“If a job is worth doing, do it well!”

A lesson on driving sustainable business transformation, from Aerospace & Defence industry expert, Russ Haworth (CEO).

Aerospace and Defence

Russ has had an impressive career in the Aerospace & Defence industry, from being a 16-year-old apprentice, to a Senior VP for Supply Chain at Rolls Royce Naval Gas Turbine Division.

His career has centred massively around Business Improvement, Transformation and Change. He has worked internationally in the guise of Managing Director, COO and CEO of various Aerospace & Defence businesses, where change and business improvement has been an imperative…

So, how has he repeatedly and successfully implemented sustainable change? I caught up with Russ to find out more.


How do you drive sustainable performance improvement?

It’s a good question - the key word there is sustainable. Most Managers can go into a business with little-to-no knowledge, just a fresh pair of eyes and make changes very quickly. They may make short term business improvements. However, ensuring those changes become embedded in the business is a different story altogether.

In my experience, this is achieved by empowering the Management team and work force. There has to be recognition of the need for change and understanding of what success looks like for the business owners. I then establish a leadership team ensuring that all the team members are strong advocates for change and work with them to develop a Business Improvement Programme. Its no good me just telling people what to do, they need to understand and buy into the programme. 


That makes perfect sense. How do you establish that initial framework for change?

You’ve got to immerse yourself into the business. Speak to the workforce and understand what their challenges/frustrations/opinions are. You will soon spot themes emerging. From the factory floor right up to board level. 

Being visionary is essential, sharing your experiences of success and challenges with the change team, training and coaching them, helping them to see that simple changes can make big differences. It’s not all about making big changes, doing the basics right is a key to success. Tracking progress is also essential. Going back to a long time ago when I was working as foreman for the guidance system on the Polaris Missile, the first thing I did was tape up a visual management board showing the programme requirements and deadlines. It was a simple but effective management tool which was then adopted company wide. You do not need to over complicate things.


So once you’ve established that, what comes next?

Whether you are turning a business around with one manufacturing site or consolidating two separate business units in different location , as I did with Ametek, it essentially gives you an overall view of the business in its current state and where it needs to be. You can then start putting things in place as you have the full picture.

Firstly, you get your house in order. To reference one of my earlier experiences, I joined Slingsby Aviation as MD, at a time when they were losing money and needed a turnaround.  You start by doing the basics right:

  1. Know your cash – 

    have daily cash flow meetings if necessary until you get some stability. This might lead to having to reduce head count or release assets for example, if the cash flow is unsustainable and won’t allow you the time needed to turn the business around.

  2. Ensure you have a strong Finance Director in place –  put an expert in charge of the numbers. They ensure the lights stay on, giving you guidance on what you can and can’t afford to do.
  3. Manage your inventory – ensure systems are used and put processes in place to stay lean and increase your bottom line. This may allow you to identify areas for cost reductions in the supply chain for example, as I did at Rolls Royce in 2014 – delivering a saving of 12% on unit costs
  4. Delegate – empower the management team, coach and develop them, celebrate and reward success.  They will not learn anything or make the changes stick if they just come from you.

Allow calculated risks to be taken. Allowing a mistake to be made once might equate to picking up a business scar, but business scars equate to learning. I don’t do forgive and forget, its forgive and remember. Don’t make the same mistake twice!

Its important that the business issues, vision and progress is shared with the whole work force. They all need to know what’s going on and why, as this will enable everybody to understand and contribute to the Improvement Programme. Visual performance management is a key tool in keeping everybody informed and engaged. 


At what point can you walk away, knowing your job is done?

When performance has been established at the required level and the management team can clearly show that they are in control of the business. The management team should also demonstrate that their business plan is dynamic with foundations and expectations of continuous improvement.  

I would never take on a project if I wasn’t confident that I could make a sustainable change. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing very well.


Gavin Wingfield is a Senior Consultant - Manufacturing & Engineering at Interim Partners


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