Bespoke design, performance and development

Your friendly business development practice, specialising in team building, group days and creation of fun learning environments.

AGL is a specialist team building activity venture that is also a business consultancy that collaborates with hard working clients who require support in navigating today’s challenges, who want to achieve something innovative and special and who are looking for a no-nonsense, compassionate provider who listens, doesn’t patronise but creates solutions and advice that is bespoke to you and not ‘off-the-shelf’ style quick fixes.

AGL provide this through having collectively almost 130 years of relevant experience and expertise developed in diverse and successful management roles in public, private and voluntary sectors.

Our approach specialises in the application of lots of fun adventurous activities alongside the synthesis and understanding of complex systems and how the interactions between organisational design, intelligence led decision making, operational delivery and human behaviours collectively combine to impact your ability to thrive and succeed and an enterprise and as individuals. This is what we call the Balcony View.

Armed with this new understanding, we support you as critical friends to create and implement solutions that deliver the necessary capabilities, structures, functions and processes that achieve your goals, drive performance and ultimately improve well-being as an engagement. At AGL we’re curious, embrace creativity, consult with courage and responsibility; we want to learn, not prescribe.

Our team

Jim is from Northern Ireland. He’s an adopter, active volunteer, sports coach / instructor, an MHFA and champion for inclusion and improving well-being and mental health. Before founding Active Growth Ltd Jim spent 34 years in the public sector, serving in high pressure operational national law enforcement roles before moving into strategic management and transformational capability building roles.

Jim is passionate about developing others and watching them take control of their careers, lives and wellbeing. As part of his authentic and adaptive leadership practice, Jim enjoys creating environments that enable others to thrive and become their ‘best selves’, which is reflected in the volunteering work Jim does with young people. Alongside this Jim strives to confront and address situations where:

1. Poor leadership creates unnecessary stress and disengagement within the workplace. This doesn’t mean that managers are bad people, it simply reflects that too often they have never been given the tools, knowledge or time to develop the effective leadership capabilities required;

2. Decision makers are unable to effectively exploit intelligence in a way that leads to better decision making. Again this is often environmental, as intelligence too often is treated as some sort of rarefied and misunderstood beast, instead of simply being the product of considering all relevant information against a set of situational questions and lens; and finally

3. The waste of public funds on hugely expensive consultancy contracts that only seem to create dependance on the consultants and creation of reams of ‘shelf-ware’ outputs that never translate into the tangible outcomes required.

One of the highlights of his law enforcement career was attending the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM) where he was introduced to the concept of the Balcony View as the means to understand our impact we have on our situations, decisions and environment.

The Covid-19 Global Pandemic then provided the opportunity to consider these within the context of remote working and the impact this was having on the well-being of those around him?

So when coming out of lockdown coincided with the opportunity to start a new path, and in 2022, led to the formation of Active Growth Ltd (AGL).

Harald, a German living in Scotland, is a transdisciplinary Systems Thinking (ST) practitioner with a lic.oec.HSG from St. Gall, Switzerland and a PhD from Lancaster, England. For more than 3 decades he has consulted clients in a wide array of industries and sizes on issues of strategy, organisation, process, leadership, and learning. Typically training and coaching are part of his project delivery.

He enjoys regularly being a bonding gel beyond any role responsibilities for and between internal and client teams across all domains and levels. Harald is proud that many internals who were involved in project work rose to leadership positions at the clients.

Harald has a wide and deep grounding in different branches of ST (the 3 main ones: hard – taking systems as existing in the real world; soft – systems as concepts of inquiry into the real world; cybernetics – feedback, communication, control) and has personally learned from the leading names in their field.

He has acted as author and referee for a couple of rated scientific journals (on: Systems, Operational Research, Information Systems, Knowledge Management, and Learning).

Harald invented his own management model “Kreher Cube”, dissatisfied with existing models that he found either too scholastic or prescriptive, or not fit for changing environments and then receiving a little re-vamp more attuned to zeitgeist vocabulary (i.e., re-inventing the wheel without much novel substance; rarely new wine in new skins).

He believes in and acts for rigour of logic and vigour for practice. Harald sees co-design with clients as pertinent for respectful and truly tailored programmes. He holds that consultants believing to know client’s business better than the client should be doing that business and not consult or intervene. Harald builds strongly on structured common-sense heuristics and interaction.

Harald is always interested in understanding, not just knowing. In that vein, in his 30s he visited more than 2 dozen (mainly in U.S.) academics, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and (Nobel) laureates whose work and life had inspired him. This was invaluable additional learning beyond any academic readings because it provided a deeper and personal insight into their motivation, ambition, and inner meaning of their works. These exchanges were instrumental in staking out his own ST and continued drive for learning.

Harald’s coinage and stance is well described by quotes from two of his most cherished personal influences: Professor Beer, founder of management cybernetics and the Viable System Model and Professor Heinz von Foerster, who was instrumental for the legendary Macy Conferences series that for a decade brought together the finest of minds. When Stafford met Harald at his den, the Athenaeum Club on Pall Mall, London, Stafford told this short story: “Two men meet. Man 1 says to man 2 ‘I stand on the shoulder of giants’. Man 2 asks ‘And what do you see from there?’” This has transformed into what Harald calls the 3C of attitudes: curiosity, creativity, courage. And these, together with a dictum of Heinz von Foerster, “If you want to see, learn how to act.” continue to inform and drive his practice.

Bart is a seasoned food manufacturing professional with over 19 years of experience. He is passionate about driving change and growth in the industry through innovative approaches and strategic costings. As a data-driven leader, Bart excels in setting and monitoring high-impact KPIs to optimise systems and processes. He is also dedicated to nurturing the capabilities of others, fostering a culture of continuous development. Bart is a proud husband and father who enjoys volunteering, practicing martial arts, and exploring his culinary skills. With his expertise and commitment to results, Bart is an ideal fit for any organisation looking to achieve meaningful transformation.

Terry is focused on helping organisations make better decisions by improving their use of information to create intelligence. What is ‘intelligence’ in this context? In theory, it is the product of assessing and analysing information to address specific requirements, set by leaders and decision-makers. In practice, intelligence is about managing uncertainty and risk while navigating a volatile, complex, world. In the modern operating environment, organisations are either overwhelmed and unable to make sense of their information or, alternatively, organisations fail to build effective intelligence capabilities to support decision-makers at all levels.

Over the course of more than two decades working in the field of intelligence, both in government and industry, Terry has produced intelligence, managed intelligence teams, taught intelligence skills, and advised client organisations on how to build new intelligence units. He has worked with clients around the world, in small, medium, and large organisations, and observed how simple changes to working practices can often reap huge benefits. Nevertheless, every client is unique and requires a solution that works for them. Terry is fascinated by understanding the challenges faced by different organisations and helping them design systems and practices that enable them to make better decisions while also improving employee wellbeing.

Working with the team at Active Growth, Terry is discovering new approaches to improving intelligence by going beyond outdated, mechanistic, processes and applying systems thinking toimproving the structural dynamics of information flow within and across organisations. This ultimately supports improved sense-making and better decisions.

The Balcony View concept has really helped us realise that we were spending a lot of our effort fire fighting and not taking the time to step back and consider how our actions were actually holding us back in places. We now employ this approach in all our strategy and planning sessions.

As the founder of my business I’m heavily invested in what I’ve built and so I'm very protective about how we do things, which was starting to create problems and stress. Working with Active Growth has helped me become less defensive to feedback and I also now realise that I was getting stuck at being able to move things to the next level. Their support and advice has been invaluable.

The way Active Growth worked with us to co-create our new approach to business intelligence and decision making has been a real eye opener to how things can be done. We’ve felt included at every stage and believe that we’ve now got systems and processes that are ours and not something built for someone else.