Schoolsworks Academy Trust was established on 1 April 2012 under the Academies Act 2010, to manage its first academy (Edward Bryant School). The Trust grew out of an entrepreneurial vision and experienced a speedy organic first stage of growth to 5 schools within two and half years. The Trust is operating in a demanding environment with high instability and uncertainty. Its great strength lies in its high coherence around core values and mission.
Since its founding, the Trust infrastructure had developed mainly in a reactive way driven by compliance requirements from the Department for Education and Ofsted, and the move to Academy status had a massive if unforeseen effect on the work of the School Business Managers. The Trust leadership recognised however that the infrastructure was unsustainable, and they needed to move to “front foot” working to sustain a healthy organisation for the long run. They wanted to do things once and well wherever possible, while sustaining the values of distributed leadership across their member schools.
The Tricordant Approach
Tricordant were engaged by Schoolsworks to undertake an Organisation Design and Development (ODD) review to help consider how the Trust should organise for future growth in terms of the capacity and scope of its infrastructure and functions, while keeping to its core values and ethics.
The process for the review was designed in line with the stated values of the Trust so as to secure engagement and ownership of the review outcomes for the longer term. Transparency from the Trust leadership throughout the process was critical.
The process comprised:
- Document review, including outline financial projections.
- A briefing visit for an overview and familiarisation with Schoolsworks.
- Interviews and focus group meetings with key organisational leaders, governors and school business managers.
- A workshop involving a cross-section of leaders and business managers from the 5 schools in the Trust to generate a co-created development plan for the Trust.
- A formal report and recommendations, and half-day meeting with the Executive Committee in preparation for the Board.
The Schoolsworks leadership took a calculated risk in adopting a bottom-up Organisation Design and Development approach to the work of developing the Trust infrastructure. They found however that the benefits soon outweighed the risk.
The key output from the project was a formal written report, agreed by the Schoolsworks Board, with a clear development and investment plan that built upon the co-creative process so that the range of identified outcomes could be recognised and accepted by all parties.