Reimagining Organisations
Argyle Diamonds
$300m saved through frontline co-design
we now have a really passionate group of people who feel as though they’re owning this story and owning this journey rather than something that’s handed down

Kevin McLeish
CEO, Argyle Diamonds

A misaligned leadership team faced substantial transformation

In 2011, Argyle Diamond Mine was in the process of transitioning from an open-pit to an underground mine, a move that would require a profound transformation of the organisation’s behaviours, skills, and systems. Many global mining companies would have hired highly skilled international workers to perform the new jobs, but Argyle needed to work predominantly with their existing employees to make the shift because of an agreement with the local community to retain a workforce made up of 80% local and 40% Indigenous employees.

In doing this, the CEO was up against multiple challenges:

Members of his leadership team had little to no ownership of the new mine or the transition plan, much less their direct reportsThe team lacked a clear and shared understanding of the strategy, and a large burden of day-to-day concerns limited their time to think strategicallyStaff were operating with a post-GFC status-quo mindset within a strong command-control culture that stifled change and engagement

Kevin McLeish, CEO at the time, knew the typical “corporate strategy campaign” would fail. Rather than go through the typical planning process and apply a generic change framework, he asked 2nd Road to help them reinvent their strategy process in order to give staff the clarity, meaning, and ownership to drive action.

Democratising strategy through story and co-design

Through two Strategic Conversations with the leadership team, 2nd Road helped leaders create a strong shared argument for the organisation and turn it into a personally meaningful story for each of them. undertook ethnographic research on the present experiences of employees. They also coached leaders in storytelling and conversational leadership—using conversation rather than commands to empower employees and improve performance.

The 2nd Road team then co-designed change programs with staff that would help people create their part of the strategy—one for Superintendents and one for Frontline employees. To do this well, 2nd Road immersed themselves in the culture of the mine, interviewing, observing and even participating in the daily life of employees. This in-depth, ethnographic approach helped to generate powerful insights into the engagement factors that gave staff energy and the ones that took it away. These findings helped leaders prioritise where to focus their effort and resources to help employees stay motivated, fulfilled and effective in their work, both for the immediate change journey and for the environment they need to create longer-term.

From ‘command and control’ to conversational leadership

Leaders started to see results within 3 months, and after 12 months, saw business-level impact. 25% of staff who indicated they would leave during the transition ended up staying with the company. And as a result of the Frontline engagement program, staff improved diamond recovery from 93 to 97%, adding an estimated $300m in revenue to the life of the mine. So many other improvements and cost savings were regularly being generated by staff that the business eliminated their Business Improvement function.

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