Case study: leading a seismic shift in the gold mining industry from the inside out

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Case study: leading a seismic shift in the gold mining industry from the inside out

A case study from the Engage for Change archives

Engage for Change facilitated the top 35 executives from one of the world’s top gold mining companies over four intense days in the West African country of Mali. Engage for Change founder John Smythe gave a first hand account of his experiences:

“On arrival in Mali we had one day to mount all the paraphernalia of a Business Strategy Build workshop. The mine social centre is the unlikely setting for strategic matters, but it has the great advantage of letting the local employees mingle with executives over a beer at the end of days.

The CEO founded the business in 1995 with a group that is largely intact. He is a legend in the company and employees are pleased to see him and other executives mixing it with them. We had asked the mine to produce Tombstone panels to accommodate large A0 size black and white photos of famous but failed (some recovering) brands in the tech, airline and financial services sectors. These were arranged in ‘Tombstone Alley’ as a funnel leading to the meeting area. The back story here is that after 10 years or so of rising gold prices the market went into reverse in 2013. Radical action rather than incrementalism is required. Thus the drama of Tombstone Alley – the last Tombstone depicted gold players that had already succumbed or were likely to in 2014.

On the first morning the executives filed through Tombstone Alley and debated the relevance to them. Over the forthcoming four days they learnt from these sector busts and more particularly the sector Paradigm Busters – the stories of the successful attack brands – in Tech, Airline, Financial services and others. The lessons were translated into insight for the firm and many Elephants, Shibboleths and Sacred presumptions that might arrest radical action, were addressed head on.

This was a plain talking group that was used to candour. The strategy was committed to paper within three days of our return to the UK.

Many things struck me to bring home:

  • Our carefully planned dynamics helped to keep 35 energetic people engaged and contributing over four long days
  • Our sponsors (CEO and HRD) were fully bought in to the journey in advance and operated within the framework
  • Agreeing the role/license of me as the facilitator with the CEO helped me to leverage him without him having to ‘run the meeting’
  • Moving fast to close on actions – extending days meant that stale unfinished business did not infect the next day’s activity
  • Fast write up of the plan during the week and immediately post meant that nuance was captured.
  • 3i – Working with a group of 50 ‘ambassadors’, drawn from across its global network, we helped 3i to redefine its core values. Having secured endorsement for each of the new 5 values – and the associated ‘behaviours’ which underpin them from the 3i Leadership Team and ultimately the Board, we then devised an experiential engagement intervention for all staff which we are now helping to deliver across the world.
  • 3i has taken the view that the challenging economic conditions are just the right time to reflect on what makes them a formidable force and engage their people to seize the opportunities that recessions always bring to those who seek them.