Case Studies

Case Study #1 –Engineering Firm ($55 million)


We were engaged to assist in the transition of the Chairman/CEO/President to a new role as full time chairman, and to help the firm hire a new CEO/President. This resulted in locating and hiring of a seasoned consulting engineering firm executive. Over the course of several years, we maintained its ongoing relationship with the firm and its leadership by serving on the firm’s advisory board.

Several years later, the new CEO/President and the Chairman both announced their pending retirements. This left the firm in need of a new leadership team. We were engaged to assess fifteen candidates for several leadership positions. Our initial organizational assessment revealed that the candidates had limited enterprise leadership experience. The suitability assessments, using the Harrison Assessment, revealed leadership acumen and identified several of the fifteen as being better suited for specific staff leadership assignments. The overall assessment also revealed a need for development of greater business understanding and entrepreneurship among the members of the leadership team.

Our Approach:

Job Assignments: Working with the CEO/President, we assisted the firm in restructuring the organizational chart so these developing leaders could each gain experience in enterprise leadership. Six of the candidates were provided opportunities to lead regions for the firm. Others retained their current corporate staff assignments or were focused on areas that leveraged their specific skills (e.g., marking, chief engineer, human resources, etc.).

Coaching and Mentoring: We created a program to help the participants improve their coaching and mentoring skills. Working with Lou Marines, the participants were themselves given coaching on how to become better coaches. The participants identified one or two individuals they needed to coach, and we worked with them to identify those individuals’ coaching needs, approach, timetable and preferred outcome for these coaching assignments.

Education: Since business acumen was the prevailing need among the fifteen participants, we partnered with senior faculty from the University of Kansas School of Business to provide six two-day sessions over eighteen months in strategy and strategy selection, finance, operations management, process improvement, and marketing.

Follow up work: At the end of the educational and coaching program, the firm decided to make an external hire. The approach was to hire an executive vice president to work with the CEO/President and Chairman until the timing for the transition was right, and an orderly transition could be designed and successfully completed.

We have also worked with the leadership of the firm to develop an emerging leaders program, success management, and provide seminars to develop managers as coaches.


Case Study #2 – Design Firm ($50 million)


This firm had a strong employee development program in place and was just completing their strategic planning process. The leadership of the firm was in their mid-fifties and faced two dilemmas:

  • The need to provide leadership development for a wide range of leaders – including younger leaders – so the firm will be ready when the retirement transitions of the baby-boomer generation begins in earnest.
  • Secondly, ownership transition was a looming reality. The senior leaders were looking for ways to help develop leaders in both their interest in and capacity to purchase the firm as partners.

The firm determined that both of these situations were deeply entwined, and solving them would start with the leadership development program. We were engaged to collaborate with the firm in designing a three-year leadership development program for 29 people.

Our Approach:

Establish a Steering Committee: The first step was to establish a steering committee of eight leaders that included a cross section of the divisions and seniority. This group of leaders worked on developing a model for leadership in the future of the firm, and integrated the firm’s strategy.

Assessment: We provided a battery of assessments including the Harrison Assessment, MBTI and the Thomas Kilman Conflict Model (TKI). The Harrison was reviewed with each individual and all the assessments were used at various points in creating and conducting the training and development program.

Job Assignments: We worked with the firm’s existing Career Development Program as the carrier for the job assignments process. The firm had a well-established process that resulted in each individual annually assessing their career development based on the Situational Leadership model developed by Ken Blanchard. We bolstered this process through training the leaders on how to provide their staff with challenging job assignments designed to develop them in the required areas.

Coaching and Mentoring: We provided individual executive coaching with several senior leaders. In addition, we provided workshop sessions to improve coaching among the leaders.

Education:The assessment for this firm revealed a need to develop three dimensions of leadership: self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and business acumen and skills. The steering committee was concerned that the individuals become more personally aware and be able to apply that awareness to the development of emotional intelligence. In addition, the individuals needed to develop stronger business acumen, marketing and processes. An educational program of three two-day programs for three years was designed in collaboration with the steering committee. These two-day programs generally split the focus between personal development and business acumen.


Case Study #3 – Structural Engineering Firm


We facilitated a Leadership Transition Process for a firm that provides a wide range of services throughout California and the Western United States. The president and vice president of the firm were considering retirement in the next 5 to 7 years and asked our staff to help design a leadership transition plan, succession plan and individual development plan for their team of 16 leaders.

Our Approach:

We met individually with each leader to review their Harrison Assessment, identifying their suitability with taking on the upper management roles. The team of sixteen leaders met for two days to discuss individual and team scores. We facilitated a leadership transition process where all the leaders identified new areas to grow into, responsibilities they would keep and tasks they could delegate to others.

One key issue that emerged is that the two partners are almost exclusively responsible for the 91% repeat client base. The other issue is that both leaders excelled in having the confidence to take business risk that involves uncertainty. The leaders below them had the tendency to over-analyze potential pitfalls and avoid taking business risk.

At the conclusion of the leadership transition program, the leadership transition plan was in place, with a clear succession plan and individual development plans for the key leaders of the firm.


Case Study #4 – Architectural Firm

We facilitated a Leadership Transition process for a firm that specializes in community, K-12, Higher Education, Healthcare and Interiors. We met with the team of eight principals and guided them through the Harrison Assessment results, both individual results and the team graph. It was immediately clear that two of the principals should not be managing people, and would better serve the organization in operations roles. These two senior leaders identified the roles they wanted to stretch into and what roles they could delegate to others. As a result, they are now free to grow the company. At a recent breakfast, the CEO said he now has time to focus on thought leadership, and the other leader said he has time to focus on design and growing the design team. A coaching assignment grew out of this assignment, we meet twice a week with the heir apparent, whose identification and selection emerged during the leadership transition process.