Strategic planning, review, change

Strategic planning for change

Many entities struggle with strategy and planning, to the frustration of staff, partners and stakeholders. Strong, effective planning should bring advances – through purpose, focus and readiness – and these advances should far exceed the time and energy invested. An industry or entity plan needs the logic and substance :

  • to inspire, enthuse and align decision-making among those in the industry or enterprise,
  • to identify and steer priorities, resource allocation, performance assessment, and
  • to support difficult decisions and problem-solving when the world lurches away from planning assumptions.

Sandra Welsman of Frontiers Insight provides effective and professional processes for developing strategic plans for change, for business positioning, integration and development and as a platform for continuous improvement, including

  • Skilled information collection, consultation, ‘seeing’ and planning from first-principles using techniques honed by long experience, often working within complex cultures facing need for substantial, positive change including bringing together of silos.
  • A refined and well-tested Frontiers Insight planning model [context, situation analysis, scenarios, key signals/assumptions, consultation, vision/objectives, key issues/obstacles, strategies, actions, KPIs, resources] that is adapted to needs.
  • Planning tailored to client circumstances and to reactions as planning progresses though process stages – including consultation, facilitation, issues dissection, opportunity, threat and competitive analysis, and problem solving techniques. see also ConsultationCommunication

Reviews of performance, markets, opportunities

Reviews of programs, projects, corporations, centres, courses | Balanced, researched and consultative evaluation of progress against plans, promises, stakeholder expectations

Complex issues analysis | Independent, constructive distillation from first principleshorizon

Concepts – ideas, scoping | Strategies toward business, market, social, technical, intellectual goals.

DRI-Investigations (direction, response, issues) | Explorations using a diversity of day-to-day evidence. To Assess implementation of policy, business, societal or technological directions; To Gauge what people do v. what they say; To Distill issues and obstacles; To Clarify options; To Develop strategies.


Strategic Plans, Reviews, Evaluations, Change programs | 2013-1986

Australian Sugar Industry Alliance – Research Development and Extension (RD&E) Reform 2011-2013

On 27 October 2011, the Australian Sugar Industry Alliance (ASA) with founding members CANEGROWERS and ASMC, agreed the full Sugar RD&E Reform package based on detailed reviews and input from many stakeholders. The transformational change package: responded to years of industry concern about the overall performance and rising costs of sugar research, development and extension arrangements with three industry funded organisations (BSES, SRDC and the milling agency, SRL); would deliver a set of strong, modernising reforms to energise and focus research, and when fully implemented, would have ongoing secure funding through levy on all sugarcane growers and millers paid equally.

The Sugar RD&E Reform strategy and package was identified, developed and evidenced by Dr Sandra Welsman, Reform Project Leader, in an incisive and inventive report to the ASA Reform Project Group (including Chairs of the research entities) in September 2011. For the main elements of the Reform package, the three stage RD&E Reform Implementation program, the six public plans and reports, and the role of Sandra Welsman as Reform Project leader then Reform Implementation Leader. On the comprehensive consultation and communication program and the outstanding Sugar Poll 2012 result see >>.

“My congratulations on a great achievement in a challenging political context – everything certainly came together nicely in the end having brought [others]  around to a new possibility in the organisation of rural research – a great achievement.” 5.2013

“Thanks for all your work, you’ve done a great job. You’ve done well to navigate your way through all of the various stakeholder groups. Not an easy task in our industry.” 5.2013

“The ‘catch cry’ of the two years has been the introduction of a ‘new, modern era’ for sugar industry research. The process of achieving this through the Welsman report in September 2011, through to the initial industry submission to the Federal Government in February 2012 and the formal application in September 2012, could well be described as the ‘Welsman’ era for Australian sugar industry research. The actual process of change is always challenging and during the process doubts can arise, but there is no doubt that on reflection the move to form Sugar Research Australia and re-invigorate Australian sugar industry research will be seen as one of the most positive moves ever made by our industry and one that would not have been achieved without Sandra’s leadership and commitment. Dr Sandra Welsman completes her contract this week and leaves with our very best wishes and thanks for a job very well done!” 5.2013

Australian Sugar Industry, Statement on Priorities for Research 2011 – 2014

Reflecting ASA determination to achieve focus and stronger R&D performance for the industry as a whole, a key goal (and substantial challenge) during the 2011 phase of the Sugar RD&E review was to develop and promulgate a clear and weighted set of industry research priorities. With performance, costs and returns as key concerns, issues have been raised around alignment of industry funded R&D activity with industry aims, overall, in particular program areas, and at times around major projects. At the same time, research planners were questioning the clarity and usefulness of industry guidance.

Strategic alignment is critical. Industry stakeholders expect that the R&D project portfolio will be consistent with the industry’s key priorities, and funding allocation will reflect the research opportunities with the greatest value adding potential, adjusted for risk. The Australian Sugar Industry Statement on Priorities for Research 2011–2014 was developed by Sandra Welsman, in consultation and was endorsed by ASA in December 2011.

The uniquely focussed 2-page Priorities Statement was distilled from analysis of industry-researcher workshops and review of research entity plans, government statements, and more than 100 interviews and written inputs from industry groups and individuals during 2011. All informed the analysis and confirmed the importance of ASA developing a defined and forthright statement of sugar industry research priorities and process expectations.

Three dimensions to the challenge of aligning R&D with industry priorities are identified: A. KEY ISSUES for action through focussed research; B. TYPES of research activity, and C. RESEARCH PERFORMANCE and management. The Statement on Priorities for Research 2011–2014, provides a weighted set of priorities for each dimension, for use in research planning and in reviews of projects and gaps.

Productivity Commission Inquiry into Research & Development Corporations (RDCs): Strategy discussions, director and member interviews, research and analysis, building and writing the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) submission, as a unique RDC with vertically integrated member processors and exporters across all States. Key lines of analysis include: R&D essential for productivity advance in export competitiveness; regulatory regimes requiring standardisation and limiting invention; non-fit with new public innovation support schemes; public R&D investment achieving high returns and underlying industry structures.

Fantastic work, Chair AMPC; This is a strong document and I am happy with it, Director; The report has shaped up very well and reflects the aims of discussions, ED.

ALTC Grants Scheme Evaluation 2006-2009. The Australian Learning and Teaching Council contracted Frontiers Insight-Sandra Welsman to conduct this review with focus on gauging effectiveness and impact of the Grants Scheme. The Evaluation developed by Sandra Welsman involved 100 interviews across Australia at 20 universities, with focus on a random selection of 23 completed projects, plus an electronic stakeholder e-survey with over 300 responses.

The comprehensive review report and issues analysis was delivered to the ALTC in April 2010, reflecting the range of strong inputs from ALTC stakeholders, with analysis to address key review questions and creative development ideas. Change being implemented by the ALTC relate to a series of recommendations in the Frontiers Insight Evaluation report, including ALTC commissioned Strategic Priority Projects to respond to key issues in the sector, the new Innovation and Development Program, new Extension Grants, consolidated application timing, redeveloped Guidelines, and reviews of ALTC promulgation including ‘a new online Resource Library … with improved search functionality and independent commentary on selected materials to assist users to identify those resources most valuable to their work’.

Review of a university award program, May 2009 – objectives, measures of success, markets and issues, curriculum structure and form, alignment with student needs and markets, work-integrated- learning innovation, graduate attributes, forward change propositions with a new model-platform, change reasoning and resourcing.

Impressively synthesised, and challenging in the right kind of way. Program Director, 5.2009

Australian Higher Education analysis, July 2008. Review of policy-regulation-entrepreneurial frameworks, evidenced cases  for a single integrated tertiary system and new teaching-research frameworks. Major input for a sector to Australian Higher Education review.

[The Review Panel chair] commented … it was among the very best of  those received. … of over 300 submissions … was in the top few percent for quality of argument and ideas. Executive Director 9.2008

Scoping Study on Skills Issues, regional NSW, 1.2009. Frontiers Insight was asked to investigate the extent and features of skills issues generally and in sectors. Healthcare, manufacturing, trades, agrifood and creative industries, plus tourism and professional services. Skills shortages and gaps in workplaces. Change and people factors, 5-10 year outlook, capacity development.

University of New England Strategic Plan 2007-2010. Planning process design, shaped and facilitated executive & consultation forums. Creative plan developed for multiple needs. From market, policy and context analysis, plus multi-faceted consultation and involvement, a long term vision was developed (strong purpose and positioning), and key issues distilled. Five across-university priorities (not area silos) were derived, plus inspiring strategies that visibly reflected stakeholder concerns at levels of detail for an effective top-level change framework. Iterative refinement with Vice-Chancellor, Executive, staff, to achieve a final plan owned by many in UNE. plan (pdf)

… tremendous amount of quality work that you have produced in the process of developing the Strategic Plan … we now have an excellent framework.’ Vice Chancellor, 1.2007

Enterprise the key to the future: Australian higher education, a 2016 Scenario.The Australian 11.1.06

Extract. For Australian higher education, recent decades have been tense. Some institutions have struggled and faded. Others, belying the view that universities endure because they adjust traditions with caution, have inventively flourished through financial squeezes. The next 10 years will see more assertive change worldwide. In this scenario, key drivers are, as ever, those of the marketplace: demographics, demand shifts based on need, cost and reward,  and competitive new suppliers. Government regulation might hold back the market but not for long. Institutions and individuals cannot wait; they need to presciently, creatively and actively chart their own ways ahead. … In 2016 there are 60 universities diversely active in Australia. A minority are public entities.

Although all of Welsman’s predictions may not come true, she is definitely correct in her advice for the future; she says, ‘Institutions and individuals cannot wait; they need to presciently, creatively and actively chart their own ways ahead…  Williamson V, 2006, Surviving change and growing the profession together, LM 27(8) 548.

University System Studies. Leading research institution. 1 Student evaluation of teaching. 2 Doctoral Experience analysis of individual comments provided in 600 surveys into lines of action 2006-07

Industry CRC. Market review/survey, for education courses, 2006. FI was engaged for an independent critical analysis of markets for courses and materials developed for the CRC education program. Analysis of industry and CRC reports on general and specialist education needs, and issues with numbers and distance delivery such as complexities of copyright law and practices, potential investment return. Surveys tailored for key stakeholder groups including Australian industry and advisers, and overseas universities.

University Positioning Analysis 2004. Forthright ways Australian Universities can differentiate themselves – angles of students, ‘powerhouse’ research, status & character in complex markets and regulatory climates.

Dairy Australia – a new industry corporation, first Strategic Plan 2004-2009. This new Industry entity needed to merge two corporations and to transform from ‘silos’ to industry outcomes. The first Strategic Plan was developed through a FocusShop and planning sessions with the executive coming together from predecessor entities to discuss issues, programs and versions developed by Frontiers Insight. The tailored process included Industry presentations and discussion day with planning facilitation by SJ Welsman.

This challenging exercise required explorative analysis and creative thinking to identify key issues, then shape cross-industry strategies and performance indicators and broad program for action. Strategic Plan key directions -1 Access to and products for world markets2 Response to changing customer & consumer demands3 Supply chain competitiveness and integrity4 Rate of productivity growth and business success5 Social-environmental pressures on demand and supply6 Building industry capacity to utilise advances

7 Corporate performance and delivery of benefits

This Plan included a strong, objective situation, market and a performance analysis developed during industry sessions, including 25 planning messages and assumptions.The new Strategic Plan was posted on the website and reported against in Annual Reports and the three yearly Review of Performance.

Australian Wool Innovation – Full Review of Performance 2003. Design and conduct of a questioning, constructive review of activities and processes against complex stakeholder, statutory and AWI Board expectations. Sandra Welsman chaired and facilitated and prepared inquiry papers for 18 panel sessions involving researchers and industry stakeholders, to review major projects plus key aspects of corporate performance. The comprehensive Review Report was developed from these plus analysis of materials and other research. In difficult times, aimed for clear objectivity, rigour, balance of positives-negatives, and recommendations reflecting commitments made to stakeholders.

‘Reviews such as this must present both positive and negative findings critically, the new Board … commissioned an independent expert … Dr Sandra Welsman, to conduct the Review. … The Board appreciates the constructive contributions made … by many external panellists, including woolgrowers, researchers, other stakeholders and AWI managerial staff.’ AWI Chairman, report 2003

AgLaw – Initial Strategy and Business Plan 2002-03. For UNE: market analysis, drivers, need, policy and law interfaces, performance issues, research, industry, income sources.

‘… an analysis of market demand, career opportunities and benchmarking against the programs of other… universities. This proposal was assessed – and approved – both on its own merits and … alignment with the University’s Strategic Plan.’  AUQA Audit Report, 2004

Sefton & Associates ‘Talking to the Bush’ Strategic Plan 2002-2006. Review of framework factors, marketplaces and issues clarification for ambitious Communications-PR group. Future scenarios. Scoped approaches for specialist market and business development in short and medium term.  ‘The Plan is excellent.’ managing director, 2002.

Promoting Innovation: Industry discussion paper interpreting rules and options for product and industrial marketing, 2002.

An Industry CRC – Research Utilisation and Commercialisation Strategy, including CRC Intellectual Property (IP) Management Plan, 2003. Linked closely to government CRC  principles including ‘public good’ and ‘commercial’ criteria.

Australian Wool Innovation Strategic Plans 2003-08, 2002-07. Global situation analysis, consultation with diverse stakeholders to build a challenging industry R&D Vision with robust strategies and lines of innovation.  Plus Operating Plan 2003-2004 with research, development and extension actions and assessable KPIs.

‘I was impressed with the structure of the [AWI] Strategic Plan and found the contents equally good … A positive approach to addressing key issues without under-estimating challenges or difficulties … a very comprehensive overview of the issues facing the wool industry today, from which the five Priority areas have been well crafted.’ Executive Director AWIS 2002

‘The policy planning developed by AWI … is probably the most outstanding work produced by any organisation in the wool industry. Producer & breeder.’ The Land 7 Nov 2002

‘The detailed [AWI] five year strategic plan has received widespread industry and shareholder acclaim.’ AWI 7.2002

AWI Strategic Planning Consultation Forums, major 2-day planning forum for 250 producers & supply chain industry participants. Researcher Roundtable and stakeholder panels. consult.communicate

‘The forums went very well … a good level of energy all round … lots of new ideas coming to the floor.’

New Strategies – Marketplace, Positioning, Products. AFS Australia, part of AFS Intercultural, a global student exchange network. Analysis of international student exchange markets, family-education directions, demographics youth wants and aspirations locally-globally. Market signals, government regulations, competitors, not-for-profit issues, volunteering. Creative, hard-headed market and mission driven change scenarios and realistic, inspiring actions for recovery and growth.  ‘It’s wonderful.’ AFS Australia Chair 2001.

An Australian Sheep Genetics System 2000-01 for MLA & AWI. Review from first principles, research, balanced interviews, analysis of markets, technologies, positioning genetic advance. Inventive market-based options. Reviewed, published, implemented 2005 as Sheep Genetics Australia.  The Welsman report (pdf) Summary Part 1 Part 2.

‘Looks fantastic, is certainly comprehensive and will hopefully be catalytic. Changes are already afoot …’.  industry stakeholder 2001

‘NSWFA support introduction of a single Australian Genetics Agency as in Dr Welsman’s report.’ NSWFA website 2002

‘Anyone interested in learning about Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP) will want to read this paper. [It] also speaks to across herd genetic improvement programs.’ Alpaca Journal 2:1 2005

Business Retool Strategies – MLA operating division 1999-2000, Market-science product review,  income analysis, customer policies, redirections. Service Delivery Review. Roles, KPIs, rules. Product Portfolio and Pricing Review.

‘We contracted Sandra Welsman for a series of linked intensive analyses of our business plan, goals, service targets, performance, product & pricing portfolio. … exceedingly valuable … clarify many business and service issues … change/ improvement implemented.’ MLA executive 2001

Managing and achieving real cutbacks in Government Business Enterprises. Welsman (1993) 73 Public Administration Today 127-132. Key speaker – Institute of Public Administration Australia conference Managing Cutbacks in Government: Surviving Tough Times.

ACTEW Corporatisation package as Chief Executive 1990-91: Contract appointment for strategy  development, steering, and management of the ACT Electricity & Water Authority corporatisation announced by the Government early 1990. Creative and sensitive team steering, integrated plans, progressive Board strategy papers and reports, options analysis, organisational issues, restructuring, media and industrial communications, negotiations, interactions with Ministers, departments and professional advisers, to achieve a full Corporatisation package. Key elements included:

  • Corporatisation Project Management Program, timetable and progress mechanisms. ACTEW Board Forward Business program to corporatisation with consultation and communication (Ministers, Department heads, personnel, unions, consumers); Negotiated corporate restructure and implemented aligned downsizing.
  • Selection and management of external specialists including Mallesons, Rothwells, BHP Engineering, on legal, corporate structure, financial structure, capital and maintenance forward planning, taxation, superannuation
  • Creating a New Corporate Culture – including ‘corporate positioning’, integrated communication programs, leadership, employment arrangements: superannuation, workers compensation, awards, contracts
  • Financial Structure and Strategy – integrating prices, income, costs, cost reduction, profits, tax payable, reserves, dividends for a sustainable capital structure based on 10-20-50 yr forecasts. Capital investment and maintenance planning, regulations, training, projected executive contracts, industrial awards, work agreements.
  • Reports/recommendations to Board on: Corporate Re-Structure, Corporatisation legalities: Articles of Association for ACTEW Corporation, Policy Issues- Electricity Supply Arrangements, marketing, pricing
  • ACTEW Corporation – Statement of Corporate Intent, performance targets,  communication strategy.

Corporatisation papers and speeches include

  • Welsman: A Strategy for Reform – The Move Towards Commercialisation and Corporatisation: Water Resources Reform Conference
  • Welsman: Corporatisation in the A.C.T. Address to Institute of Municipal Managers
  • Welsman: The Corporatisation of A.C.T. Electricity and Water (ACTEW): Deregulation and Reform in Public Utilities
  • Welsman: Principles and Work Plan to Achieve Successful Corporatisation of a Public Entity 1991.

Garden Island Dockyard, as Head of Dockyard Development 1988-1989

  • 10-year Strategic & Commercial Plan. Objective, innovative, effective planning for re-orientation of a 3,000 personnel, industrial site to meet market and policy realities. dy-hour
  • FULL SPEED AHEAD. A unique integrated work practice change campaign. Target  20% productivity jump at Garden Island. Concept and strategy leadership; team mobilisation, negotiations with Navy, unions, and communications with full workforce. Achieved and cemented 17% productivity increase across key areas through work changes. Initiation of new higher-output ‘Dockyard Hour’ from concept into usage.


  • Dockyard Project Managers. A Changed Concept of Major Ship Repair Project hdd-cvManagement – New analysis and evidenced strategy paper.  Implemented on agreement of all dockyard management, evolutionary workign concept for total repair of a ship Navy or commercial.
  • New Industrial Work Classifications. Multi-skilled Ship Repair Tradesman, Ship Repair Assistant: Dockyard Development team negotiations, Steering implementation.
  • Dockyard Business Centres and the Big ‘E’ (for Enterprise). Operational change and workforce motivation. Stage 1 Concept and Assessment. Stage 2 Development & Implementation Strategy. Principles, responsibilities, accounting, systems, delegations, flexibilities, reporting.

Australian Defence Dockyards and Munitions Factories, 10 year Corporate Plan 1985-1995. Ground-breaking review and planning to break from history and realign defence strategies with projected needs for defence production and changing work practices. This unique strategic plan identified key issues and workable strategies to restructure and develop the extensive defence manufacturing businesses. Major flow-on changes included sale of Williamstown Dockyard, corporatisation of Government Aircraft Factories, leading into formation of Australian Defence Industries ADI, plus innovative workforce right-sizing packages, and ongoing commercial reform.

Strategic Marketing Plan. CSR Limited, Oil & Gas Division. Development of an initial plan for the new Division from first principles in a time of world oil market drama. Based on domestic & international perspectives, technical and commercial limits to Australian production, industry-company-government interactions, regulation of imports, exports, prices.

Australian Meat and Livestock Research & Development Corporation, Five Year Strategy and R&D Plan 1986. As an inaugural Director, a key role in Planning Committee. Derived key issues in the first market driven R&D Strategy and Plan, flowing to critical review of all R&D projects and proposals against plan objectives including market satisfaction and growth, processing/production efficiency and sustainability, and return on industry monies invested through commercialisation and implementation of R&D. With other Directors, close scrutiny of hundreds of competing R&D projects annually, plus proactive commissioning of R&D to address Plan priorities. Associated seminars, industry interactions, and conference speeches. consult.communicate