Case Study: Reinventing a poorly performing construction company

Jul 20, 2007

Written by Alan J Whitaker Founder and CEO FWI
The managing director of a company which designs oil refineries and gas pipelines for the oil industry invited me to a meeting to discuss their upcoming strategic planning process.
He told me rather dejectedly that “For the past five years we have used the largest consulting companies to facilitate our strategic planning. The results have always been more of the same with the cost and inconvenience of a reorganisation. But nothing has changed. And we are still making 3% before tax!”
“Why our company?” I asked.
“I have done my homework and you chaps have a reputation for spinning marginal organisations like mine around and pointing them in winning directions”.
The CEO agreed to a four part process.
Firstly meetings with each member of the top management team to understand the company history, goals, successes, failures, culture, internal and external stresses, communication channels and the hopes and aspirations of each individual.
Secondly a seven week process for the preparation of Position Papers
Thirdly the conference programme
Fourthly, a process to ensure implementation was robustly tackled and became the job of everyone in order to become a strategically focused enterprise.
The initial meetings
During the initial meetings with the executive we discovered several key problems facing the organisation, two of which were.
Profitability was tightly constrained as most of the contracts they won yielded extremely low profit margins
Top management invested inordinate amounts of their time and energy in the preparation of tenders for projects all over the world.
Position Papers
A key part of the strategic planning process named Strategic GamePlans©, entailed the preparation of Position Papers on six topics. These forward looking reports were prepared by Reconnaissance Teams comprising executives, employees from all strata of the company, customers, suppliers, academics and people who are established experts in various fields. The purpose was to establish possible future opportunities for the organisation based upon its current strengths, assets, core competences and those which it could acquire if required.
Anyone who disagreed with the Position Papers which were distributed a week prior the first  three day conference had the opportunity to distribute minority reports.
The process enabled the conference to focus on discussing future actions rather than wasting time arguing about facts, stats and data which, unfortunately, takes up so much time at most stratplan conferences.
The Conference Programme
The first of the five conferences was attended by the nine senior executives. 
Three further conferences were attended by sixty senior managers from subsidiaries and branches all around the world in groups of twenty.
Finally, a conference attended by all executives and senior managers finalised the Strategic GamePlan©.
The first day of each conference was devoted to short presentations by the Reconnaissance Teams with intensive questioning to gain full understanding of the Position Papers and the implications of implementing the proposals they had made.
During the second two days of each conference, using the Strategic GamePlans© process, participants were given a number of projects which forced them to think outside the box to discover a new future free from the tendering process.  They then finalised their proposals to reinvent the organisation to escape the tender process and enjoy a profitable future.
At no stage did we reveal to participants at later conferences what earlier conferences had proposed.
Much to the MDs surprise and delight, all of the groups came to similar conclusions about the future opportunities and direction the organisation should take.
The final conference was attended by all 69  executives. The purpose of this final conference was to finalise their Strategic GamePlan© and to agree on an implementation framework for the next three years.
The Implementation Process
Each quarter I chaired the implementation review meetings which were attended by all senior executives and managers and representatives from each internal department. 
These were conducted over three days. They consisted of a formal meeting to assess progress on implementation of the Strategic GamePlan© and a multitude of small focus group meetings to plan and assess progress on a wide range of issues ensuring alignment and the sharing of learning and skills throughout the organisation.
Escaping the tender trap
The company appointed Ambassadors to the governments of each of the oil producing countries to consult top officials on future national requirements for additions to existing oil refineries and gas pipelines.
Geared with information on future requirements and additions, the company was able to form partnerships to raise funds to finance these projects. This entailed the creation of an entirely new core competence in order to negotiate with funding providers.
The days of tendering were over. Within six months they began to earn serious profits. 
Through this positioning they established clear space between themselves and their competitors in the eyes of the governments of the oil producing nations. 
How we can assist you
We have assisted companies, government departments, research institutes and organisations in the not for profit sector to reinvent their future.
While we work with large organisations, many of our clients would classify themselves in the SME sector.
If you would like to learn how your company, no matter how large or small, can enjoy a winning future kindly contact our CEO, Alan J Whitaker on + 44 79 6022 7478 or e-mail him at
Please note that we never name clients in the case studies we utilise to promote our success. Their anonymity and yours should you become a client are guaranteed.