diverse group of managers to become more self aware
and self-directive, equipping them with the leadership and management tools they
needed to really engage their employees.

We also had to make sure that the end result was a genuine, organisation-wide
commitment to Fera’s newly developed ‘Leadership For All’ framework.


With a large, diverse group of new managers, we knew lasting change wouldn’t
happen overnight. So we devised our Fera Management Development Programme with a three phase approach, with each phase focussing on a different set of core skills, knowledge and behaviours the managers would need to embrace.

This was primarily driven by three two-day group training sessions, with six weeks
between each phase to ensure the information could be understood and any issues resolved.

We started with a launch event, to ensure buy-in from participants and their managers.

We also ran 360 self-analysis and feedback throughout the process. Participants were given a bespoke questionnaire to complete about themselves; six of their colleagues were also given the same questionnaire about them. From the responses we compiled a report which was discussed with the participant in a one-to-one session with an HR representative. Participants were also encouraged to consult regularly with their line managers about the programme.

As well as an internal buddy system, participants were supported by our own
trainers, with phone or email access to coaching throughout the programme.


Phase one of the training focussed on self-awareness and leadership; phase two on personal effectiveness; and phase three on motivation, performance management and change. This ensured that by the end of the programme participants had received training in all key management skills, including: personal impact, communication, feedback, rapport building, management, performance, change management, and project team management.


To make sure the knowledge and skills learnt could result in real-world behavioural change, an Action Learning Set was held after each phase. Participants could use these sessions to discuss real work challenges with the rest of their group. The group would then help, provide support, or even challenge the issue.

This contributed to the development of the individuals involved in a very practical way, bringing direct benefits to the organisation through group problem solving, as well as developing a cross-departmental network.


Delivered between September 2010 and January 2012, only five of the programme’s 89 participants failed to attend. The vast majority who did attend have all seen their internal profiles raised and, crucially, the contribution they make to the organisation improved by the experience.

The 360 feedback exercise was such a success it was being repeated as a follow up to the programme, as well as being extended to Fera’s Heads of Programme and Senior Management Team.

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