Case study: Partnership Development in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board using the Leveraging Potential Through the Coach Approach Programme as the Catalyst for Change.


It is culture change that is at the heart of this programme.   This change is generated through improved relationships, improved communication and joint, solutions-focused, forward thinking.   This case study relates to the culture and relationships between management and union delegates. The ‘Leveraging potential’ programme, which was the catalyst for change, is equally powerful in other organisational settings looking for similar success.


In 2007 the 21 District Health Boards (DHBs) and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) settled a MECA on the foundation of an agreed partnership between the DHBs and the NZNO to collectively generate 3% annual savings across a wide range of initiatives.   In partnership the two groups developed a Joint Action Plan that comprised 11 work plan initiatives.

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB) was keen to be proactive in establishing this partnership at the local level.   Management of the BOPDHB also recognised that a key prerequisite for genuine partnership success would be a significant culture change away from adversarial management versus union positioning.

The GM Human Resources, in discussion with Sally Webb of SallyW Ltd and Lesley Fraser of Fraser Consultants identified that getting a significantly positive outcome would require working in a significantly different way.   He determined that the ‘Leveraging potential through the coach approach’ programme offered that opportunity. The key outcomes of this project were identified as:

  • Establishment of jointly agreed priorities and actions that are achievable and time framed
  • An organisational shift to a coaching leadership style
  • Sustainably enhanced Management and NZNO relationships


 “Leveraging potential through the coach approach” is comprehensive professional development focused on communication and leadership skills incorporating group learning and one-on-one coaching to embed and maximise the learning.

The learning is based on the Corporate CoachU Coaching Clinic professional development programme. This model has been internationally corporate tested and refined for several years. It is a skill-based programme, providing managers and team leaders with a toolkit of skills they can integrate immediately.

Leveraging Potential incorporates one and a half days of group learning that includes:

The principles of coaching, leadership styles and where coaching fits

The coaching conversation model and its four foundation skills

Personal paradigm shifts required to fully utilise the model

Application of the model in the workplace

Coaching practice reflection and action planning

One-on-one phone coaching to embed the learning.

 Sally Webb and Lesley Fraser specifically tailored the programme to ensure a strong foundation for the partnership between BOPDHB management and the NZNO delegates.  Their focus was two-fold:

  1. to generate a different and constructive way of working between management and delegates and;
  2. to develop a shared action plan to progress the partnership agreement forward

The process involved several stages:

  1. Set- up meetings with key personnel
  2. Pre-work information sent out to all participants
  3. Half-day workshop involving equal numbers of delegates and management.   The focus of this workshop was to generate a shared understanding of the partnership agreement and the purpose of working together, to agree key partnership principles and to identify key priorities from the JAC work plan to work on
  4. One and a half days of the purpose designed Coaching Clinic, involving the same management personnel and delegates working together
  5. Action planning in the last session of the Coaching Clinic.   This process established the process the participants would use to engage others in the workforce in this partnership process
  6. Three 45 minute one-on-one phone coaching sessions for each participant, to embed their learning, provide personal experience of the power of coaching and support participants in their action plans for the partnership
  7. A subsequent full day workshop where the facilitators used the coaching model to enable the group to identify work streams and establish clear and agreed action plans to achieve partnership results
  8. Short term review process three months later
  9. Full review of process and progress, and collectively determining the next steps, 6 months after the start of this initiative


At the short-term review meeting in April 2008 the NZNO delegates and BOPDHB managers identified significant ongoing benefit from this programme including:

  • More positive partner relationships between NZNO delegates and management.  Increased sense of trust and a greater sense of partnership
  • More evidence of partnership in action – communication has improved
  • Working for solutions, outcomes and action
  • Because this was a shared learning process it now means everyone sings from the same page
  • Empowering of managers and leaders in that this approach does not require them to provide all the solutions; the approach encourages others to think about their own solutions
  • “You don’t have to fight every battle – this approach releases you from feeling you have to do it for them” (an NZNO delegate)
  • Personal growth
  • Has generated enthusiasm and fun -(observed from a non-participant of the workshops “you all seem so happy”) Participants in the programme are now regularly using the approach in their day to day work across the wider organisation
  • Engaging better with all
  • Teaching others the model
  • Using the model to find more solutions and identify more action

 “There is no question about the process itself having very real outcomes in its own right. Now we need to be able to demonstrate measurable cost and efficiency outcomes.” (BOPDHB manager)

“Good relationships are the foundation for getting the dollar outcomes.” (Nurse Leader)

At this initial review the benefits of this approach were already apparent. Key challenges for this group were to maintain their forward momentum and to engage more people in this approach.

At the 6-month review in October 2008 the participants assessed their progress against the agreements and action plans developed in April. Significant progress had been achieved:

  • The Joint Action Group had been set up for success with the Terms of Reference ready to be mandated. The meetings were now jointly facilitated and participants engaged in the partnership model
  • The focus of the Joint Action Group meetings was now strategic, with operational issues dealt with at service level
  • All participants identified the significant benefit this process has had on improving working relationships
  • A partnership communication/education strategy had been developed and was well received across all sites
  • Sickness management policies and procedures had been jointly debated, developed and implemented.  This has seen the approval of discretionary sick leave  (additional to the 10 days agreed in the MECCA) move to a joint DHB / NZNO process to consider the application
  • A training package for on- floor managers and delegates had been jointly prepared and rolled out
  • The coaching model is now used extensively and for a variety of purposes in the workplace

Identified quantitative value of this process

Implementation of the initial project has resulted in a significant reduction in the use of sick leave.  While this was identified as an area of opportunity for BOPDHB as they had one of the highest sick leave rates, the reduction has been seen as an achievement by all parties involved and the savings generated have met the savings requirements of the ‘collective activity’ clause of the MECA.  Estimated savings due to the reduction in sick leave are in the order of $1.5 million












Identified qualitative value of this process

Participants identified the following key benefits of the process:

  • Actually having the time allocated to this partnership building process and being trained in the use of an effective tool and framework has enabled us to build trust together. We know that we are being heard.
  • Together the process has enabled us to take a strategic focus and make the partnership in the context of the MECA a reality – not just words!
  • The positive relationship formed between the DHB and NZNO is providing an opportunity to listen to each other and be involved in a change process focused on solutions.
  • This has been a positive example of partnership. We are leading the change and opening up the possibilities with other organisational groups to also form different working relationships.
  • A partnership has been formed where all issues are shared issues. We have seen positive action. This has been a true paradigm shift.
  • The process provided by the external facilitators created a positive framework for this new partnership relationship. The follow-up coaching they provided deepened our understanding and commitment to the partnership
  • This is an approach and partnership that is well positioned for enduring success.
  • The savings generated through reduction in sick leave utilisation were $1.5million with the external costs in the order of $40,000

Having achieved this and having the union organiser standing with the DON in front of the Board and telling them how great it is – priceless


Contact details for BOPDHB and NZNO

The following people were involved in this initiative from the outset.  They are prepared to be approached to discuss the programme and its value to their organisation.

Joanne Wrigley                                                                   Gordon Mackay

NZNO                                                                                         Group Manager HR, BOPDHB

Ph: 07 8383651                                                                       Ph: 07 579 8047

Julie Robinson                                                                     Graham Dyer

Director of Nursing, BOPDHB                                            Previous COO, BOPDHB

Ph: 07 5798792                                                                       Currently CE Hutt Valley DHB

                               Mobile: 027 555 9081