Consulting with organisations navigating a period of change is a significant part of what we do at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore. This year, we were thrilled to work with CO3 once again to deliver the Leading Organisational Change award and celebrate another successful organisational transformation in the third sector.

The award went to Nicky Conway, Chief Executive Officer of Belfast Central Mission (BCM), which is an agency of the Methodist Church. BCM works through its social care projects and cross-community programmes to meet the needs of all in the community.

Nicky has worked at BCM for over twenty years and has been at the helm of the organisation, which is one of Northern Ireland’s oldest charities, since 2019. We were thrilled to catch up with him following his award win to discuss his experience in making his vision for the organisation a reality.

Established in 1889, Belfast Central Mission exists to improve the quality of life of older people, young people and families living in Northern Ireland by delivering a diverse range of projects and services that meet practical, emotional and spiritual needs.

With a portfolio that includes residential care, supported housing and independent living projects, therapeutic counselling, childcare services and community facilities, the diversity of the initiatives being delivered across the organisation calls for strong, pragmatic, and forward-thinking leadership.

Ahead of the challenges of the pandemic, BCM had already embarked on a significant change project. Spearheaded by Nicky, this included a comprehensive review of the charity’s management and structures to facilitate significant growth in both staff numbers and turnover, the complete digitisation of the business and ultimately the development and rollout of its biggest project yet, the flagship Copelands Care Home in County Down.

The challenge of the pandemic emerged as BCM’s leadership team worked to launch the Copelands project and implement the change programme. With the pandemic came difficulties right across the charity’s operations, with each project requiring a different workforce strategy and the added restrictions on visiting and movement of residents being welcomed to Copelands.

Nicky found agility in leadership to be key when working in such rapidly changing circumstances.  The charity ran weekly board and leadership meetings and developed a three-point plan to ‘respond, recover and thrive’ in each area. Nicky set out to establish a shared vision for change with an appropriate engagement process that allowed all staff and wider stakeholders to understand, and share their views, on the operational running of BCM throughout, and beyond, the pandemic.

Ultimately, Nicky found that the challenge of Covid-19 unlocked the working environment and traditional norms of working, and that agile leadership across all levels is required to harness the power of a full team.

“Crisis is a great motivator for change, and the pandemic provided the opportunity to tackle issues like ‘presenteeism’, work life balance, improved digitisation and how to do things better,” Nicky commented. “However, it shouldn’t take a crisis to implement some of the positive changes in the workplace, so part of the learning is how we encourage creativity and innovation without crisis as a driver.”

Nicky believes that when staff feel valued and respected, they are more likely to have confidence to innovate and look for positive change.

Another area of focus for Nicky is the culture within the charity, and how it is promoted, nurtured and protected, especially with a more dispersed hybrid workforce. Teams now take part in regular staff meetings and learning lunches to ensure continued communication and evaluation of the organisation’s work.

“The pace of change driven by the pandemic has had a consequence on staff well-being, and this along with ensuring an appropriate work life balance is, and will continue to be, an area of focus for BCM as it enters its new 5-year strategic plan.”

This year’s CO3 Leading Organisational Change award celebrates Nicky’s leadership at a time of major upheaval and transformation for BCM. Identifying the need for change and skillfully making, communicating, and implementing the business case for transformation is vital for organisational development and is what keeps businesses and organisations competitive. We are proud to celebrate this at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore and provide a full consultancy service for business leaders and organisations hoping to implement change. To find out more contact Consulting Partner Donal Laverty E: T: 028 9032 3466.

Donal Laverty is pictured (left) presenting the Leading Organisational Change award to Nicky Conway of Belfast Central Mission.