A 12-month programme to create authentic leaders who could give their own teams the responsibility and the ability to improve their results.

My team challenged changeovers with our planning team and saw immediate improvements from 12 - 14% downtime per week to 8 - 10%.

Team Leader, Premier Foods

The challenge

Premier Foods challenged us to design a bespoke programme around its people strategy, specifically to target the leaders in its business. A fast-moving operational business, it wanted its best people at the top of their game and for them to have the tools and training to pull their teams' performance up too.

Fundamentally it wanted to move from a top-down management style to one which saw its people taking a much more hands-on approach to leading their own teams and operations.

We started off by listening. Premier Foods' people strategy has three main elements, 'Involve', 'Engage' and 'Empower'. So we began by asking existing and future leaders in the business: what it would take for the organisation to build a culture around these pillars - what currently worked and what was missing? Based on what we learned, we designed a programme 'Project Castle', to deliver results across three specific areas: the individual, the team and the business.

Our approach

In practice

All the individuals in the programme were nominated through the organisation's talent management process. Each participant established personal coaching goals (at an individual, team and business level) at the outset of the programme. So each person was able to make the programme relevant to their own personal development as well as their operational requirements.

The modules explored what it means to involve, engage and empower teams, including developing each participant's personal coaching skills

We worked with groups of leaders in the business on three coaching modules over a six-month period. It meant that participants had the opportunity to learn and practice new skills and had the time to reflect on what they were learning as well as using it in their day-to-day work.

Aside from the group work, we worked individually with everyone before, during and after the programme to help put their leadership and learning into practice.

On top of this, the groups worked with each other during and between modules to practice coaching techniques, receive feedback, work on specific business issues and share what they were learning with others on the programme.

We used a variety of different models and tools during the programme to bring out the best in the teams; a variety of coaching models (including GROW), NLP tools and techniques, situational leadership and psychometric testing.

The programme has delivered tangible benefits for Premier Foods. Strategically, its culture of 'command and control' has shifted to one where people have begun to lead themselves and their teams. The business is now more able to promote from within, and is already planning its future senior leadership from this new cadre of leaders.

There have been a number of tangible and quantifiable business benefits such as increased performance, greater operational effectiveness and cost savings. Participants are also reporting more robust decision-making from their teams. They are now generating more ideas to work with and can free up more management time for more strategic thinking. Best practice is also being shared across the Castle network and beyond, as leaders use their new peer group for support.

In the second year of the programme, the new intake reported that they had personally experienced a significant change in leadership style from line managers who had attended the programme the previous year. Managers were now adopting a coaching approach when leading their teams and influencing colleagues on a day-to-day basis.

The results

There were bold aspirations from the start which centred around a significant cultural shift from 'command & control' to genuine empowerment and this programme was the catalyst for the start of that transformation. We're very proud of what Premier Foods have achieved and their boldness and fierce resolve to do something different were instrumental in this. We were delighted when the programme was highly commended by the ICF as part of the 2012 Prism Awards, recognition which was justly deserved.

About Premier Foods

Premier Foods is a Great British food company and Britain's largest branded food producer. Its Bread and Flours, Cakes, Convenience Foods, Cooking Sauces, Desserts, Preserves, and Stocks and Gravies are in every British kitchen.  View website