Case Studies

  • Case Study 1
  • Case Study 2
  • Case Study 3
  • Case Study 4

Case Study 1: Solving A Complex Board Membership Issue In 2 1/2 Minutes

Carla is an independent non-executive chair of an unlisted public company. Ian Sampson worked with Carla as her Board Advisor for two years.

Ian would consult with Carla every three months, and work through an agenda of items she would like to Ian’s strategic guidance on.

During one of their consultations, they were discussing the design of the next Board retreat, however Ian was able to identify that something else was worrying and distracting Carla.

Upon questioning Carla, she revealed that she had made a tough decision about a new Board appointment, however it didn’t feel right to her, yet she couldn’t identify the reason. Two standout candidates had made it through the Nominations Committee’s selection processes. One was male and the other female. She had decided on the female but was concerned about other directors’ resistance.

It would be a collegial decision by the whole Board but she wanted to be clear about her reasons for supporting the female. She said she might be seen to be supporting the woman just to increase the numbers of women on boards. She was acutely aware of the Board dynamics and sensitivities, and conscious of her leadership role as Chair.

After a few minutes clarifying the context, her goals and the principles she wanted to adhere to, Ian asked her if she was ready to get a “high quality decision.”

In two and a half minutes, Ian was able to call on his vast experience as a director, and offered her a clear direction to follow to enable her to make an informed choice.

With Ian operating as her independent board advisor, Carla was able to see that the female not only had all the requisite skills and experience that the male had; she also had a level of marketing insight that would be extremely valuable in the next phase of the organisation’s growth. This was a key criterion that had only become apparent as the selection process had evolved. The discussion with Ian had uncovered its importance in her original decision and enabled Carla to see that it was the presiding factor that made the female the best candidate.

Using some of the tools that Ian had gave her, Carla quickly designed the conversation she would lead at the Board meeting.

Carla called Ian the next day, feeling very strong about the outcome. The female had been endorsed as the new Director.

Carla had also seen yet again the savings in time and stress that result from using Ian as her strategic guide to provide clear direction on how to address complex issues.

This is a classic case of how Ian often works with CEOs and Chairs. Their days are filled with complex issues and they appreciate Ian as their strategic guide, backing them up as needed, with clear directions on how to think “at the edge of chaos.”

Senior leaders must always do the thinking and deciding; Ian provides invaluable perspective and offers new ways to approach complexity.

Case Study 2: NED Lysaght Peoplecare to Chairman

Ian has been a Director of Lysaght Peoplecare Ltd since 2006. He is currently Deputy Chairman and will become Chairman later in 2015. During that time Peoplecare has transformed from a restricted membership fund to a public company offering a wide range of health insurance and related services to over 50000 Australians. During his time on the Board, Ian has participated in the company’s expansion to provide health insurance services for the Reserve Bank of Australia and a religious denomination, the commencement of new optical and dentistry businesses and a major increase in travel insurance.

Employment and profits have more than quadrupled in that time.

There have also been significant challenges. Early in his term Ian and the Board were confronted by the multi-million dollar collapse of a major investment in Collateralised Debt Obligations. The Board worked resolutely through the issues and ultimately achieved a satisfactory outcome.

The private health insurance market has been under intense competitive pressure for many years. In 2008 Ian strongly supported the development of a major rebranding, communications and marketing initiative which contributed significantly to the business’ growth. At the same time significant initiatives were undertaken with the Commonwealth regulator, PHIAC, to build further on Peoplecare’s excellent reputation and in 2015 Peoplecare has been instrumental in the establishment of Members Own Health Funds, a collaboration of mutual funds designed to challenge the major market participants.

Ian Chaired the Nominations, Development and Remuneration Committee from 2006-14, serves currently on the Audit and Compliance Committee and has served on the Business Strategy and Audit Committees.

Case Study 3: Strategic Guide Case Study

An international mining company engaged Ian to help a group of executives and community members determine its desired objective of contributing to the local community of about 50,0000 people. Ian worked closely with the steering committee to help them articulate their objectives, understand the overt and covert needs of both the company and the community and reframe the objectives.
One of the company’s overt objectives was to develop an approach that could be a model for the rest of industry. After extensive investigatory work facilitated by Ian, it set a very generous budget for the initial; program and made a commitment to fund the agreed outcomes into the future.

The development of a detailed project plan was facilitated by Ian and the international Board approved the program to dramatically raise the education levels of workers and their immediate families and to provide further education opportunities to existing staff in trade and professional roles.

The program continues today and is an exemplar of corporate social responsibility.

Case Study 4: Clash Of Personalities & Performance Issues

A CEO of a listed public company engaged Ian to advise on the best approach to immediately terminating an executive who reported directly to the CEO.

It quickly became apparent that there was a clash of personalities as well as performance problems. The CEO intended to take unilateral action and pay the executive a very generous separation package to make the problem go away.

As often happens, there were no effective performance management plans in place for the executive. Ian advised the CEO about the risks of litigation, even with a generous severance arrangement.

The CEO was also persuaded by Ian to confer with the Chairman of the Board before taking action.

During a series of three way conversations between the Chair, Ian and the CEO, the CEO realised that he had not done sufficient work to prove a performance problem to the Board, sufficient to allow them to discharge their responsibilities under the Delegations Policy. The Chair was also concerned that the intended action breached several policies. Further, the CEO eventually disclosed that the personality conflicts were affecting his health and contributing to high levels of fear amongst other senior staff. The organisation was assessing the CEO’s leadership capability as well as watching to see if the executive concerned was dealt with appropriately.

The CEO decided to postpone a final plan until he had taken some leave. During that time he discussed several conversation pointers with his wife.

When he returned to work he decided to see if he could work out the interpersonal issues with the executive while at the same time clarifying his performance expectations of the executive.

Ian assisted the CEO in designing the performance and interpersonal conversations. Over several weeks the CEO and Executive met frequently. By redefining their relationship the Executive was able to disclose that he was feeling overwhelmed in his role and wanted to find a way to step back without losing status.

At this stage the CEO agreed with Ian that the HR executive should be brought in and she worked with the CEO and the Executive on a reassignment that achieved all parties’ objectives.

At a final meeting with the CEO and Chair, the Chair noted the learnings: the importance of always acting consistently with the company values, the need for presenting problems to be well enough understood to identify any underlying issues and the personal growth exhibited by the CEO.