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     ▐   Arup
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Other Private Sector
     ▐   Angel Trains
     ▐   Glaxo
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Government Agencies, Local Authorities etc
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Third Sector
     ▐   AMA - Road Map to Utopia
     ▐   Christian Aid

Case Study: Scenarios for the Rail Industry in the UK for Angel Trains


In late 2009, the Commercial team at Angel Trains Ltd identified a need to derive long term industry scenarios to enable them to develop strategic options for the organisation. They then agreed with the Executive Team that a scenario planning pilot should be explored, driven by a desire to understand how the industry might evolve and thus to inform:

  • their medium to long term investments in existing fleets
  • potential investment in new trains
  • their strategy for engaging their shareholders and external stakeholders e.g. banks, rating agencies etc. with regard to future investments and refinancing
  • the overall development of their business strategy.

SAMI's Role

A project was set up to develop a range of scenarios to inform strategic options available to Angel Trains looking to the future (2020-2030), focussing on the factors external to Angel Trains. They were used to explore the impact of the scenarios on Angel Trains' current assumptions for their medium to long term investments and what other options there might be in the future. The project explored the impact of the scenarios on the current strategy in order to gain insight as to:

  • Actions that need to be taken in response to all the scenarios
  • Actions that would only need to be taken in response to one or a few of the scenarios – and the perceived likelihood of them happening – this will result in contingency planning
  • The extent to which the scenarios can be influenced – can the good ones be made to happen and the bad ones avoided?
  • Early warning signs that may indicate a direction of travel towards one scenario or elements of it – triggering in depth contingency analysis.

The team first developed and documented a list of 12 drivers for the Rail Industry, through desk research and a series of interviews with people in the rail industry and investors. To understand what potential futures could look like, a workshop of senior managers placed each of these onto a spectrum of whether the outcome was forecast able or uncertain. Then three uncertain drivers were chosen which could have a big impact on Angel Trains. Each of these was turned into a question which could have a YES/NO answer. For example for the UK Global Competiveness driver, the YES/NO question was; ‘will UK growth increase relative to the global average position?’

A brief scenario was then created for each of the eight YES/NO permutations and then the four most important scenarios to Angel Trains were identified. For each of this four, winners and losers were determined, what the headlines might be, what could cause the scenario to happen, what could stop the scenario from happening and what were the options for managing the scenario. The storylines were developed over the course of two workshops, and the scenarios are represented below.
click picture for full size

Following the workshops, further desk-top research was carried out to make the scenarios more robust before being reviewed by a senior manager group for credibility in a ‘windtunnelling’ workshop.

The outcomes

This led to three outcomes:

  • A strategy for each asset class and business based on the scenarios – as maintain business as usual, diversify or run down – and consideration of new asset classes and businesses.
  • A set of scenario indicators to be monitored by Angel Trains Commercial team.
  • A programme for internal communication and roll-out, to provide
    • a feeling of control over what the future might bring and how the organisation could respond; the future is likely to be very different from the stable, incremental growth environment that people have been familiar within the past and some may find this unsettling
    • breakdown of any cultural barriers caused by different styles of thinking within the organisation, such those who seek repeatable formulaic solutions (hedgehog thinking) and those who are more tolerant of dissonance and able to accept ambiguity and recalibrate accordingly (fox thinking).
    • demonstration that the company psyche embraces the importance of the strategic view in an organisation where traditionally the emphasis has been more transactional and reactive.

The team

The Commercial team at Angel Trains also identified the need to involve external experts (SAMI Consulting) so that they could avoid ‘Group Think’. A joint team was set up consisting of Keith Bates and Chris Ham of Angel Trains, and Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland of SAMI, supported by Colin Fletcher and Lynda McGill of SAMI.
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site last updated
12 June 2019

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