EIIL’s approach to setting strategy provided some unexpected insights.
Put a dozen engineers and scientists together in a room with a handful of post-it notes each, a couple of flip-charts and an EIIL coach, and the number of suggestions stretched into the hundreds. Making sense of these, testing them against the values and interests of the various stakeholders, and developing aims and action plans for a couple of them, was the task set for participants at CB&I in the Hague last week on the final workshop of the EIIL’s masterclass programme before the summer break.
‘‘Developing Aims for Setting Strategy’ has been a popular workshop since the EIIL programme started in 2004’ said workshop director John Doerr, himself a former Chief Engineer on Esso’s Fawley refinery in the UK. Of the task exercise set for the team John said ‘we needed a neutral task which required little detailed technical knowledge, but one where we could allow everyone to use their own experience and to express an opinion based on their own personal interests, or indeed online research during the workshop. We chose this one thinking it might provide some further thoughts to feed back to the various research groups in the EIIL.’
‘We use this process to show that setting strategy is not about who has the most accurate numbers – often our engineer participants’ first response is “we need more data” ’ said EIIL Director Steve Price. ‘We found out on the very first EIIL pilot workshop in 2004 (from the then Huntsman Strategy Director, and still occasional guest speaker, Martin Casey) that most strategy is influenced by the interests of the different stakeholders, and also by the values of the organisation and of those generating and evaluating strategic options. There are few right answers.
But even a task as complex as ‘providing sufficient engineers for Europe’ can be brought down to smaller, albeit still complicated, problems for teams of intelligent specialists to address. Participants in this workshop identified attraction and retention sub-tasks which I look forward to sharing with our research consortia’.
‘What I like most about EIIL workshops is that you get more than just the workshop subject. We got into some really deep discussions about values, our own and those of our companies, and we also looked at a massive problem from an international government perspective and not just our own or our company’ said Yann Camus, President of JADE. ‘I thought I would learn a strategy process, but I got so much more. The experience of the EIIL team is awesome and really inspirational’.