St John New Zealand case study

Since 2009, St John New Zealand has partnered with Melbourne Business School Executive Education to create their Leadership Development Programme. St John NZ provides ambulance services to over 90% of New Zealand as well as community and commercial activities.

St-John-NZ-logo.jpg“The thing about MBS is that they were willing to challenge us, and that made us feel we could build a real and trusting relationship.”

Member of the selection panel, reflecting on why they chose MBS as their partner




The challenge

Being member-based and volunteer-driven is one of St John New Zealand’s greatest strengths, and also presents numerous challenges in terms of leadership, communication and performance management. These challenges are exacerbated by the organisation’s complex, regional-based governance structure. To lead such an organisation demands skills which are, in many respects, unique.

In July 2006, St John released a strategy document, setting the organisation challenging but achievable goals for the next 10 years. It was recognised that in order to achieve this strategy it would be necessary to significantly improve communication and leadership across the organisation. 

The program

The final design consisted of 3 distinct but integrated interventions, each targeted to a different ‘tier’ of leadership within St John New Zealand:
  • Phase 1: Executive Group
  • Phase 2: Wider Leadership Group
  • Phase 3: Frontline Leaders
Each program was suitably nuanced to its target audience in terms of objectives and methodologies, and all were underpinned by a common set of ‘core leadership factors’ developed specifically for St John.

By working together collaboratively, flexibly and innovatively through the engagement, MBS and St John New Zealand were able to identify efficiencies and increase impact in a range of ways. For example, during phase 3, internal St John people were trained to act as co-facilitators and action learning facilitators, thereby increasing St John’s internal capability and decreasing the cost of the program.

The impact

The systematic way this program cascaded down the organisation proved particularly effective, as each tier of leaders was able to mentor and support the next in taking up new behaviours and implementing the organisation’s strategic goals.

The practical nature of the programme enabled participants to actually resolve issues and begin implementing new ways of operating as part of their learning. This created immediate momentum which was sustained throughout the intervention.

As a result of this program, St John’s leaders have bridged the gap from management to leadership, and the organisation has therefore been able to move forward with its strategy successfully. Communication across the various functions and regions has been increased, breaking down silos to create a single organisational identity and purpose. A strong leadership pipeline has been established, with increased quality, quantity and diversity of people available for leadership roles within St John.