Monday, 1 September 2008

Introduction

Steve Wells is the founding Director of Informing Choices Ltd and Director of Operations and Author Liaison at specialist futures publishing company, Fast Future Publishing Ltd. He is an experienced Presenter, Strategist, Futures Analyst and Partnership Working Practitioner. 

As a Facilitator and Presenter with a relaxed and enthusiastic style, he prepares and delivers client presentations and workshops on the future of business and society, focusing on the impact of emerging technologies.

As Director of Operations and Author Liaison at Fast Future Publishing, he leads on the company’s publishing projects, liaising with multiple authors, managing the relationship between the company and the authors, and leading the edit / review process. Steve is Co-editor of The Future of Business – the publisher’s first book.

As an independent consultant he has worked with a range of clients across a number of different sectors including The American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of Independent Tour Operators, Astra Zeneca, EU Directorate General for Communications Networks Content and Technology, Harman International Industries, International Legal Technology Association, National Health Service (UK), Pfizer, Premier Media Group, and UK Government Department of Business Innovation & Skills.

Steve’s professional background is in finance, marketing, strategy and strategic planning, partnership development, futures research and analysis, publishing and facilitation.

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Client Endorsements - What do our clients say?

“Professional and well prepared, the consultant had a good understanding of the subject matter. He demonstrated very good interpersonal and communication skills, and used a variety of media and methods to work with us. It was also refreshing to experience such interest in how the relationship could work and develop. We have worked through a process that has given rise to specific outcomes and yet supported a free-ranging debate.”
NHS Trust Director.

“Preparation and production of creative materials to illustrate key elements of our business environment was excellent. The process through which we were taken was thorough and gave the team the opportunity to learn about strategy development rather than just see the outputs as a set of proposals later. Of tremendous significance was the customer grid, that helped us identify high and lower priority customers and common areas of environmental challenge for them.”
Commercial Manager.

“I have really enjoyed working with Steve, have valued his contributions and greatly appreciate the positive impact he has had on our work. He has added enormous value both to the project and to me individually.”
Local Marketing Manager.

Both the excellent collaborative working process and the expert facilitation on the day allowed us to quickly develop relationships between the individuals in the two organisations and identified some interesting areas for potential collaboration, particularly at a local level. It was an enjoyable and very worthwhile exercise.”
Account Manager.

“The workshop sessions were well planned and particularly helpful. As well as bringing our own perspective on the trends and issues identified, we were able to discuss how other people saw the same issues. Even understanding the breadth of trends and issues and how they relate to each other was enlightening. The finished scenario documents looked very professional and provided stimulus for a number of strategic discussions with my colleagues across the business.”
Senior Manager.

Bringing customer focus to Secondary Care

Client Context & Challenge
  • Re-organisations are a fact of life for many businesses, and hospital trusts are no different. The Corporate Development Directorate was a new directorate that brought together a number of internal support functions with PR, Communications and Marketing.
  • The challenge was to develop an intervention that supported team building, team development and introduced a customer / stakeholder based strategy development process.
Approach
  • Getting started in the right way was key, so we made time for an inquiring approach into the client’s needs and the organisational context.
  • Recognising that the team was newly formed, we spent some time with an ice-breaker designed to encourage colleagues to get to know each other a little better.
  • We chose to bring together a novel approach to strategy, focusing on what we believe our internal and external stakeholders value from us, given the environmental forces acting on them and their business.
  • Having prioritised and selected a number of stakeholders to focus on, we employed a facilitated series of dialogue based cross-functional workgroup and plenary feedback sessions to help answer the question, “What do we need to do now and in the future to deliver value to our stakeholders?”
Outcome
  • Feedback on the team building aspects of the intervention were excellent ; the combination of a “personal” ice-breaker and business focussed exercise with multi-functional teams proving very effective.
  • The approach also effectively demonstrated the positive aspects of collaborative sense-making, whilst exploring different perspectives.
  • With broad engagement across the team, wide ranging discussion of both internal and external challenges supported development of new ideas for interacting with customers and internal stakeholders.

Story telling and strategy

Client Context & Challenge

  • Whilst processes were in place to support functional strategy development in a UK pharma business, engagement across functions had been variable. But there was a desire to explore new ways of engaging senior managers from across the business in strategic thinking.
  • As part of strategic planning, the company also wanted to identify strengths and weaknesses across its existing strategies and identify strategic gaps.
Approach

  • A scenario planning exercise was designed and implemented.
  • The overall process included:
    - the development of initial stimulus material (external trends)
    - initial sense-making by members of the leadership team – adding their perspective and making connections
    - cross functional workshop to develop driving forces and strategic questions
    - follow up workshop to develop outline scenarios
    - the crafting of four scenarios and production of final materials
    - a final workshop to explore robustness of existing strategies, identify potential gaps and areas for further exploration.
  • Participants (directors and senior managers) were invited to attend sessions, rather than compelled. Of critical significance were the interactive workshops and the user-friendly format of the final scenario documents.
Outcome
  • Participants gained a broader understanding of external trends and issues through cross-functional sense-making.
  • A set of 4 scenarios were developed and used to engender an appreciation of different potential futures.
  • The scenarios provided insights to the strategic landscape, informing the communication of the future environment to HQ as part of strategic planning.
  • Very positive feedback on both the process, experience and data / information produced.

Collaborative Working Practitioner Programme

Client Context & Challenge


  • A pharma company was increasing its interest and investment in account working and customer collaborations. In response, the Partnership Development Team developed an approach to support practitioners in further developing their collaborative working skills.
  • A number of Account teams / colleagues with some experience and proficiency in collaborating with customers had expressed interest in taking part in Practitioner Workshop sessions.
  • The challenge was to provide guidance and support to allow participating colleagues make effective decisions on the use of a partnership approach with their customers.
Approach
  • Two different types of intervention were designed: (1) a 1-day awareness workshop; (2) a series of 3 hour interactive dialogic sessions.
  • Partnership Awareness Workshops focussed on informing about tools and techniques with exercises in break-outs and plenary feedback and discussion, in a training style.
  • Interactive Dialogic session focussed on the collaboration process and behaviours in a facilitative / coaching style.
  • We used the collaboration cycle – connecting, contracting, collaborating, closing – as the basis for each session.
  • We took “time out” to explore our collaborative behaviours but also ensured that we paid attention to the ongoing operational issues.
  • The sessions provided opportunity for participants to develop broader collaborative working skills (e.g. partnering, consulting) and also introduced new tools and techniques to support collaborative working including Strategic Thinking, Wicked Problems, Complexity.
Outcome
  • Sessions planned and delivered as follows: Awareness Workshops - 2 District Sales Teams, Customer Training Team; Interactive Practitioner Workshop series - 3 Account Teams.
  • Opportunity to share collaborative business issues and seek colleague input to developing collaborative solutions.
  • Developed an understanding that the way we partner inside the company (to support our intentions and approaches with our customers) is as important as how we collaborate with customers.
  • Developed a greater understanding of partnering tools and techniques.

Broadening colleague engagement in NHS Trust strategy

Client Context & Challenge
  • An NHS Trust had been under significant regulatory and public scrutiny following a series of significant management and system failures and motivation among the workforce was low.
  • The Trust’s board wanted to engage senior colleagues in strategic thinking with the aim of creating a strategy document that could be shared across the organisation and to re-motivate colleagues around the Trusts’s brand. But a similar intention to engage colleagues in the past had failed as the board’s commitment waned and colleagues felt their input was not valued.
  • The challenge was to develop and facilitate an effective strategy focused workshop for senior Trust colleagues.
Approach
  • Careful initial inquiry to understand what had been tried in the past and what scope we had to introduce innovation given the current circumstances.
  • Collaboratively design an off-site intervention with Strategy Director and two of his senior managers.
  • Invitations to participate sent to senior clinicians, department heads and admin managers.
  • Agree limited number of major questions to be addressed. (Questions approved by Chief Exec.)
  • Workshop design included cross functional break-out groups with plenary feedback. Second “round” questions based on first round feedback. Final plenary session sought to understand issues and ideas identified by break-outs.
  • Up-front endorsement of approach and commitment to engage with senior colleagues from Trust Chair and Chief Exec.
  • Delegates given the choice as to which question they wanted to address.
Outcome
  • Attendance at the workshop of more than 90 directors, senior clinicians, department heads and admin managers.
  • Engaging dialogue facilitated the development of a number of new ideas as well as the re-statement (with new perspectives) of existing challenges.
  • Development of content for the strategy document.

Collaborative exploration of partnership potential

Client Context & Challenge

  • Partnership is increasingly being perceived as a solution to innovative working and the development of new solutions where the ability to design and implement them does not exist in one organisation alone.
  • In this example, a national healthcare training charity and large pharma company wanted to investigate the possibility of collaborative working.
  • We sought to explore potential areas for joint working and also cultural fit – suitability of the individuals and organisations to become partners.
Approach
  • In setting up a joint sense-making workshop we sought to recognise the different sizes of the two organisations and their respective decision-making processes. We also wanted to pay attention to a sensible balance in terms of the relative seniority of the participants.
  • Creating a sense of anticipation before the joint workshop and accelerating relationship development were key start points. This was accomplished by engaging participants in questions about the other organisation, and then meeting for an informal dinner before the workshop.
  • The workshop itself included work group, mixed group and plenary facilitated sessions to explore areas of interest and to learn from the differences and similarities shared, focussing on external environmental drivers.
Outcome
  • A relationship and reputation enhancing open discussion about major environmental business drivers.
  • A greater understanding of each other’s organisation.
  • While no specific project was identified at this stage, a number of areas for potential local collaboration were identified.
  • The notion of a national collaboration was rejected by the company.(Sometimes it is as important to say “no” in a constructive way, rather than be persuaded to engage and invest in a project too quickly, and without the right level of commitment.)