Integrate Collaborate Communicate


Since 2002 we have helped our clients to successfully tackle the biggest challenges of constantly evolving organisations. How to:
  • build and sustain real communication up and down the hierarchy
  • inspire collaboration across diverse, specialist, remote, ever-changing groups and teams
  • develop strong, authentic leaders who can integrate processes, projects, technology and relationships
  • Our Services

    Management & Leadership Development

    Organisation Development

    Project Management

    Business Process & Service Delivery Improvement

    The Art of Leadership

    Business Simulations

    Team Coaching

    Executive Coaching

    Philippa and her company, Open Limits, were recommended to me because of their innovative approach to team development through the use of simulation exercises. I'm so glad I listened to the recommendation because not only are Philippa and Nigel very easy to work with, and very capable, but their Apollo 13 simulation exercise has been very well received by the 60+ people in the department. The simulation gets people talking about processes and information sharing and cross team communication skills, but Philippa brings it all to life to provide, as one of my team put it, "the best course ever".

    Alan Shrimpton, Interim ICT Transformation Manager


    Untangling the threads of Project Leadership

    7 threads of activity - for all leaders of teams, projects and continuous improvement initiatives

    First published in itSM Review and the springboard for discussion at 7th July 2015 itSMF Leadership & Team Building Masterclass - for all leaders of teams, projects and continuous improvement initiatives

    What is Project Leadership? How is it different from Leadership?

    We all have the choice of whether to lead or follow, whatever our title, whatever the situation.  In IT Service Management, we often see providing support as following.  However, evidence suggests that we considerably enhance our reputation and delivery if we take the lead.  What does that look like exactly?  Is it our remit?  How will we bring others with us?

    Look more closely at Service Management teams working on projects or making improvements to operations.  Authentic and effective leadership is happening at all levels; The person who inspires others to act quickly in an emergency, who admits a mistake promptly, understanding how this minimises wider organisational impact or who speaks out when something has been bothering the team or great service isn’t being delivered; the person who mends fences between teams.  All of this adds value to the business, reduces costs and risks and improves outcomes.

    In our work with many 100s of IT departments, we have identified 7 threads of leadership activity that anyone can do, in any SM role, at any point when delivering services, designing products or making improvements.

    The 7 Threads

    Why ‘threads’?  Because we want to get away from the idea of steps or stages where one finishes and another starts.   Leadership activity and use of emotional intelligence (Goleman 2000) need to flow continuously through all our development and operational activities.  If these are used well - right time, right situation – they can prevent projects, products, processes and relationships from becoming a bit of a tangle.

    Thread 1 – Spotting and validating needs

    This first thread of activity involves observing and evaluating what is happening now with an open mind.  All projects, products and change initiatives begin with someone being curious, noticing needs or opportunities inside the organisation, with customers or competitors.  That same careful observation, creativity and ideas generation needs to be sustained throughout, often combining gut feel with hard facts.  Have we slipped into ‘habit blindness’ or group think?  Is it still working?  What are the costs, benefits and risks of changing or starting something?  What else could we do?

    Passionate about an idea?  Get a ‘reality check’ with others.  If you are unsure, get more information, from close colleagues, then from people with different perspectives and listen, don’t just defend your ideas.

    Suggestion:  Think about your processes and projects.  Are they still delivering value?  For whom in the business?  Based on what criteria?  Could you save your organisation and your team’s precious resources, effort and time by stopping, refocusing or re-prioritising any part of your work?

    Thread 2 – Making the pitch

    This thread involves presenting ideas and making them sound clear, practical and compelling, to get the support of a wide variety of audiences.  An idea is pitched to senior management to get funding and approval.  A project or process is pitched to new team members, partners, customers and suppliers, all with different opinions, needs, motivations and levels of understanding.  Changes are pitched to the people not actively involved but personally affected, through changes to roles, relationships, processes or even job security.

    And your pitches have to be in your audience’s language to have the right emotional resonance and credibility.  So you will need to know your audience well – real engagement is needed.

    Also, you may need to repeat information many times.  People are busy, miss meetings and emails, or just don’t have your level of technical knowledge and experience.  You will need to explain changes, progress and decisions made, in your audiences’ language, to manage expectations and perceptions.

    Suggestion:  Next time you prepare an important message, stand in your audience’s shoes, think how your message will land and what you want them to think, feel and do.  What jargon and technical elements do/don’t they need to understand?  A few extra minutes planning a message can significantly increase engagement, collaboration, reduce delays and improve decision making.

    Thread 3 – Getting going

    This is the continual reflecting and planning thread. No matter how experienced the teams we work with are, they often jump in without doing enough planning.  “Never plan alone” is the true service management leader’s motto, at all stages.  We can make planning activities fun and engaging – making the road ahead clear to all.  Involve others with diverse specialist knowledge to open up ‘black boxes’, which helps with estimating, sequencing, highlighting interdependencies and workload management.

    Find out who needs what information on progress, when, in what format so you can manage expectations and agree who will be consulted or informed over changes.

    Ensure everyone knows the checkpoints that will show progress and if there is something that can’t not be done, then just do it (being sure to tell/involve the necessary people!).

    Suggestion: Put a simple graphical image of your plan (1 A4 page in a font size you can read) on a real or virtual whiteboard so all can see, and a dashboard to highlight main achievements, risks and opportunities, goals and deliverables.

    Thread 4 – Building the team

    Build a team of people not just with skills but enthusiasm, a willingness to engage and to support each other.  Then we need to create and sustain a bond between people who may not have worked together before, who come from different backgrounds and functions.  They may also be working remotely.  Building relationships of trust and respect is an actual job and needs constant work.  It doesn’t happen by itself.  Make effective team and cross-team working everyone’s responsibility.  Be as willing to stand up to poor team behaviour and commitment as you are to poor performance.

    Suggestion:  Don’t avoid the ‘storming’ stage. Trigger it by reviewing regularly, openly and without blame so the stakes of raising issues aren’t too high.  Be realistic about the team’s skills and knowledge - allow for the learning curve and different learning styles – yours and theirs.  Some like being thrown in at the deep end.  Others want support.

    Add an item to your team meeting agenda: ‘What’s working well and what needs work?’ Demonstrate constructive discussion.  If there are some sensitive issues, discuss these 1:1.

    Thread 5 – Getting engaged

    This is where we track the wider impact of our project or change initiative on the organisation, navigate the politics, mitigate disruption and resistance to change, rather than being too internally and technically focused.

    Even small changes to IT Services and business processes need to do be done with our colleagues/customers, not to them.  It is a myth that everyone resists change.  What people don’t like is the unknown, the ambiguous, the arrogant or aggressive.  No-one is obliged to collaborate so we need to understand what would make them want to.  The strongest human drivers at work are enjoying a sense of belonging, seeing we are making an effective contribution and feeling appreciated/recognised.   So find ways to involve people in ways that genuinely meet these universal needs.  You can’t reach everyone so build a strong network of reliable advocates who know each community affected by the project or change to involve them and give support.

    Suggestion:   Are your stakeholder needs being met? Could they help you succeed if you worked more closely with them?  Consider who could act as advocates and get them on board.  Create a ‘stakeholder map’ to better understand who you need to engage with, and work out a plan to build those relationships and get support.

    Thread 6 – Making it happen

    This thread focuses on personal resilience and emotional intelligence – how we handle the interpersonal interactions. Skilful use of different leadership styles in different situations is key: when to push for action and when to open up the debate; when to set the pace yourself and when to coach others to lead; when to focus on the task or relationships to get the job done.

    We need to look after ourselves, manage stress levels and workload, emotions and needs, as well as being there for others.  Authentic leadership is all about making sure we are able to be ‘mindful’ or present in the moment.  We need to understand what is reasonable pressure – which can be very energising and bring out the best in us and our teams - and what is actually stress or overload. Under stress we can get tunnel vision which affects our judgement, relationships and decision making, even our health.  Keep taking the pulse: yours, the team’s and the organisation around you.

    Suggestion:  Take a step back and make sure you are leading your projects or initiatives and they aren’t driving you.  We are all human, so ask for help if you need it.  A good tip is notice how you are feeling physically.  Are you noticing any tension or physical habits such as fidgeting?  The tension can feel like a tight knot in your stomach or chest or head, or an overall sense of tiredness over and beyond the work itself.

    Thread 7 – Reviewing, learning, celebrating

    This is the thread of continually ensuring the work provides opportunities for learning and putting in place the mechanisms for this.  These can be coaching, for individuals or teams, and constructive reviews and knowledge sharing at meetings.  It can also include feedback on the job, e.g. making sure, activities are properly finished, and to the necessary standard.  Take time to ensure each new tool or process or change is embedded in day-to-day practice and has actually been an improvement for the people involved.  Innovation is fuelled by continual iterative cycles of improvement, each building on the successes and lessons of the previous cycle.

    Good service leaders know that expectations are best managed by dividing a large piece of work into manageable chunks, then visibly signalling completion of each chunk.  Regularly recognise effort, remind all of what the changes have contributed to the organisation and agree what still needs fixing, without blame.  Summarise those achievements for your different audiences in language that will engage and inspire them, give you credibility and consolidate your relationship.

    Your action:  Consider how often you have reviews, what they feel like and what they deliver.  Don’t accept, long, dull and unproductive meetings.  Make them short, inspiring and productive!

    Also think about who you involve, how you prepare, how much care you take when you document or present information about progress, problems handled, issues resolved and opportunities seized.   This should not be ‘boring documentation’. If it is, do it differently.  It should be your legacy and track record of adding value to the business, and yet another opportunity for leading and influencing.

    About the Authors

    Philippa Hale and Jean Gamester are senior consultants at Open Limits and on the Associate Faculty at Henley Business School.

    They work with organisations including Harrods, FT, British Transport Police and many regional police and local government IT departments, Hearst UK, Orient Express (now Belmond), BG Group, HR Wallingford, Pincent Mason, Punter Southall, Royal London Asset Management, Which? Vodafone, and CIPD.

    They are regular writers, advisors and speakers for professional bodies including itSMF, SDI and the BCS.

    They help IT organisations in particular weave the threads of service leadership, team skills and continuous improvement into their day-to-day delivery.  Through team workshops and coaching, business simulations, training and action learning, they help teams and leaders make change happen.
    Open Limits - 01202 473782

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    Build an Offshore Windfarm

    Looking for something challenging for a memorable and productive senior team event?   We have just launched a new business simulation, designed in collaboration with HR (Hydraulics Research) Wallingford and using their world class facilities.  The team challenge: to lead the project to build a state-of-the-art 200 turbine offshore windfarm, and handle high levels of technical and business complexity, multiple environmental risks and challenges.

    The combination of the Open Limits proven approach to team facilitation and project leadership development and HR Wallingford’s extraordinary facilities has created a real winning formula.  A group of senior executives and seasoned project leaders from many different organisations and sectors helped us to pilot the event.  We were keen to ensure that the activities were authentic and stimulating, and the learning opportunities sufficiently rich and relevant to today’s leadership and project team challenges. Below are some of the learning points shared by the group, with many thanks to all for allowing us to share this knowledge.


    • Not to ignore the “feel” element of project leadership.  Find the right balance between ‘Think/Feel/Do’ – in our culture it’s all about the doing  The time spent discussing how we felt, especially at the start of the project was fascinating.  We used words like ‘vulnerable’, ‘confused’, ‘overwhelmed’ and yet we are all experienced professionals!  It was cathartic and built personal confidence and team trust to talk about how we felt. It helped us to spot and correct mistakes and misunderstandings before they had a ripple effect across the projects.  Not easy for a bunch of engineers!
    • Proper planning and delegation of work is not bureaucracy – it is energising and creative if done properly.  If you include more people in the planning phases, they learn from the experience and you reduce the communication overhead
    • Silos really are a killer on projects!  Even in this simulation, as soon as we had people in different rooms, doing different things, different sub-cultures and knowledge areas emerged. It then took extra time we didn’t have to bring everyone back to the same language/goals/approach.  Not to mention the annoyance and resentment that people felt when they realised they had duplicated work.  All of which, if avoided, makes considerable impact on timing and quality of delivery and on team energy and commitment.  Magnify all of that into the real world of our multiple projects and programmes and global organisation …
    • In the simulation we were able to reflect on the first session and improve on the second. – We need to make time back at work for reflection sessions like this at key points in a large project’s lifecycle.  The time and cost of this is a fraction of the time and costs saved.  You have to feel and see it to believe it.
    • As technical specialists we tend to dive into the ‘doing’ far too quickly.  By doing this we leave our key stakeholders wondering whether we are actually up to the job of delivering the business benefit.  When we spent time engaging with key stakeholders we earned their trust and they stopped ‘micro-managing’ us.
    • Agreeing how to communicate across the remote teams was key.  When we over communicated, at the wrong time, we actually distracted people from doing their work, and annoyed them.  The problem was that management desperately needed that information, but we hadn’t explained the criticality.
    • Making mission critical decisions, you have to take the extra time to consult with the people on the ground.  The installation crew were not consulted on the decision to turn the ship back to harbour, they had information that could have saved the mission but management did not ask them!  We need to consult further ‘down the tree’ and make sure we are making decisions based on valid information.  It is motivating and educational for the teams involved and makes management look like it listens and cares!


    ‘A huge amount of information to take away that is relevant to my role and I can use’
    (Tony Appleton - Business Development Director, Parsons Brinckerhoff)

    ‘An excellent opportunity to develop leadership skills.  One day was not enough!’
    (Nick Podevyn - Senior Project Manager, Res-Offshore)

    ‘Impressive, and great fun!’
    (Neil Wimbledon - Head of Projects & Strategic Systems, British Gas)

    ‘The Ship Simulator was amazing and really brought the project leadership principles to life’
    (Rachel Pedrick - Met Ocean Manager, UTEK Geomarine Ltd)

    ‘The facilitators helped us to realise the wealth of experience in the room and how to tap into it’
    (Vic Gabrie - Consulting Manager, Oracle)

    ‘I found the simulation interesting, challenging and fun!’  It is always a challenge making engineers/scientists take on board ‘soft skills’ as we are too used to analysing data and being professional sceptics!’
    (Chris Lomax - Technical Director, Head of Ports & Marine, Parsons Brinckerhoff)


    The UK is currently the world's biggest offshore wind market due to the relatively strong winds and shallow waters around the UK coastline. The UK government is keen to meet the European Union target of 15% of final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 and is focusing on off-shore wind. 

    You will be a part of a multidisciplinary team of technical specialists, contractors and business leaders. You will be required to complete a feasibility study to lay the cables on the sea bed to connect the 200 turbines, and then to take the installation crew out to the turbines for commissioning.  In itself this is a multi-£million project. You will need to scope the full Windfarm programme and influence decision making by engaging with all internal stakeholders, plus government agencies and environmental groups.  If you meet the project deadline you will secure the EU green energy subsidy for the whole programme.  The company’s 5-star safety rating must be maintained however, so speed and safety are paramount.

    To achieve the mission you will need to demonstrate:

    • Personal resilience and self-awareness
    • Ability to create and communicate clarity out of complexity
    • Optimum communication flows – to and from all stakeholders: useable, targeted information
    • Team work and cross-team collaboration, across diverse specialist groups
    • Balance between flexibility and creativity, efficient working practices and compliance
    • Commercial and strategic thinking (business value, outcomes, costs and risks) as well as technical excellence
    • Juggling priorities and help others to juggle theirs
    • Handling and minimising conflicts during disruptive change
    • Presenting and influence with impact
    • Management of high levels of uncertainty and risk

    You will receive valuable feedback from the facilitators and from fellow participants after each round of the simulation.  Elements of the event will be videoed as an additional learning opportunity, and facilitators will provide a full summary of learning points and recommendations, relating to the objectives set by the group.

    For more information on these simulations contact Nigel Hale on 07737819225, +44 (0)1202 473782,

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    Apollo 13

    We have just become a 'Silver Status' Partner to GamingWorks, so we are now the largest distributor of GamingWorks' excellent business simulations in the UK, and part of the GamingWorks global network.

    Our 'best seller' remains the Apollo 13 mission – a challenging, enjoyable and memorable demonstration of business processes and the considerable value they can add to team cohesion and organisational effectiveness. Teams explore together how to improve business services and cross-team collaboration, as their organisation evolves, bringing in new processes, without killing creativity and responsiveness. Or the Astronauts!

    The Apollo 13 mission can also be run as a highly motivating and engaging exploration of how to run a slick and well respected IT Service Management department. IT Service Management teams can consolidate their knowledge of ITSM/ITIL and understand how to make it work in their real world, with 'right-sized' processes and excellent cross team collaboration.

    Read More

    "I would whole heartedly recommend Open Limits to any organisation going through change, or wishing to embrace change more readily.  I have worked with them on a number of occasions, most notably as part of a leadership team, where they provided training and mentoring.  I found their manner refreshingly open, and their approach flexible.  Open Limits helped me build a new management team, understood what I wanted to achieve with the team, and facilitated an amazing get together which flexed with the personalities involved and stimulated excellent debate.  The energy within the team changed immediately and for the good, and for once all of the actions which came out of the meeting actually got done.  They helped make sure these actions were real and specific, not "Motherhood and Apple Pie!!!"
    Open Limits just get it..."

    Darren Goldsby
    CTO Hearst UK

    Our Team

    Philippa Hale

    Director & Senior Consultant

    Nigel Hale


    Jean Gamester

    Core Team

    Alison Moran

    Core Team

    George Harvey

    Core Team

    Maureen Silvester

    Core Team

    Clare Doyle

    Core Team

    "I could have ticked every box to describe Philippa and her training company Open Limits!

    I have worked very closely with Philippa in creating a comprehensive Leadership Development programme for 2 management levels across four modules. This was a global programme across 24 countries and Philippa quickly and clearly understood our culture, style, needs and tone of how to roll out this programme. I find Philippa to be inspirational, easy to work with, a true expert in her field and best all, she just gets it!

    I believe we will continue to have a long working relationship with Open Limits - especially when we can now demonstrate tangible results as measurable outcomes."

    Orient Express (now Belmond)

    Our Partners

    The Chartered Institute for IT

    We are an established provider to the BCS and have co-designed and delivered Management & Leadership Development programmes and Team Coaching programmes for BCS clients: IT departments of large organisations across all sectors, private, public and charitable.

    World Leaders in Business Simulations

    We are proud to be a part of this global community of organisations including Open Limits who use these simulations for powerful organisation and team development.  GamingWorks' simulations focus on IT Service Management, IT/Business Alignment, Logistics, Cyber Security, Business Processes, Project and Programme Management and Organisational Change.

    Central Learning Solutions

    CLS provides tailor-made training solutions, specialising in business skills, management and leadership development, and executive coaching for Clients including Vodafone, ACE and SunGard.

    Contact Us

    Contact info

    Open Limits Ltd
    Arena Business Centre, 9 Nimrod way, Ferndown, Dorset, BH21 7UH
    +44 (0)1202 473782