Our people

Blue Grain advisors all come with many years of experience in consultancy with established, international firms. They have also worked in large businesses in a variety of roles. As a result each brings their own distinct specialism as you will see from the profiles below. This variety in perspective and background is vital because beyond the headline, every organisation issue is different.

Together as a close working team of Organisational Development advisors, Blue Grain is one of the most experienced and discreet OD firms in the UK.

Contact us to discuss your organisational issue in confidence.

Mary Akimoto

Mary Akimoto

Mary Akimoto brings strategic and organisational development expertise. She has spent most of her career leading change - as a management team member and consultant.

Cross-border business experience has helped her to develop a pragmatic, but facilitative approach to client assignments. Her career began by producing financial models at Mitsui OSK in Japan. In Switzerland, she headed up corporate strategy for a Swiss shipping firm and led a comprehensive reengineering initiative. She was responsible on a global scale for culture change and restructuring activities at former UK blue chip, Inchcape plc.

Mary brings understanding of both external and internal engagement of customers and employees respectively. In the Organisational Effectiveness practice of Hewitt Associates, a global consultancy, she focused on strategy, culture change, leadership development and M&A integration. She was a management team member of The Foundation, a niche consultancy that helps clients deliver strategic and organisational change to their clients. She has also been a partner at Ilyas Jarrett & Co – a research driven consultancy on strategic change.

Her clients have included Roche, Marks & Spencer, Cooperative Financial Services, Old Mutual, Alstom, Environment Agency, and London Business School.

Mary holds an MBA from Georgetown University and BA in Economics and Spanish from St. Olaf College, USA.

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Francis Stickland

Francis Stickland

Francis is an experienced strategy and organisation development (OD) professional. He has led the European Leadership Consulting Practice and the European Corporate Restructuring & Change Practice for a global consulting firm.

Dealing regularly with business restructuring and corporate transformation, he has deep expertise in strategy setting, organisation design, leadership effectiveness and culture change.

Francis has held positions within both the banking and manufacturing sectors, living and working in Belgium, Sweden and France. Since 1996 he has consulted in North America, the Middle East, S.E. Asia and Europe operating at Board and top team levels.

He has worked with a range of organisations across sectors and continents, including Avaya, PricewaterhouseCoopers, HSBC, Shell, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ernst & Young, the British Red Cross, Arup, Holcim, B&Q, United Utilities, Philips, Cadbury Schweppes, Coors Brewing Company, British Telecommunications, Bayer, BBC News, SES Global, the NHS, Zurich Financial Services, Eon and the Prudential.

Author of The Dynamics of Change (Routledge: London & NY) and contributor to HR in the 21st Century (John Wiley: NY), Francis has published, consulted and lectured on strategy, systems thinking and business transformation.

Francis holds a PhD in Organisational Behaviour from the City University Business School, London.

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Frances Allcock

Frances Allcock

Frances has operated at Board level and is a specialist in bringing about large scale organisational change in support of business strategy.

Her work is particularly focused on bringing about cultural and behavioural change in relation to business transformation, restructuring, leadership development and mergers and acquisitions.

Her experience to date covers telecommunications, professional services, media, healthcare and financial services sectors. She has worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, BT, Cable and Wireless, the BBC, GAN Life and Pensions and the NHS and has significant international experience. Having occupied Board positions, she is also experienced at working with Boards to create a change agenda.

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Neville Osrin

Neville Osrin

Neville is a business psychologist and a Fellow of the Centre for Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter, serving on the Advisory Board of the Business School.

Prior to his association with Exeter Neville was a Partner in Hewitt Associates, where he led the Organisational Effectiveness practice. Before joining Hewitt he was Vice-President of Strategic Development and Marketing in Financiere Strafor, a major French multinational, and has held other senior executive and specialist appointments in several industries.

Neville consults across a broad range of strategic business issues, particularly in the areas of competitive positioning, business transformation, and leadership effectiveness. He has been involved in the design and delivery of world-wide leadership development programmes and is an executive coach to senior business leaders in several countries.

His clients include the European Central Bank, Selex/Finmeccanica, Pepsico International, Merck Pharma, Ernst & Young, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, 3i, King’s Health Partners, and M&G.

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Sarah Higgins

Hidde-Jan Lemstra

Sarah is a very experienced corporate director, with expertise in human resources and operating at a strategic level. She has proven experience driving business performance through strategic and cultural change including acquisitions, post-merger integration, outsourcing, management team development and facilitation.

Before joining Blue Grain, Sarah has been a Senior Director, specialising in human resources, leadership development, communication strategy and executive coaching. She is also an experienced Remuneration Committee Member and Non-Executive Director. She has a wealth of experience in driving and managing change to accelerate business growth, especially via acquisition, restructuring and outsourcing.

Sarah has a range of experience in different industry sectors. With over 17 years’ experience in her professional career, she has assisted Directors to improve performance through people, within Northern Foods, AstraZeneca, Boots the Chemists and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. In her most recent role, Sarah spent 8 years as the Group HR Director for the Oval Group (Insurance Broking and Financial Advisory business). From no prior HR team or infrastructure within Oval, Sarah created, led and delivered the HR strategy to continually drive the business. Her strategy was part of the success that saw turnover and employees multiply more than five times, via organic growth and thirty two acquisitions in five years.

Sarah has been employed by the Ministry of Justice as a Member of the Employment Tribunals since 2002 and she has also been a Non-Executive Director with the Leicestershire Clockwise Credit Union since 2008.

Sarah has a Masters Level Advanced Certificate in Executive Coaching. She is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and a Member of the International Coach Federation.

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Hidde-Jan Lemstra

Hidde-Jan Lemstra

Hidde-Jan is an experienced strategy implementation consultant.

He has brought his deep expertise in strategic change and strategy implementation to many international brands over the years. As an advisor to a spectrum of organisations from start-ups to FTSE50, he is known for his encouraging style and insightful connecting of the dots. With over a decade of experience in supporting top level management on aligning execution with strategy, Hidde-Jan supports due diligence, strategy planning and execution, offshoring, capital investment planning and restructuring. He has delivered results in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America.

Before joining Blue Grain, Hidde-Jan worked in finance, strategic offshoring and M&A for ABN Amro, Prudential and Royal Dutch Shell, where he held both corporate and commercial roles.

Hidde-Jan holds a degree in International Business from Maastricht University, and lives in Cambridge, UK.

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Chris Howe

Chris Howe

Chris is an experienced professional in the fields of leadership development and organisational change who has worked in more than 40 countries in the last 20 years.

He is an inspirational presenter to conferences, a challenging facilitator of leadership groups, experienced transformation consultant and executive coach.

Chris started his career in the IT industry before moving into the Investment Banking sector and then started his consulting career in 1989. Since then he has worked with most industry sectors at board level and has developed a particular specialisation in helping senior teams to increase the value that they add to their organisation.

His clients include Abbott Laboratories, ASDA, Ashridge Business School, BAE Systems, British Telecom, Bacardi-Martini, Barclays Bank, Bayer, Dior, Dow Jones, General Motors, Grundfos, The International Atomic Energy Authority (where he is working on an expert committee related to Leadership Development), Kraft Foods, Kodak, The Royal Air Force, Royal Bank of Scotland and Vinci plc.

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