a)plan coaching

a)plan Case Study with Tides Foundation

In 2018, a)plan coaching began an engagement with Tides, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. This case study covers the key steps involved in achieving what both parties have described as a highly successful partnership.

Note: To hear from the perspective of someone at Tides, please read our Q&A with Interim COO, Michael Mosby.

About Tides

While customer specifics bear minimal impact on the effectiveness of our engagements, here are some quick facts on Tides, for context:

  • 100 – 150 employees
  • Nonprofit organization
  • San Francisco based
  • Philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator

By the end of our engagement with Tides, the organization made use of almost every a)plan offering. For that reason, this case study offers a robust look at the various ways in which organizations engage with us.

About the Engagement

We started working with Tides in early 2018, with cultural transformation as the overarching objective. We started where we often do – at the top of the organization with the executive team, which consisted of the CEO, CFO, COO, General Counsel, and VP of Strategic Partnerships.

The entire engagement lasted over 2 years, and the timeline of a)plan’s diffusion throughout the entire organization can be read about in more detail below.

February 2018 

  • One-on-One Coaching at the Executive Level
  • Team Coaching at the Executive Level

From the very beginning (and through the end), we engaged with Tides’ executive team via One-on-One Coaching. Each member of the executive team partnered up with an a)plan coach, with whom they worked on a bi-weekly basis.

We simultaneously facilitated Team Coaching for the executive group. Team Coaching consisted of multiple day-long retreats, the purpose of which was to reflect on the organization’s cultural state – that is, strengths on which to build, and challenges to rectify.

“We brought on a)plan at a time when our organizational culture was not very good. We partnered with Sara and Brian and gave them a task that was dang-near impossible. But they certainly delivered.”

– Michael Mosby, Interim COO

May 2018 

  • Development of Core Values
  • Creation of the People and Culture Task Force
  • Training Sessions at the Manager Level
  • Team Coaching at the Employee Level

After three months of working with just the executive team, Tides saw an opportunity to involve the entire organization in the creation of well-documented core values. The executive team wanted the organization’s core values to be created via a grass roots, bottom-up approach. That is, instead of the CEO deciding what would define the company, everyone would have a say.

With this objective, a)plan helped create and lead the People and Culture Task Force (PCTF), which featured a subgroup dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). The PCTF was responsible for:

  • Designing a plan for incorporating the input of every employee in the creation of the organization’s core values
  • Creating a plan around DEI, ensuring DEI values would play a core role in not only program work but also operations including recruiting, hiring, compensation, professional development, and more.

To achieve the above, a)plan facilitated five in-person Team Coaching sessions, each with 20-30 Tides employees, taking place in Tides’ San Francisco and New York offices. These sessions had clearly defined agreements, such as embracing “courageous, compassionate candor”, listening “to understand”, and using “I” statements.”

Around this time, based on the executive team’s reflection at the beginning of the engagement, a)plan also launched a series of trainings on Giving and Receiving Feedback for all managers and directors.

September 2018 

  • One-on-One Coaching at the Manager Level
  • Team Coaching at the Manager Level
  • Training Sessions at the Employee Level

After all managers and directors were engaged in the Giving and Receiving Feedback trainings, Tides’ executive team extended One-on-One Coaching and Team Coaching to everyone at this level. A large portion of the staff accepted the offer to work with a)plan more intimately.

Then, taking its coaching culture a step further, Tides offered a)plan’s Giving and Receiving Feedback trainings to the entire organization. Over the next 6 months, every Tides employee would go through this training. 

“You still hear folks around Tides talking about those workshops.

– Michael Mosby, Interim COO

February 2019

  • 360 Degree Reviews at the Executive Level

Finally, to check in on progress a year after the beginning of the engagement, a)plan conducted 360 Degree Reviews for all members of the executive team.

For these reviews, an online survey was sent to every employee in the organization. In addition, each executive team member chose 12 of their closest colleagues, with whom a)plan conducted Zoom interviews.

After consolidating feedback, a)plan provided comprehensive reports that were shared with both the board of directors and the 360 review recipient.

Engagement Results

By the end of our engagement, every Tides employee contributed to the creation of core values, by which the organization operates today. Those values are as stated:


After defining these new values and setting organization-wide goals, Tides underwent some structural change at the executive level. These changes were largely driven by the revelation that the team wasn’t adequately aligned around the resulting cultural transformation.

Filling in the vacant executive positions were folks within the organization who truly embodied the values of the organization. We are proud that some of these individuals are still a)plan clients today.

Once again, we would like to thank Tides, and especially Michael Mosby, for his willingness to share his experience with a)plan.

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