Scott Wilson Case Study: Leadership Development Programme 

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Client Profile

Industry sector: Professional Services

Number of employees: 6,000

Location: Worldwide


From its early beginnings as a firm of Engineering partners, Scott Wilson Group Plc has undergone dramatic changes in recent years.  The Group, which was admitted to the Official List of the London Stock Exchange in March 2006, has embarked on a cultural journey which has significantly altered its business model and, subsequently, its organisational culture.

From a team of highly skilled, technically minded, entrepreneurial Engineers focused on the UK market, the Group has grown into a successful International business operating within a complex, competitive, multi-disciplined corporate landscape.  These new commercial drivers represented a key challenge for the HR team at Scott Wilson: how would they develop a new model of Leadership that could meet the evolving demands of the business and the market within which it operates?

It was clear that a revised Leadership strategy was required which would allow the company to continue to capitalise on its potential.  A global Leadership Development programme would see Scott Wilson progress from a hierarchical, project focused, technically orientated model to a collaborative, commercially focused, business orientated one, increasing performance expectations, individual accountability and, ultimately, profitability.


a&dc has worked closely with Scott Wilson since 2007 to support and implement what would become known internally as the Executive Leadership & Talent Programme.  From the outset we were clear that this new approach would have a number of guiding principles, namely:

  • It would help to re-define the ‘language’ of Leadership within the business.
  • It would be highly practical and experiential in style and be tailored to the seniority of the target audience.
  • It would offer a modular approach to key Leadership talent and link clearly to internal performance management capabilities.
  • Ongoing development would relate directly to real business issues facing the population.

Strategic Positioning and Research

One of the key drivers for Scott Wilson was a wish to benchmark their Leadership capability against leading FTSE 250 organisations and to understand what this meant for their own Talent Management practices. a&dc therefore conducted external research, coupled with the input from the Scott Wilson Senior Management team, with two key objectives in mind:

  •  To identify the competencies required for successful performance at Executive level.
  • To understand the future strategic direction of the organisation and the related impact on Talent Management.

This research had two main outcomes:  Firstly it allowed a&dc to develop a competency framework which would form the backbone of the Talent Management programme; and, secondly, it helped to identify a set of key competencies that reflected the immediate and longer term Executive Talent skill-sets required of the business.  These competencies would serve to best position the organisation in relation to its ability to deliver against its strategic goals.  During a strategic review meeting a subset of these competencies were identified as being of particular importance.  These were then measured on the subsequent Programme.

Programme Design

a&dc worked with Scott Wilson to design the Leadership Development Programme.  The aim was clear from the outset: to develop and benchmark current Executive Talent within Scott Wilson to ensure suitable succession planning and enable the business to meet its current and future objectives.

The programme included a 360° feedback process and a 2-day Development Centre followed by Executive Coaching and individual development of personalised learning pathways.  The programme also helped Participants to identify their personal strengths and development priorities and implement personal development plans to support career progression and growth.

Pre Development Centre

Prior to the Development Centre, individuals were briefed about the nature and purpose of the Leadership Programme through a range of communications and briefings.  They were also asked to undertake some pre-work activities, including:

  • A personality questionnaire
  • An online 360° survey – In completing the 360 tool, participants had to rate themselves against a subset of core competencies which had been identified as particularly important for the Leadership team.  They were also asked to nominate a range of key individuals to rate their performance against these competencies.  These included their direct reports, their line manager, their colleagues and other stakeholders such as clients and suppliers.

Development Centre

The 2-day Development Centre then consisted of:

  • A selection of interactive simulation exercises set in a fictitious company, assessed by trained Observers and designed to replicate the key challenges facing the Executive team.  These included a group meeting, a 1-1 meeting and a report writing exercise with presentation.
  • A 3 hour 1-1 session with one of the trained Observers, involving an in-depth discussion of the results from the personality questionnaire completed prior to the Development Centre, the 360 feedback and feedback about their own performance on the Development Centre simulation exercises.  During this session individuals were asked to identify a number of key intention statements and to outline specific areas where they agreed that future development would be beneficial.
  • A Critical Reasoning test to assess the individual’s ability to draw inferences, recognise assumptions, evaluate arguments, carry out deductive reasoning and make logical interpretations.
  • A group development module in which participants were encouraged to consider practical workplace application of the feedback they each received.
  • A facilitated round table discussion with the CEO focusing on current key leadership challenges within the business.

The main aim of the Development event was to assess behavioural competence in the key competencies identified.  This was achieved through the simulation exercises which measured each individual’s capability and through the 360 feedback tool which measured the degree to which they were performing these behaviours within their roles.  Personality and team diversity were assessed through the various psychometric tests which focused on measuring preferred styles and group dynamics.  These results helped to shed extra light on the behavioural results and assisted in providing additional evidence in explaining ‘why’ certain behavioural patterns were appearing.

Post Development Centre

Following the Development Centre, each Participant received a personalised feedback report which consolidated data from the behavioural simulation exercises, the 360° feedback, the critical reasoning test, the personality questionnaire and the 1-1 feedback discussion with the a&dc Observer.  This feedback report presented the data by each of the competencies assessed and concluded with the Intention Statements agreed in the individual feedback discussion.

Participants were then encouraged to reflect further on their feedback and develop a Personal Development Action Plan.  This structured PDP was designed to help Participants work towards achieving their Intention Statements, prioritise development areas and identify options to accelerate their development.  Following the event Participants also took part in a number of 1-1 meetings with an Executive Coach in which they explored the feedback and alternatives for development.  The individuals were then supported by Scott Wilson to help them achieve their objectives through a variety of learning options including training, mentoring and job-related project work.

Programme Delivery

The CEO of Scott Wilson was involved from a very early stage, ensuring a high level of commitment and buy in to the programme was secured from the outset.  All twelve members of the Scott Wilson Senior Management team were invited to take part and the programme was delivered over the course of 6 months.  The Development Centre was opened jointly by the CEO and members of the Scott Wilson Talent Management team and was delivered by an experienced a&dc Centre Manager and a number of trained a&dc Observers.


All twelve members of the Senior Management team successfully undertook the Leadership Development programme and they continue to capitalise on their strengths and focus on their Personal Development Plans, adding increased value to the organisation as time goes on.

By working closely with the internal Talent Management team, a&dc have been able to support Scott Wilson in realising a clearer vision and sense of direction for the Senior Management team.  Group strategy is more clearly articulated, the team are able to align individual goals with corporate goals and to behave more consistently in delivering against these objectives.  Above all, the Senior Management team are better placed to ‘live the values’ of the organisation, to lead by example and to empower their people to do the same.

In turn, all of these qualities will encourage and stimulate change and help to further establish Scott Wilson as a powerful force in the market.

What the client says

“It was a brave step by our Executive team to commit to this programme, and much of the success was down to the personal commitment of our CEO to the programme, and the degree of professionalism and openness a&dc showed in managing the Development Centre with our executives.  Taking this pioneering approach with the top team has enabled us to build on this and extend further the Talent programme.”   David Walters, Resourcing & Development Director