Proposition 3: Develop and share an initial roadmap for the ecosystem
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What Rolls-Royce needed was a sustainable flow of qualified people across a wide range of aero-engineering disciplines. That would only be possible if it was able to catalyse the development of an ecosystem that would harness the potential of local institutions, partners and the Singapore government, and encourage them to invest in new programmes and more training capacity. In order to do so, Rolls-Royce needed to provide a roadmap for how that ecosystem could develop in Singapore.
With a vision of the value to be created by the new ecosystem and the foundation partners in place, we observed that the next step is to provide them and potential new partners with the information they need to see how they can fit into, contribute to, and benefit from the emerging ecosystem. This requires the lead firm to lay out an initial roadmap for how you think the ecosystem will develop going forward; and because the ecosystem will change as it develops, the initial roadmap can’t be too prescriptive. It will have to adapt to changing demands, opportunities that open up, and failures along the way. But if the roadmap is too unpredictable, partners will not have the signposts they need to decide how and where to invest. Ecosystem leaders therefore need to find a balance between avoiding too many twists and turns that will destabilise partners’ plans, while communicating what has been learned and when it is necessary to change direction for the ecosystem to succeed.
The experience of Rolls-Royce (De Meyer and Joshi, 2014) in establishing its first aircraft engine manufacturing plant outside the UK at Seletar in Singapore provides a good example of how to achieve this balance. Because Rolls-Royce was a pioneer in establishing aircraft engine manufacturing facilities in Asia, there was no ready pool of suitably skilled labour in Singapore, or in the region. The company’s management decided that the best solution was to catalyse the emergence of an ecosystem for talent development.
Despite its size and experience, Rolls-Royce knew it would never be able to train the large number of people it needed on its own; securing the help of local partners would be critical. Rolls-Royce could have contracted local institutions to do the job, but that would, at best, have rectified the problem in the short term. What Rolls-Royce needed was a sustainable flow of qualified people across a wide range of aero-engineering disciplines. That would only be possible if it was able to catalyse the development of an ecosystem that would harness the potential of local institutions, partners and the Singapore government, and encourage them to invest in new programmes and more training capacity. In order to do so, Rolls-Royce needed to provide a roadmap for how that ecosystem could develop in Singapore.
Rolls-Royce’s potential partners included the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), National Trade Union Congress’ e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), Singapore Airlines Engineering Company, Institute of Technical Education (ITE), and various polytechnics. The company began by laying out a plan for making the training challenge more tractable by minimising the number of tasks each technician would be expected to do, while ensuring that there would be complete equivalence with the company’s quality and standards. Rolls-Royce laid out a roadmap that involved training and recruiting new employees from Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and the polytechnics. Within three years, Rolls-Royce and its joint venture partners would need to employ more than 2,200 trained staff, of which over 85% were expected to be locals. New curriculum materials would need to be developed. A joint programme of internships would have to be set up for students to move between educational partners and Rolls-Royce to gain practical experience during their courses. An aerospace industry-related scholarship fund would have to be established. Rolls Royce set out how one could contribute to these initiatives, including the provision of industry specific education materials, help with curriculum development, internships, and funding. The initial roadmap also suggested how partners might be involved and the benefits they could gain. Sharing this initial roadmap proved important in starting the ecosystem and secured Rolls-
Royce’s leadership: it became the only company in the aerospace industry with a high level of involvement with the ITEs and polytechnic institutes in Singapore. In collaboration with Rolls Royce, Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) established an engineering degree programme in Aeronautical & Aerospace Technology. The company ended up recruiting as much as two thirds of each graduating cohort from all its partner schools.
A roadmap will, of course, evolve as the ecosystem develops; it is, by its very nature dynamic. This evolution will not depend on the actions of the ecosystem leader alone, nor will it be entirely under the leader’s control. Instead, the way the ecosystem develops will depend on the actions of partners, on what they learn, and how they interact among themselves, often independent of the ecosystem leader.
Communicating a roadmap may not always be easy. It is important, therefore, to have several communication platforms that can reach both the foundation partners and potential new partners, some of whom the ecosystem leader might not even be aware could contribute. Social media, networking platforms, and conferences, therefore, all have a role in helping share the roadmap as widely as possible.
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