Kids Help Phone: Western Canada Expansion

November 11, 2016


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The Challenge

In 2014, Kids Help Phone had been wrestling with a strategic question for over a year. Should they build a Counselling Centre in Western Canada, in addition to the ones they already had in Toronto and Montreal? The business executives on the board were concerned about establishing a sub-scale business unit and increasing the overhead costs, but the management team saw an opportunity to increase Kids Help Phone’s connection with the communities in Western Canada, furthering both their fundraising and service objectives. The board and the management team had not yet reached alignment.

The Solution

When Adam Silver, a former McKinsey management consultant, joined Farber in 2014 to lead its Performance Improvement practice, he learned about Kids Help Phone and their challenges. He recommended offering pro bono services for the charity. Farber had been supporting Kids Help Phone as a financial sponsor for a few years as Farber’s national charity of choice. One of the firm’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategic priorities was not only philanthropy but in-kind community investment.

Adam was introduced to Sharon Wood, the President & CEO of Kids Help Phone and she asked Adam to lead a feasibility analysis process as a first strategic project. The pro bono project was to help the senior executive team and Board of Directors clarify the intent and trade-offs behind expanding their footprint to include a Western Canadian counselling centre.

Adam facilitated a strategy session with the Board on this question and several other emerging issues. Adam analyzed the issues and the session not only built alignment on the Western Canada issue, it also surfaced a key strategic priority that the Board and management team were not well-aligned on.

Twelve months later, as the organization began to develop a new five-year strategy, Sharon requested Adam’s assistance with this important process. He led a team that facilitated the organization through a process to revise the mission, vision, and values. This included several sessions with the Board, as well as direct employee engagement across all departments and regions.

The Result

“Farber’s initial strategy work led to action in creating the Western Canadian counselling hub. Because of the rigor of the process and the steps in the analysis, we were able to make a fully-considered decision,” said Sharon. “Kids Help Phone totally owns that decision. It became a true Kids Help Phone decision as opposed to that of ‘the consultant,’ and we are now able to articulate our national presence more effectively.”

The CEO went on to say that, “Only one year after the launch of the western hub, we can’t imagine not having it in place. We recognize that the external strategic support Adam provided allowed us to make our own choice with intention, feeling everyone was heard and trade-offs were clear, with the additional benefit that we created the organizational capacity to tackle the next tough decision.”

That decision came 12 months later as Kids Help Phone began to refresh the five-year plan, which had served the organization well but was no longer a sound roadmap for the challenges ahead. In addition to the self-evaluation and resource prioritization required for this exercise, basic questions around Kids Help Phone’s identity were on the table. Adam and the Farber team helped Kids Help Phone articulate a revised mission, vision, and values.

“The mission and vision have helped align the organization to make more effective decisions, as well as to tell our story to donors and supporters in a more clear and compelling way.  It has helped our funders and partners understand us better, and has helped them see what their investments are impacting,” said Sharon.

“In presenting the mission, vision and values over the past several months since we confirmed these new statements, our stakeholders often replied ‘I’m getting chills hearing this…it is so clear, and we want to be part of it,” she notes.

Sharon believes that by engaging the whole organization on the values, the work was a catalyst in improving their employee engagement at all levels across the organization.  She is delighted that the work is actively continuing, with the creation of Values Champions. “This project has a life of its own thanks to the work of Farber and our team and Board at Kids Help Phone,” smiles Sharon.

The Kids Help Phone team was then able to move forward to build the longer-term plan, with the clarity of the new vision, mission and values as guideposts. The work Adam facilitated helped close the alignment gap which had surfaced the prior year.

“Our strategic plan, as a whole, was approved by the Board,” said Sharon. “Now, implementation.”

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Adam W. Silver is the Managing Director of the Performance Improvement group. The Performance Improvement practice helps executives and boards overcome operational and strategic challenges to uncover potential and unleash performance. Adam can be reached at 416.496.3734 and