This paper analyses an organisational development project that aimed to change the organisational culture and improve people management systems and processes. The questions addressed were: was the change process a success; how was success defined; and what were the barriers to its progress?We examined the process of change over a 3-year period. The organisational development intervention is described and analysed. Qualitative methods, including document review, in-depth interviews and focus groups, participant observation, newsletters and diary entries were used to gather the data. A variant of competing values was used to analyse the data.We sought to build trust with all managers and encouraged reflection by conducting feedback sessions, presentations, workshops and one-on-one and group discussions. A cross-site action group was established to encourage organisation-wide participation in the project. However, it was clear that stakeholders had different understandings and perceptions of the problems facing the organisation. The project faltered when a leadership development intervention was organised.The existence of at least four different organisational 'worlds' and identities, according to different professional groupings with different goals, languages and values, was evident. The relationship between the researcher and subjects was key in terms of whether the researcher is seen as an 'expert' or as a 'facilitator'. In bringing about change, we need to work with the Chief Executive Officer in empowering others. Hence, the researchers need to engage in continual dialogue across boundaries and within groups as well as at individual levels to provide support for organisational change.