Petrochemicals / China / CSPC (Shell and CNOOC)


Management skills development, individual coaching, process consulting, intercultural cooperation, in-house coach development, localization


Petrochemicals Production - China


CSPC - a joint venture of Shell Petrochemicals and China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC)

The Task:

CSPC invested US$ 4.3 Billion to build a new factory. The challenges that the new company faced were to build a plant in a rural area, commission and start it up on time, safely with no incidents or injuries, causing no damage to the sensitive local environment, whilst meeting exacting international quality standards and demanding performance criteria expected by shareholders and international lending institutions. Additionally the company had to recruit nearly 1,500 staff from 23 Chinese provinces as well as around 600 expatriates from 16 countries and create a modern industrial organization, competent to take over, start up and operate its assets and capable of world class performance.

From the outset the vision was to become a modern, international company based in China, applying international best practices throughout the business. This was critical as the plant had to operate with roughly a tenth of the usual staff of a Chinese state controlled business and with a high degree of diversity of the workforce.  In order to achieve this vision the CEO emphasized that the development of the people was as important to the success of the project as the preparation of the physical plant.

The Solution:

At the start of the project a critical success factor was established: A single and common company culture had to be created that is based on the values of integrity and openness, learning and continuous improvement, teamwork and personal responsibility, equity and fairness. Behaviors had to be developed that support these values.

Coverdale proposed and implemented a cyclical approach: The entire project was set up in three major phases with frequent reviews and fine-tuning of detailed aims and success criteria between and during the phases.

Phase One - Setting the model and building the foundation:

Phase one included three distinct steps and during the first step Coverdale worked with the senior management team to:

  • Gain more clarity about aims, determine measurable success criteria and identify other critical success factors;

  • Deepen the understanding of the new company's values and the behaviors that would support them;

  • Develop these behaviors with the management team, so that they can set the model for the new organization;

  • To experience and learn some of the tools and techniques that would be introduced to the workforce;

  • Develop a plan for rapid localization of the program to transfer ownership to the local workforce and ensure acceptance;

  • To develop a communication strategy and plan.

Coverdale deployed a combination of process consulting, Coverdale facilitation techniques, the Coverdale inductive learning model and individual coaching as well as Coverdale's in-house coach development program to achieve these aims.

The second step focused on the development of a team of in-house coaches and lead coaches. Sixteen staff members were trained to deliver workshops to the workforce and to support people back in the workplace, so that after an initial phase Coverdale could hand over the program to the client.

Based on the defined aims and success criteria as well as the learning from the initial work Coverdale then designed three and four-day workshops for the entire workforce. The workshops were based on Coverdale's Inductive Learning model and aimed to improve management skills such as reviewing to improve, time management, planning and co-operating with others. The program also provided a common method for working, so that the great variety of working experience across the workforce could be successfully integrated.

Coverdale's main involvement concluded at the end of phase one with the delivery of a series of these workshops. At the end of each workshop staff were given tasks to be completed back at work to ensure successful learning transfer. 

Phase Two - Consolidation:

The purpose of this phase was to ensure implementation was going according to plan and that quality standards were met.

During this phase, which at the time this case study is written is still ongoing, CPSC in-house coaches have taken over the delivery of workshops from Coverdale. Coverdale is now supporting the implementation through virtual support for the audit of the results and to ensure the quality of the delivery. To enable the measurement of the application of the learning from the workshops and to ensure sustainability several steps have been implemented:

  • Review days with participants 8 to 10 weeks after the workshop.

  • Incorporation of specific questions regarding the program in the annual employee survey.

  • The development of an intranet site to provide additional tools and program information.

Phase Three - Sustained performance improvement:

The purpose of this phase is to review, assess and propose next steps, resulting in new aims, criteria and timescales. This phase is still ongoing and CSPC is well set to continue the journey on becoming a world class operation. Coverdale's involvement concluded and was delivered under budget.

The Outcome

"The plant start up when swimmingly - commercial products were available for the market almost exactly as planned, with no HSE incidents or injuries and meeting both shareholder and customer expectations", according to Steve Johnson, Start Up Manager CSPC.

Steve continues to confirm the insight that for this project people development is as critical as building the actual plant:

 "(...) Everything didn't go exactly according to plan - and this is where the preparation and development of the staff really paid off. They coped well with deviations from plan, analyzing situations together, developing contingency measures and making timely decisions at appropriate levels in the organization. I am proud of them for what they have achieved and the way they achieved it. Our investment in staff development and the work invested by Coverdale made a significant contribution to the successful start up."