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Discussing cultural transformation with HR Leaders at the Gherkin

Exploring significant changes being tackled by a high performing NHS Mental Health Trust

A visit to the Gherkin to discuss cultural transformation in a complex workplace through the use of coaching conversations.


Last Wednesday we were joined at the Gherkin by 19 HR leaders from brands around the world to explore the significant changes that are being tackled head on by a high performing NHS Mental Health Trust in the North East of England.

Dr Ruth Briel, Senior Clinical Director, led the session by describing the challenges they’ve faced since merging two Trusts, whilst managing over 200 diverse community teams and nearly 7000 staff covering a huge geographic area. Along with the other Executive Team members at the NHS Trust, their vision was,

“To develop an approach that encapsulates the psychological, behavioural and contextual elements of successful and healthy change at individual, team and organisational levels.

To develop a workforce culture where staff can reflect on their own thoughts, problem solve and make more effective decisions for themselves and with the people they work with.

This culture will be present across the workforce and will be self-sustaining beyond the 3-year project.



She went on to describe the organisational results of partnering with Go MAD Thinking to embed ThinkOn (a brand name used in sensitive sectors where Go MAD is deemed inappropriate) methodology and the habitual use of coaching conversations, within the organisation. These were eye-opening for some of the HR leaders in the room. Here are a few that were shared on the day:

  • Time saved in meetings, e.g. a 3-day meeting shortened to 2 days
  • Reduction in use of services from taking a coaching approach and establishing clearer goals with service users (patients)
  • Improved staff retention, as more proactive with career choices and solving existing problems
  • Increased confidence in problem solving and decision making, reducing management involvement
  • Developed leadership and management skills with the emphasis on coaching conversations
  • Enhanced project management with the use of ThinkOn tools
  • Successful change management, where the techniques are used to increase engagement
  • Positive impact on the well-being of people in general


HR leaders in the room wanted to know what it was that influenced the Executive Team to partner with Go MAD Thinking and what problems it has solved across such a complex organisation;

Q. What is it the Executive Team bought in to?

A. “We were concerned with cultural change and not instant Return On Investment. This gave a focus to Organisational Development, rather than being obsessed with numbers.”


Q. How has it affected your meetings?

A. “Our meeting agendas are now driven by questions. High quality questions. Even down to questioning the purpose of the meeting itself. We now have self-thinking teams solving problems without meetings just being ‘discussions’.”




Q. When do you introduce it to your staff?

A. “Right up front – in inductions.”


Q. How did the Exec Team buy-in to adopt the methodology in the first place?

A. “At the top of our agenda was a £4 million cost saving application. This was going to take a significant change in how we operated day to day. The buck can’t stop with HR. Execs need to buy in to the concept and then experience it to get a feel for how this can transform the way people think and therefore the differences it could make. They need to want to make the change in your organisation for your people.”


Q. What problems has it solved in your organisation?

A. “It has solved all sorts of problems at different levels in the organisation, from front line staff solving personal issues and having less time off work, to middle managers being more engaged and improving the effectiveness and morale of their teams. Senior Management Team training has also been more productive – enabling us to be more open minded to possibilities in order to tackle organisational issues.”


Q. Our issue has always been sending staff off-site and having time ‘off the job.’ How much training happens off-site?

A. “There is a 4-day intense programme to equip our Master Coaches (who drive the sharing and embedding of the ThinkOn methodology) initially, but after this 90% of training is done internally. Andy and the team provide support via site visits, over the phone and Skype coaching sessions.”



Andy Gilbert, MD at Go MAD Thinking, then followed with a series of practical exercises that inspired Light Bulb Moments (new ideas, realisations and dated actions) on every table. A challenge with ropes, a thought-provoking game with cards and a coaching activity provided examples of different ways the ThinkOn methodology and tools have been used within the Mental Health Trust to improve thinking, generate results and ultimately make the differences they were looking for.


The feedback from the day was inspiring:


"It was a very good session. I like the blended approach of activities, theory and case study. I really liked the practical element at the end of relating the Results Framework and questkon coaching model to explore your own goal. Excellent session - well done to all!"

"I've been to a number of similar events in the past, however I can confidently say, one of the best I've attended." 

"The breakfast briefing really helped provide structure and focus to taking time out to tackle key priorities and build action plans." 



Our work with The Trust, helping them have Light Bulb Moments, is part of Our Purpose to 'improve the world through better thinking'.


If you’d like to know more about the inspiring differences being made within this organisation, how they’ve transformed their culture or anything else, please get in touch. 


For information on more Go MAD Thinking events stay in touch through our newsletter or take a look at dates for the next Productivity and Change Excellence (PACE) workshops.


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