Living Culture at Fortis | An Interview with Project Consultant Kelli Pickford

Living Culture at Fortis | An Interview with CEO of Chung Wah Association Teresa Kwok
February 16, 2018
International Women’s Day #PressforProgress 2018
March 8, 2018

We interviewed our Project Manager Kelli Pickford this week as part of our Living Culture at Fortis series, to discuss her time with Fortis, the projects she has been involved in and the benefits of organisational culture.


 You’ve now been with the team for roughly 8 months could you tell us a bit about your background?

Predominantly my background has been based in the public sector in the UK. I worked within a small not-for-profit consultancy organisation as Director for Learning and Improvement supporting local government and public-sector partners across the North West of England and on national based programs. I was fortunate to be able to indulge in my passion and build my skills and experience on some impactful and inspiring programs, with a strong on focus organisational development and culture, leadership development, executive coaching and community empowerment. The public sector was going through unprecedented change from a financial, political and economic perspective and I worked on some challenging yet hugely rewarding projects with people committed to delivering high quality service to their communities and those most vulnerable.

When I came over to Perth in October 2014 I knew I wanted to continue to work in the NFP sector. I initially started to work as a Senior Consultant/Project Manager within the aged care sector which was the start of the journey that eventually led me to working here at Fortis.


What is your role with Fortis and what attracted you to the role?

My role is Project Manager, essentially supporting and delivering on client projects and driving internal priorities which support our business strategy. For the past 20 years I have been in a consultancy role, with a strong focus on enabling community outcomes, building authentic relationships and delivering sustainable solutions.
Having worked for 16 years in an NFP Consultancy within public sector in the UK, I wanted a role that resonated with my experience and expertise, operating within a strong values and social conscience model, so working for Fortis really appealed to me. The notion of working alongside and in collaboration with the client and community to bring sustainable solutions is what I’m passionate about. I felt my experience and values married up with what Fortis seeks to achieve and does extremely well.


If there was one thing you could have been told before joining the company what would it have been?

I came into the role with my eyes open. I had some honest conversations with both Adrian and Mary during the recruitment process and I felt very strong synergies both with the work they do and the way they work. What I was least prepared for was the level of impact which Fortis is committed too at a community level. The projects that we work on, the way we collaborate with partners and community and how we are driving projects to make a real difference is really encouraging and commendable. The work we are doing with Langford Aboriginal Association and its partners and community  demonstrates such determination and passion for supporting the Aboriginal community. I think that level of commitment and work, which has been generously donated by Fortis, is a real testament to the organisation.


What is your personal definition of diversity?

Diversity, for me, is individuality, acceptance and respect. I think it’s reflecting those differences that make us unique and how we explore those differences in a positive, respectful and safe environment. It’s about celebrating those differences and exploring how we collectively positively impact the system and hearts around us.


What impact do you think organisational culture has on strategic planning?

For me, Culture sits at the heart of any strategy. Culture is about how you communicate, how you facilitate organizational decision making, how you empower people to drive strategy forward. Where strategy sets the direction, culture defines how that journey is travelled.

Culture can help or obstruct your strategy, it’s how teams and individuals feel empowered to deliver that strategy that make the difference. A good example of this is the recent project we have delivered with a disability and aged care organisation who are exploring their strategy in the light of the current and future shifts across the sector and defining future strategy to ensure they remain relevant, increase market share and develop a brand that maximises opportunities within and across their community. In all our discussions with the Leadership Team, staff, stakeholders, clients and Board, the culture of the organisation was a key feature of delivering strong, competitive, community focused services.


What do you believe is a key contributor to some of the issues NFPs face today when it comes to organisational culture and how can they improve these areas?

One of the things I love about working with Not-For-Profit organisations are the people. People who work across the sector are often drawn to working in the sector, they want to contribute to something meaningful, have a passion for community and a huge sense of social responsibility and have a desire help and support people. How these organisations, as well as the people who work and contribute to their communities – you cannot put a price tag on.

I think there is a real issue around funding and its allocation, particularly as we see a shift to more commercially focused, highly competitive funding processes which will severely impact on organisations that do not have the infrastructure or processes to operate and compete but non-the less are delivering essential services to their communities. I think the way that funding is now constructed and the means to obtain that funding can work in detriment to smaller NFPs. It gives a sense that the work they do is of less value. NFPs may also have limited internal resources which can mean lack of or limited processes, procedures or systems to help culture thrive. Fortis are doing such innovative work in helping small, culturally and logistically diverse community organisations come together to find greater strength collaboratively and I am excited to see how this develops over the coming months.

The final thing, and this is based on experience of working within an NFP organisation, is the role of the board in defining and cultivating the culture is a critical factor in the survival and success of NFPs. They need to lead and create the culture from the top.


What kinds of leadership efforts are needed to encourage a commitment to D&I?

For me, Leadership which encourages diversity and inclusion is about commitment, investment and modelling. It’s about commitment in acknowledging and respecting the unique contributions that a diverse workforce can have on an organisations creativity, innovation and passion in meeting the needs of the communities they serve.
Leaders need to invest in building and encouraging a culture and an internal ‘way of being’ which acknowledges uniqueness and difference and creates a safe place for people to express themselves through their culture, age, sexuality …. whatever informs and defines their unique view of the world.
I also think it’s about everybody in the organisation, led by board and the leadership team, modelling what diverse organisation looks, hears and feels like, challenging some of those mainstream norms that hinder progression.

What do you think your biggest impact has been since joining Fortis?

As well as supporting clients in culture and change journeys, I have also spent time exploring how we communicate with our community. Fortis has a great story to tell and it’s important that we communicate on the things we are passionate about, that align with our strategy and that raise the profile on diversity, culture and capability. I’m proud of the work we have been doing internally as a team and seeing how this translates to our community and business partnerships and the work we do with clients and communities. Its an exciting time and we have so much to offer – and we are blessed with those that choose to join us in that journey, as together we are set to achieve great things that support truly support and empower communities. To keep up to date with Fortis Consulting and what we are doing please like us on Facebook or LinkedIn.