Case Study

How Graham and Brown worked to create a high performance and agile culture



About the client

Globally dispersed management team requiring a step change in leadership culture

Founded in 1946, Graham & Brown is a family-owned and run business based in the North West of the UK. Graham & Brown designs and manufactures wallpapers along with other interior design products.

  • The challenge: Siloed working and centralised leadership.
  • The work: Global Leadership Team Development
  • Outcomes: Collaborative working and improved decision making practices

Here’s a note RISE received from the CEO Andrew Graham at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic:

“When we first started working together, back in 2014, I remember your passion for preparing us for a VUCA world, you were relentlessly energetic in trying to get us to accept this new reality. When I look back at our organisation then, we were in rigid silo’s, with limited collaboration, and non-existent “habits and practices” to be agile or pro-active. If we were like that now under this extreme VUCA environment we would not survive.

These last few weeks we have needed all those habits and practices, and all of our collaborative skills, trust and resilience we worked so hard on with you. Our leadership team meets daily, responds to the latest reality, discusses and makes decisions and then communicates to all our colleagues. We are doing well and acting with purpose and agility.

I know we will get through this, and in a large part because of what you taught us and how you helped us to adapt our behaviour and culture. I just wanted you to know how grateful we are to RISE.”

Simon Preston Consultant

Simon Preston


Matthew Rich TolsmaMatthew Rich-Tolsma


Where it began

The challenge


In 2014, Graham & Brown put to tender a request for support with their leadership team development and culture. They were seeking ways to support a more cohesive and engaged leadership group across its global business, which included operations in China, Australia, North America as well as in Europe and the UK.

“There have been some remarkable turnarounds for people, everyone has changed positively. Results have exceeded my expectations, I couldn’t recommend RISE enough.”

Andrew Graham, CEO

What we did together

The work


RISE won the tender on the premise that building coherence in a leadership group is an ongoing journey and not resolved through a one off event. The work began by bringing their global management team together for an initial retreat where we focussed on building connection and trust amongst the different areas of the business. This work continued by enabling virtual leadership development groups, composed of a mix of functions, geographies and experience. This ongoing mechanism for connection and support started to empower more voices across the business and nudge the culture of the organisation into a more engaged, collaborative, representative one. This work continued over a three year period and also included working with the level of management below the initial group.


Parallel to this, RISE supported, through a series of workshops and facilitated meetings, increased engagement in strategy which enabled the larger leadership team of the business to make tough decisions on how to accelerate the G&B brand. This resulted in making a more assertive move online and a more flexible approach to how they traditionally supplied large retail outlets.

“RISE has helped increase the level of trust between the senior management team through vulnerability-based sharing. This has enabled the team to truly understand each other and the way that we interact and contribute to the team dynamic. Collaboration has never been better and we are now cascading the techniques throughout the organization.

Sam Dobson, Operations Director

Outcomes and Ongoing work



As part of our work together, we trained and supported internal facilitators to step into facilitating the ongoing ‘Blue Space Groups'. These groups remain today, years on, as spaces for reflection and connection across the business, supporting the agile management culture and the embedded collaborative principles across the organisation. 

In 2020, Graham & Brown, along with so many retail businesses faced the challenges of the consequences of COVID-19. The way the business responded and engaged its global workforce at this critical time was testament to the efforts of everyone that had put so much time and focus to their development and company culture over the preceding 4-5 years.

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