CASE: Aberlour Child Care Trust

 CASE: Aberlour Child Care Trust

As recently as the last World Economic Forum (Davos, 2014), Columbia Business School Professor Rita Gunter McGrath talked about the difficulty of launching new enterprises within existing organisations, and the reality that very few companies do it well.

To build an innovation proficiency system a lot of building blocks have to be put in place. These include:

1. Governance and Funding System
2. The right Leaders in the right Roles
3. The ability to integrate the new venture within the larger organisation

This requires three proficiencies:

1. The big idea (not the most important proficiency or where the problem usually lies)
2. Incubation – testing, prototyping, making the thing a real business (this is usually the main problem area for organisations)
3. Acceleration – to integrate the innovation within the core organisation

Most organisations launching new ventures try to execute on business plans, which can actually build risk in. When exploring new ideas organisations are usually in a space of maximum uncertainty. Our innovation process, adopted by Aberlour, deals with these proficiencies.

The Context

In the UK, and in most developed ecosystems, public spend is being reduced in many areas, and yet the demand for social care in the UK is increasing annually. This widening gap can’t be addressed by incremental change.

“The status quo is not an option. Innovation is the lesser risk” (Lynn Hendry, STV Appeal and The Hunter Foundation)

Aberlour Childcare Trust provides help to over 6000 of Scotland’s most vulnerable children, young people and their families each year. Operating in a competitive tendering environment where changing economic factors have led to reductions in public spending and increased risk, the board of directors supported a strategic decision to be more ‘business like’.

A new Director of Business Development was appointed to introduce business planning, help secure resources and develop innovative collaborations. Led by the idea that it was the people within the organization that could really shape its future, Director Steve McCreadie set out on a journey to transform Aberlour Childcare Trust into an intrapreneurial and future-proof charity.

Having experienced some of our tools and methodology in the past, Aberlour subsequently engaged Business Models Inc. to help design and support a program of innovation support, strategy design, training, and inspiration.

The journey was supported by the new CEO, SallyAnn Kelly and the Senior Leadership Team.

“We engaged with Business Models Inc to help support our ambition to be a more innovative and agile organisation. It’s no exaggeration to say that they have been instrumental in catalyzing a shift in mindset amongst our staff and senior team. They expertly introduced us to new tools and ways of working, and I would have no hesitation in recommending them to any ambitious organization looking to overcome obstacles to growth and innovation.” (Steve McCreadie, Business Development Director)

The challenges

1. Move business planning from an annually recurring process to a dynamic ongoing activity.
2. To align the Senior Leadership Team and assist them in reviewing and redesigning their strategic plan.
3. Create a facilitator’s network within the organization to enable intrapreneurial behavior beyond the scope of our engagement.
4. Support the launch of an in-company business incubator.

The approach

The challenge was to help staff adopt a more agile and adaptive approach to business planning and new service development. The project was to be run with existing but untested business ideas from across different regional departments. As well as helping teams to test and validate their projects, this process would help to inform a much more agile reporting system. Business Models Inc. worked closely with Aberlour to devise and run a 4-Phase training program to train participants in the relevant tools, skills, and mindset to understand, innovate, validate, and implement new ideas and business models.

“Doug Morwood and the Business Models Inc team have technical business innovation skills , programme design capability and they can engage staff at all levels. This led to purposeful and insightful conversations that created new thinking and direction for Aberlour. They understand the Third sector but are able to bring a fresh approach that mobilises creative thinking.” (SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive)

Strategic Planning

Having recently appointed a new CEO, the Leadership Team was looking for support in reviewing and agreeing strategic priorities to present clearly to the Board. Through consultation with the CEO and Directors and through the review of existing strategic plans, Business Models Inc. designed a one-day strategic planning session for eleven members of the Senior Leadership Team. The day involved hands-on practical exercises to initially align the group around a shared and ambitious vision for the future. Following which, a set of strategic priorities and bold steps were agreed upon to reach their goals.

Train the Trainer

The engagements with Aberlour generated new ideas, agreements on action, lots of energy and enthusiasm, a common language and approach to innovation, and also revealed some insecurity and uncertainties. The reality of feeling insecure and uncertain is that people often return to the apparent security of ‘Business As Usual.’ Anticipating this, Aberlour decided to support a team of facilitators to be trained more deeply in the Business Model Innovation process and methodology, including visual facilitation skills and deeper insight into business modeling and lean startup methodology. These trained facilitators were then involved in the design and launch of an in-company incubator – ‘The HotHouse’

“Thank you @Dunc_Ross and @dougmorwood for two FAB days immersed in the art of disruption! Can’t wait to share the learning.” (Marie-Claire Jones, Head of Marketing and Fundraising)

In-House Incubator

Making the most of its shift towards becoming a more intrapreneurial organization, Aberlour formed a unique partnership with the Scottish Government in the creation of The Lens – a program designed to create a more enterprising culture within charities based on the expertise developed by Aberlour. This program involves training, funding, and investment for the best business ideas emerging from the third sector in Scotland. In a bold move to lead the way, Aberlour created an in-company business accelerator, designed to test and develop the best ideas from within their own organisation. Business Models Inc. suggested using a unique space to host this incubator. Provided by Rothko Innovation Spaces, the space is designed to encourage innovation in all its forms – from idea generation and creativity to purposeful and relevant action. 

Outcomes (as stated by The Client)

  • Agreed approach to business design and innovation
  • Shared language and conceptual innovation framework
  • Clear route for innovations from front line staff to reach senior team
  • Increased engagement across all disciplinary groups about need for and value of business innovation
  • Business innovation accelerator program launched with support
  • Improved capability in business planning
  • Improved capability to lead business innovation
  • More accessible business planning process

For more information about this project, and to discuss how Business Models Inc. can support your plans for growth, please contact Doug Morwood in the UK office.


All Doug's blogposts
 Doug Morwood



Responsible for our offices in the UK.

View profile