How to manage growth in a service business

Oasis Healthcare has over 200 practices across the UK, with over 700 dentists and 2,000 staff delivering high quality dentistry across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their vision is to transform dentistry in the UK by creating the national dental care brand. They are investing in new facilities and upgrading existing practices, so that as many people as possible will be able to benefit from their commitment to high quality dental care in a relaxed environment.

Oasis reception desk with two women working behind it, tables and chairs are set out to the right of the desk.

The Problem

The company faced business strategy challenges that needed to be managed to allow for accelerated growth. Oasis Healthcare had experienced very rapid growth through a successful acquisitions policy and needed to deal effectively with the pace of change in this high performing business sector, and, as such, required support on how to manage the complexity and uncertainty it was facing. The external business environment was one of binding financial constraints, such that the organisation needed clear strategic development to ensure access to venture capital which would secure business sustainability and accelerate growth.

The project required facilitation of a three day offsite event, by the Creating Strategic Solutions team. The aim was to hold a workshop event with the senior executive management team, working towards alignment on strategic business objectives, and the development of an action plan with associated budgeting concerns.

The OR Solution

Problem Structuring Methods (PSM), an area of ‘soft’ operational research (soft OR), was used in the facilitation events. The research on soft OR shows that PSM have the capacity to deal with messy and complex problems by structuring the issues under examination. Once issues are structured, a group can then move forward, as a key by-product of the process is the collective buy-in from the whole management team. Given the need for Oasis to develop group consensus, the project was undertaken using 'causal mapping' software known as Decision Explorer® through use of a mobile computer laboratory.

The Value

The project was undertaken at a crucial stage of the company’s development. A well thought out holistic twelve-month strategic plan was required to secure funding from the parent company. On completion of the three day workshop the senior management team were able to present a clear and transparent business case that led to them to securing additional funding resulting in the expansion of the company.

In terms of societal impact, the ensured business success of the organisation will provide economic benefits of secured employment to its workforce. With over 200 premises nationally Oasis Healthcare is a significant employer. The improved processes in operation subsequent to the project have enabled the continued expansion of the business to other parts of the UK. Expansion into Northern Ireland for the provision of dental care has taken place effectively since the project was completed.

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