Cultural Change for Government Modernisation,
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, FCO (UK)

SG - Clients - The Foreign & Commonwealth Office - 25 Jun 2015.svg


The purpose of the FCO is to work for UK interests in a safe, just & prosperous world. They do this with 12,000 staff, based in the UK & their overseas network, with over 200 diplomatic offices.


Synergy Global had helped the FCO with Project Foresight where we consulted widely with contacts on the following 5 key themes: FCO2010 (White Paper); Working Practices & IT; Customers & Services; Personnel; Working Environment & Resources, so they contacted us again. Despite 95 ‘quick wins’ being published within 2 months of Foresight, there was much more to be done under each of these headings. We stressed that the lengthy ‘action list’ discussed, & we would remain a ‘wish list’ unless the FCO could harness the ownership & commitment of the Strategy Group. We needed to provide them with enough support – so began some Executive Coaching & a series of Action Learning initiatives that used focused projects to deliver measurable outcomes, as well as help to motivate & inspire people to work in new & more innovative ways. As a global team of premier management consultants expert in helping organisations analyse their current environment, identify opportunities & threats, envision innovative solutions, we helped the FCO to design & deliver the next stage of their change management program effectively, assisting them with major modernisation.

As the FCO began to flatten & breakdown it’s functional ‘silos’, it became critical to focus on the development, nurturing & use of diverse cross-functional (often global & ‘virtual’) teams. Given our extensive experience with Process Improvement/Lean Thinking Methodology, along with our R&D in ‘Developing Successful Virtual Teams’, we were able to show the FCO teams how they could become more powerful vehicles for organisational change, bringing together diverse talents, to change an entrenched culture. A series of workshops were used to get the FCO to the place where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. We focused on transferring skills internally for future development & advised on how the program might unfold over the next 3 years.


We used its extensive change leadership & implementation experience in a range of areas, from facilitating critical management meetings to developing Action Learning Teams. We often partnered with senior leaders at executive level to confront & help resolve the organisational issues, which were blocking positive cultural change. We used cross-functional workshops, underpinned by executive coaching to develop internal change agents who were then more confident in supporting the Foresight Champions, who clearly had key roles in the success of the program internationally.


The FCO faced a critical challenge in modernising such a diverse culture, in a geographically dispersed organisation, at such a political time (pre general election). The CMU used our help to identify & mobilise those who were essential in effectively supporting the improvement effort, moving towards their vision to become “more open; more effective, more professional, & more efficient”. This was best served through engaging the Foresight Volunteers & giving them a greater understanding of their current role in change/improvement. Participants of our programs gained confidence from a self measured 5 (start) to 9 (end) out of 10 & became a positive force for change. They also developed an Alumni Support Group as they continued to grow into new leadership roles. We then assisted with the development of a plan for further action orientation & increased capability. We worked in partnership with the Strategy Group to support the ongoing implementation of Foresight. This involved 1:1 interviews with senior managers followed by the facilitation of 2 strategy meetings & further workshops, in order to gain their ownership/commitment to the process & to energise people to implement the action plan. Both these workshops were successfully evaluated. The above initiatives formed part of the longer term project of delivering against the group’s vision & contributing to the organisational development of the FCO ‘Command Structure’ – including work on developing more dynamic ‘Virtual Teams’ & contributing to the development of a Communications Strategy (using the FCO Intranet etc.).

A recent White Paper on the UK’s international priorities highlighted a need for the FCO to strengthen its partnerships & build a future based on shared values &  interests. We are now living in a world of increased connections & interdependence through travel, trade & communication. What happens in one part of the world – whether political, economic or social – directly affects security, prosperity & the way we live our daily lives. Foreign policy is no longer very foreign. Following our recommendation that the FCO tap into the expertise & experience of a range of stakeholder groups, they are now setting up strategic partnerships & more creative networks to work towards 10 common goals – the priorities underline how closely domestic & international policies are now linked.

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