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Client Complexity Tackled through Greater Collaboration

The global professional services company, KPMG, turned to Core Strengths to help build a more collaborative culture needed to address greater client complexity. Integrating the Core Strengths program and tools in blended project teams and in leadership training has transformed collaboration among teams, sparked better decision making, and enabled team members to productively address conflict.

“We know that collaboration is going to be a key to our future viability and success as an organization. Core Strengths is proving to be a key element of our strategy for building that capability into our culture and DNA.”

The Challenge

KPMG faced an increasingly complex client environment and sought solutions to increase collaboration as a way to address the complexity. Kathy Hilyard, Partner, Advisory Services noted, “Our research tells us that collaboration is a critical issue when dealing with complex challenges if we are to bring our best people and collective solutions to our clients.”

As a result, the company embarked on a collaboration challenge while also bringing multidisciplinary teams including clients together to co-design solutions and strategies for change. In order to set these teams up for success, the company needed to equip them with the right tools to make collaborative efforts work to their advantage.

“As anyone who has ever worked in collaborative endeavours on complex problems will attest, it is challenging work and behaviours that promote individual efforts or agendas over the collective are sure to make it harder than it needs to be,” said Hilyard. “We need our people and our leaders to behave and think differently than they may have in the past or we will not realize our potential to support our clients in their complex challenges.”

Hilyard had used the Core Strengths methodology for over 15 years as part of another organization and was confident it would be the right tool for the challenges her firm faced.

The Core Strengths Solution

Core Strengths was first introduced at the global professional services firm to address issues around communication and conflict that were emerging on a client engagement where the consulting and client teams were working side-by-side. Kathy and her team facilitated Core Strengths: Results through Relationships workshops with the blended team to explore key relational issues and to gain alignment on new behaviors and norms that would help them focus and agree on how to operate moving forward. “These sessions were enormously helpful for the team,” noted Hilyard.

Based on its success, the program was expanded. “One of our senior leaders came to see me and suggested we could use this more broadly across our organization,” stated Hilyard.
As a result, they introduced the concepts and the results to leadership teams more broadly across the firm. In doing so, Core Strengths became a vehicle for assisting their most senior leadership teams to engage differently, lead collaborative efforts, and gain insight into their own effectiveness – especially around decision making under pressure. This effort continues to expand over time and fits within the context of their broader culture change agenda. “We will continue to expand this across our leadership cohorts and hope to use it more and more as teams are established as the mechanism for setting the foundations for collaboration,” commented Hilyard.

Moving forward, the company plans to roll out the Core Strengths: Results through Relationships training more broadly to specific purpose teams as a way to establish teams for complex service delivery programs.

Further, to accelerate the roll-out of the Core Strengths workshop, the company has certified 20 facilitators and plans to expand certification efforts over time to meet demand.


The company saw immediate benefits due to greater awareness and understanding. “One of the major benefits is actually quite simple – awareness of our own and others’ motivations leads to greater understanding, rather than judgement, which in turn leads to more effective relationships,” noted Hilyard. As a result, greater collaboration has taken hold both internally and with blended delivery teams.

In addition, the language of Overdone Strengths has been useful in considering how leadership teams operate and how they can use relational strategies to improve the way they function; how to work effectively in short bursts where a team needs to come together to deliver an outcome, often under the pressure of deadlines and with complex issues to consider. “We have found that by exposing our leaders to this way of thinking, they are becoming better collaborators, they have a common language, they are more likely to be courageous and discuss behavioural challenges with colleagues, and they are thinking about how they relate and the impact that has on business decision-making and on our culture.”

Further, the company has seen signs that previously undiscussable conflicts are being addressed and relationships have been strengthened in the process. The program has provided aha moments for naturally competitive consultants as they suddenly uncover the long-simmering source of conflict. Hilyard likens it to a “circuit-breaker” that helps consultants reset and see how their “Red” or performance driven colleague, for example, is just trying to progress the agenda of the conversation.

Through multiple integration points, Core Strengths has become a strategic asset for the company overall. “We know that collaboration is going to be a key to our future viability and success as an organization,” noted Hilyard. “Core Strengths is proving to be a key element of our strategy for building that capability into our culture and DNA.”

About the Company:

KPMG is a global professional services firm providing audit, tax, and advisory services. It operates in 153 countries and territories and has 207,000 people working around the world.

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When relationships work, there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved.

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