Various themes run through our work, which keep re-occurring.
The Professions / Professional Development / Mentoring / Facilitation / Governance
Engineering / Technology / Computer Software / Safety & Risk Management
Project Management / Bespoke solutions
Strategy development / Business development / Sales and Marketing
It is therefore a challenge to describe our services in a short description, and so we decided to provide a few examples of what we do through case studies. Bear in mind that we provide a confidential service to our clients, and we need in some instances to make the case studies "anonymous".
World Skills UK
WorldSkills is the world's largest international skills competition with young people from across the globe competing every 2 years to be the best in their chosen work-place skill. Over four days, talented young men and women from around the world compete in a host of vocational skills: the skills levels for these young competitors are extraordinarily high, comparable to an Olympic level for athletes. The competitions test technical knowledge and expertise, and skills and personal attributes that are in everyday use in workplaces, training organisations, colleges and universities.
WorldSkills competitions are held in over 50 workplace skills for young people (upper age for competitors are, depending on the skill, 21, 23 and in a few team skills, 25). The rewards are gold, silver and bronze medals and also Medallions for Excellence, for those who did not get a medal but achieved the world class standard.
Diane's role in WorldSkills UK spanned more than 6 years as the Programme Cluster Lead for the 9 Engineering & IT skills in which the UK competes at International levels. This involves co-ordinating the UK's designated Training Manager/Experts as they select, plan for, train & develop, and pressure test our competitors (for competition readiness) in the UK and overseas. The overall management of Team UK is vested in the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), part of the Skills Funding Agency.
In 2013 the competitions were held at the Leipzig Convention Centre. Competitions in 46 workplace skills for young people had 54 countries participating. The UK's young competitors demonstrated the extent of their individual skills and competitiveness over the grueling 4 days of competition and between them won 2 Gold, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze Medals and 17 Medallions for Excellence.
Commenting, Diane said "it was an awesome event with a real buzz of excitement and challenge. Our young competitors worked so hard in a really challenging, international environment, but they showed the world the quality of their performance excellence. The UK's Experts have worked for months to train and develop their competitors and that has achieved great results."
A WorldSkills UK Team Enamel was presented to Diane, shortly before the Team travelled to Leipzig, at a gala evening dinner held at Loughborough University. The presentations were made jointly by Robbie Grabarz, 2012 Olympics High Jump UK Bronze Medallist, and his Coach and Mentor, Fuzz Ahmed.
These Enamels are highly prized: they are presented to every young UK WorldSkills competitor; to the WorldSkills UK's Skills Experts who train and develop those competitors and who also work with their overseas counterparts to set, judge and mark the rigorous world-class competitions; and to those who have made a significant contribution to WorldSkills UK over time.
In 2011, WorldSkills came to London's Olympic venue, visited by almost 200,000 people. There were 931 competitors from 51 countries competing in 46 skill areas.
Team UK achieved their best ever results of 13 medals (5 gold, 2 silver, 6 bronze) and 12 Medallions.
For more information, visit: www.worldskillsuk.apprenticeships.org.uk
Mystery Shopping Project
Early in 2008, Diane undertook a project to analyse the customer service approach of a cluster of membership organisations. Diane led a small team which made carefully structured approaches for information from "potential members". The outcomes were analysed, resulting in a series of Reports and a follow-up Workshop to facilitate development of good practice.
In 2009 Diane ran a second project with the same client cluster group. This took a more extensive look at various modes of communication between staff and potential members, analysing a wider range of criteria and providing recommendations for development actions.
At the 2009 workshop, the client group agreed that they felt there was a value in repeating the exercise, once again extending the criteria reported upon, and this was completed during 2011. Good practice in Customer Care featured strongly in the recommendations in the Reports and the follow-up Workshop.
Developing organisational Governance
Diane was asked to provide an update on Governance issues in a one-day workshop to a not-for-profit membership organisation in the health economy. There is a small staff to manage their operational activities, and a governing Board of Trustees providing the strategic direction and discipline-specific professional focus. The organisation had been through a period of some change, and was in the process of consolidating a new strategy for the future.
Diane devised a pre-workshop questionnaire, to ensure that the day's programme reflected what was thought to be needed by participants. The workshop agenda covered the criteria of good governance, the legal requirements for trustees and company directors, and their obligations. These were bench-marked against the requirements for NHS Non-Executive Directors (recognised as a rigorous standard), who are expected to operate to high standards of ethical behaviour. There was also an exploration of what constitutes effective meetings and how to achieve them. The Checklist for Effective Trusteeship was particularly welcomed, and generated an interesting discussion in the context of their Board. Some fun elements were introduced to ease the way. Feedback in forms after the event was positive. A typical comment was "Very interesting day that has triggered further actions/ideas".
Looking to the organisation's future, the final activity was to provide post-event feedback to the Board via the Chair, which included the (anonymised) feedback from delegates, as input to the ongoing development of their strategy.
This independent niche consultancy specialises in practical safety and risk management solutions for high hazard industries, applying specialist techniques and engineering expertise based upon many years successful operation. With an enviable client base their services are in increasing demand. Mike fulfils a role as their Business Development Manager, building on his experience in this niche over nearly 20 years. He is a member of the management team, with a specific remit that has included re-branding using a professional designer (Parker-Design), upgrading their informative web-site, supporting their strategic development and mentoring their Associates into the mysteries of Business Development, as an activity they can do for themselves with a little support from Mike. And being an engineer at heart, Mike loves it.
A Geosynthetics supplier
This specialist supplier of a range of advanced geotechnical solutions to the construction industry is growing their UK business in the context of their world-wide operations. Mike is supporting their UK business development in two ways; supporting their long-term market development strategy and supplying bespoke training to their sales team, who are engineers. This has contributed to the growth of sales across the UK.
Connect Internet Solutions
A specialist software company occupying a niche in the provision of specialist database solutions using a web-hosting model, Mike provided Business Development services to assist with growth of their product sales into new markets.
University of Liverpool
Spinning out technology is a part of their strategic activity, and is one of the harder challenges for academics. Mike has worked with several of them in the earliest stage of assessment of business potential, using an unusual model that brings the academic with their technology and expertise to work with industry on a specific problem. This is a part of the test marketing; if a solution is developed, that is one important piece of evidence on the road to a business. Mike's expertise in making things happen brings together the two parties, and it is his underlying knowledge of engineering and technology, coupled with his business development skills that makes this effective.
In one assignment, involving Semantic Web technology, it proved possible to create two very different solutions that two completely different businesses were able to apply. These showed the power and flexibility of Semantic Web technology in reducing the effort of abstracting data from different sources with a much higher level of relevance to the particular area of interest, thereby providing potential savings, and potentially a business driver.
Human Factors Analysts Ltd
Safety concerns us all. But if we spot something or are aware of bad practice how do we alert others to our concerns? Organisations are often unable to learn from the knowledge held by their people; barriers exist, real and imaginary. Fear of an unwelcome reaction often causes people to keep silent, to remain below the parapet.
HFAL developed a successful approach, a unique way of tackling this issue, thereby unlocking the hidden knowledge for all to benefit. A spin out from Strathclyde University, they specialise in Confidential Reporting, a service that allows an individual to report safety concerns, confidentially and secure in the knowledge that their information is fed back anonymously to the operational management. Incorporated into a database, it allows trends to be identified and statistical analysis to monitor events in context, with the ability to highlight the significance of incidents occurring outside expected norms.
Mike was retained by HFAL as Business Development Manager to open up other high consequence industry sectors where safety is an ongoing issue of concern.
Forum for the Future: Engineer of the 21st C Initiative - Engineers for Sustainability
Foremost sustainability organisation Forum for the Future has long believed that one key to enabling business to function sensitively to the needs of a sustainable future is the role of engineers. If their skills, regardless of their job function or discipline, enabled them to design out problems from the start, rather than with "end-of-pipe" technology, sustainability would be able to make a step-change.
A project was conceived to ask young working engineers what they would need to work in this way, and an inquiry was established, supported by both finance and resources from government departments and 16 companies. The young engineers were seconded from their organisations and their findings were published in a challenging report 'The Engineer of the 21st Century Inquiry - Engineers for Sustainability'. This was presented at a key conference in July 2000 to the Minister for Science and Innovation and a wide audience, and contained 47 recommendations.
Diane's role was complex: to ensure that all players fulfilled their tasks to enable the report to be complete and printed on time, and to arrange and manage the initial launch event and then the report presentation conference.
Engineer of the 21st Century - Phase 2
In 2002 a second phase of the initiative was funded by the DTI and 11 companies. Twelve young engineers researched the extent of progress made against the top ten of the previous 47 recommendations. They conducted surveys and made over 50 in depth interviews. Their findings and conclusions were drawn together into a second report, 'The Engineer of the 21st Century Inquiry - Change Challenges for Sustainability'. This issued four challenges to a range of stakeholders at a conference held in February 2003 at the Royal Society, when the Minister for Science and Innovation again gave a keynote speech. Copies of both reports are available from Forum (see 'Useful Links').
Again, Diane's role was to manage the project and make sure that a successful and timely conclusion was achieved.
Engineer of the 21st Century – Phase 3
In 2007 a third phase began: a number of concurrent mini-projects were being undertaken by 2 or 3 young engineers from participating organisations. The projects are of interest and value to their businesses and at the same time expand on the 'Change Challenges for Sustainability'. Diane's role was that of Mentor, CPD Specialist and Project Advisor.
The Master of Industrial Practice Initiative
"An exciting personalised programme to develop technical, personal and leadership skills for engineers and technicians at the heart of implementing today's technology" is how Prof. Alan Reed at the University of Greenwich's Medway Campus described this challenging pilot initiative, funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.
The mission was to provide bursaries to motivated, qualified technicians with ambition to progress both technically and professionally to a higher level of achievement. Typically they would be qualified to HNC, HND or their equivalents. The financial support would complement the provision of a Mentor to each individual.
The initial project was designed as a pilot study for up to 12 engineers in the catchment area of the South-East and East-Anglia, with the intention of developing a new approach to registration with the Engineering Council at IEng level. This is of immense benefit to employers as well as the individual. So many companies really struggle to find funds and time to invest in key individuals as a way to develop their business, and this is an ideal approach designed to overcome some of the hurdles.
One of the participating engineers commented "this is a golden opportunity to further develop my technical and management skills with the dedicated support from my Mentor and the blessings of my employers. I am very excited at being awarded a Bursary."
Diane was project Co-coordinator, leading the recruitment and selection of applicants, developing the processes and publicity necessary, maintaining support for the Mentors and Bursary Holders, and managing the finances, including disbursement of the Bursaries. At the conclusion of the project, an in-depth evaluation of all aspects of the project was provided by the Steering Group to Gatsby. Both acknowledged the huge benefits of the project to the individuals and their employers.
Eutech Engineering Solutions Ltd
ICI created a new business in late 1993, named Eutech, tasked with becoming an engineering & technology consultancy and project manager, taking ICI's expertise out to the marketplace. Based upon ICI Engineering, the challenge was to establish a vigorous non-ICI business where previously all work had been undertaken for the in-house customer.
A Marketing and Business Development strategy was being developed where previously there was none. An enormous and enforced culture change was taking place. Mike Chandler was appointed in a consultancy capacity as a part-time Business Development Manager with particular focus on non-ICI business development in Safety & Risk Management. A number of major accounts were secured and developed, including a 5 year term agreement with Rolls-Royce.
Additionally, training and development of the staff played an important role in making the teams more self-sufficient and Mike had a significant role in this aspect.
Charnwood Dynamics Ltd, a high technology enterprise, sells a unique motion capture and analysis package, developed for use in health care for gait analysis, but with potential for several other applications. The product was already selling successfully, but at too low a volume to fund real growth.
A review was undertaken that identified a strategy to achieve the desired growth based upon a fundamental change in approach. The recommendation was to hire an additional person to focus on sales and marketing.
Initial advice on criteria for the selection process for a graduate was followed by sales training in the context of the product and the particular circumstances. An appropriate support infrastructure was set up to manage the host of information which would be generated, so that qualified sales leads could be followed up with minimum effort but maximum effectiveness by the team.
Following the initial activity there was a requirement for ongoing mentoring for further development. This was provided by means of a coaching programme delivered partly by telephone and partly by face-to-face meetings.
"The rate at which new prospective customers engaged with us and entered a process which led to placement of orders significantly increased as a consequence of following the training, advice and mentoring supplied by Chandler Associates. Our sales figures for the first quarter of 2000 now exceed those for the whole of last year. We have customers lining up for demos and a list of customers seeking funds to buy our products. We are now taking on more production staff to cope with demand." David Mitchelson, Managing Director.
Adroit supply SCADA software for process control. Based upon fundamental research undertaken by ICI in the late 1980s it operates within existing process plant systems. Adroit is highly successful and in use around the world in many industries. Resource constraints were limiting sales effort in its UK operation. More time was needed from existing staff without increasing numbers.
Chandler Associates was approached for assistance. A Business Activity Analysis was undertaken, together with a Training Needs Analysis. The outcome produced a range of opportunities to rationalise responsibilities, with the additional benefit of offering personal development opportunities for staff to grow.
"Not being involved in the detail enabled Chandler Associates to analyse objectively and see clearly past the detail to the real issues. Their advice was well received and very valuable in enabling us to reassess our strategy with respect to roles and responsibilities. The implementation has thrown up the development opportunities which are helping our team to stretch, grow and develop." Nigel Ball, Sales Director.
Ove Arup & Partners
A new software package was being launched to complement an existing portfolio of products, supplying stress analysis and modelling codes to the automotive structural analysis market world-wide. It required a focused effort to alert the market to the new product and to obtain early orders, thereby providing a funding stream for further development.
The role covered development of an appropriate marketing strategy, the product launch and securing the first order, which was successfully achieved.
Halcrow Management Sciences Ltd
Halcrow provides services to OFWAT, the Water Industry Regulator. One aspect of that service is the routine auditing of suppliers. A project was undertaken to investigate the practicality of introducing a change to the methodology that would have an impact on the productivity, and improve the quality of reports. This was essentially a change management exercise, offering strategic advantages for the long-term marketing of the service provided.
Introduction of the revised methodology was required that also involved a project management and people change element: this created a climate in which the development was accepted. The new methodology was successfully adopted.