What I would have done differently

Introducing big changes to any organisation is always a delicate task. About three years ago, when I became chief executive at the Children’s Society, we moved from being a broad-based children’s charity, working with over 15 different programmes of work to focusing on four priority areas: children at risk on the streets, children in trouble with the law, disabled children, and young refugees.

We wanted to carry out practice, social policy, research and national campaigning in each of these areas. Through this combination we felt we would achieve the greatest level of positive change in young people’s lives. To successfully implement such a level of change required a programme of determination, teamwork and a clear communications plan.

The process was broken down into two phases. The first phase determined which groups of children we would focus on and the second realigned the organisation to enhance our practice, policy, research and campaigning functions.

Given the opportunity, what I would have done differently was to involve more staff in the design phase of the realignment, especially those staff that would then be called upon to deliver the changes. At the time, I felt that the senior management needed to keep pushing the agenda. Many staff were looking for senior leadership and wanted to get on with the implementation phase.
Time was a factor and we needed to move swiftly as our formal procedures called for a three to six-month consultation process, and we believed that this provided ample opportunity to receive staff input and ideas.

But in hindsight, I would have liked more time for discussion on how to construct the realignment with those staff with key implementation roles, before the formal presentation to the entire organisation. This could have improved the plan and it would have helped create that all-important concept of “ownership” with a larger group.

In the end, the result was still a great strategy and we are now better able to deliver for the disadvantaged children and young people we serve, but I did learn a valuable lesson along the way.

Bob Reitemeier is chief executive, the Children’s Society

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