Client: Medical Research Organisation

Industry: Healthcare


“Following investment our business was in transition from an academic to a commercial contract research organisation as well as growing significantly our project + organisational skills were being tested!  We needed to help our functional heads develop their management skills and Project teamworking rapidly.  AVASST’s learning & development programme proved to be instrumental in providing the leadership with the tools, techniques & confidence to improve our working practices and collectively tackle the challenges we faced.”

Company Director


The business had successfully grown from a university research partnership into one of Europe’s leading contract biomedical research companies in their field.  After receiving an investment it was poised for significant growth through developing partnerships with European and Global pharmaceutical clients to supply research services and conduct medical trials.

The organisation was built by research and application scientists.  With the evolution into a commercial entity there was now a need to strengthen the non-science related functions of the business and create an effective management & supervisory team. Post the investment injection, the executive management team was strengthened and the 3 year strategy set.

The Challenge

The Executive management team quickly realised that if the organisation was to be able to deliver the service levels expected and cope with the rate of growth envisaged then better teamwork, more versatile problem solving and a passion for operational excellence were key aspects that required immediate attention.

Through preliminary discussions with AVASST it was recognised that the anticipated performance levels would need support at the individual and team collective level if the new processes and leadership behaviours were to be really effective.  Also given that the majority of those involved were more academic by background than industrial, contextual learning would be needed and practical learning opportunities would be advantageous if there was to adequate meaningful engagement. 


Gaining early engagement from all within this diverse group, as early as possible was achieved by adopting a three phase approach with the common emphasis that this was a learning and development process where the aim was for the group to actively own & support a common set of goals which would evolve them into a cohesive leadership team.

Integral to the three phase programme was that:

  • Each individual was given the opportunity to better understand themselves better so they can operate more effectively – at both the individual AND team level. 
  • The group explored a range of management and leadership tools, processes and behaviours from which they developed ‘Improved ways of working’.
  • The Learning & Development was practical rather than theoretical.

Phase 1 – In order to help everyone to ‘buy-in’ to this programme and it’s intended impact in enabling the next growth phase of the business plus put their own personal development needs in context we designed a mini programme to help bring everyone to the highest level of common understanding about the role of leadership, translating business vision into strategy and then cascading that through to tactical plans/actions, and finally their contribution to the business.

Phase 2 – Began with a series of assessments and detailed feedback to each individual which was followed by a team impact report. This in turn led to a series of open discussions on performance successes and issues where the level of openness and appreciation about each others strengths & weaknesses helped to develop a strong team bond. 

Phase 3 – was fundamentally a leadership & team development programme where the previous assessment matrix and team impact outputs where used as a backdrop to examining a range of concepts, tools & processes offered to the team.  Through a series of energetic debates, off line projects and ‘on the job’ time to explore possible new improvements the team have evolved improved ways of working.  Additionally as the management and leadership teams were expanded so the there has been a much more inquisitive, inclusive attitude to new ideas from within the organisation as well as from new employees. 

The style with which AVASST delivered the programme was based on facilitated the ‘active learning’.  This was achieved through a blend of

  • Stimulating discussion about real client problems and conduct ‘trouble shooting discussions’,
  • Delivering workshop break-out sessions which were both fun and a stretch that provided delegates the opportunity to try new ways of working in ‘sheltered’ environments.
  • Providing presentations and knowledge based reference material that delegates could collate into a learning/reference binder.


A leadership team that are now on the transition curve heading upwards and the business is growing and the organisation is maturing.

At both the individual and ‘teamworker’ level the leadership team have a much more confident, inclusive and effective approach to their work.  From the purely leadership perspective they are all progressing at different levels and from the Executive leadership teams vantage point the day:day issues are being better sorted and that the medium term issues are now being anticipated and, more often, being tackled earlier..

A few other bi-products of the programme is a greater openness to the ideas/suggestion of others, a greater willingness to listen and the beginnings of a better work/life balance in what is a challenging period of growth and development for the business.


To quote one of the Directors –

The team is now enabled, engaged and operating as a stronger unit and is demonstrated by the continued level of successful growth of the business – 3 fold within 2 years and set to continue at a high rate of growth”