Technology Article 6: Leveraging an Ambidextrous Operating Model for Future-Focused Success in Mining

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In my role as a Growth focussed executive, I’ve often been asked about how major and mega projects fit within large multi-national organisations and I can confirm it is not an easy proposition. In an environment where production, and cash, is king, how do growth and strategy leaders compete with the short termism of operational daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly targets? That is the subject of another series of blogs, however the challenge is similar in today’s ever-changing business landscape for digital and technology; these initiatives have become essential drivers of strategic, medium to long term success and are competing with the same challenge of short termism.

In today’s dynamic business landscape, mining organisations face the imperative to adapt to disruptive changes and capitalise on their strengths to outpace the competition. Selecting the right strategy and operating model is paramount for achieving sustainable growth. In this article, we will explore the key factors involved in adopting an ambidextrous model, particularly within the mining industry. Our focus will be on the opportunities presented by technology, sustainability, and human capital. We will also underscore the pivotal roles of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Project Officer (CPO) in shaping and implementing this operating model.

Addressing Key Challenges

To effectively navigate the complexities of disruptive changes, organisations must confront challenges while capitalising on their strengths. Effective leadership and change management play a vital role in guiding the organisation through these transitions. By setting clear and coherent strategies, communicating a clear vision, investing in change management initiatives, and fostering an adaptable and innovative culture, organisations can position themselves for success.

Agility and adaptability are critical attributes for thriving in a rapidly evolving environment. Organisations must cultivate a flexible structure that empowers teams and encourages cross-functional collaboration. By dismantling inertia and silos, streamlining processes, and promoting collaboration, organisations foster a culture that embraces agility and adaptability.

Exploitation and Exploration; A Dual Focus for Success

For major mining companies, the adoption of an ambidextrous operating model offers significant advantages. Traditionally, mining operations have been hierarchically structured, focused on short-term goals and operational efficiency. While such a structure generates immediate cash flow and sustains the business, it may hinder the full leverage of disruptive technology opportunities and impede future-focused innovation. To address this, a shift towards an ambidextrous model, combining the aspects of exploitation and exploration, becomes necessary.

The exploitative aspect of the operating model revolves around optimising existing capabilities and assets to leverage an existing market position. This entails maximising productivity, maintaining a competitive edge, and achieving operational efficiency within a short-term time horizon. The hierarchical structure and established processes are well-suited for this purpose.

Conversely, the exploratory aspect of the operating model embraces a future-looking, innovative structure with a flat organisation. It nurtures a culture of experimentation, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. Under the leadership of the CPO, exploration teams are empowered to undertake strategic projects, explore new technologies, implement sustainability initiatives, and drive innovation.

By embracing the ambidextrous model and fostering both exploration and exploitation, mining companies strike a balance between operational efficiency and future-focused innovation. The challenge is ensuring that both exploration and exploitation co-exist and leverage each other, with a galvanised sense of purpose.


Attracting and Retaining Diverse Talent

The adoption of an ambidextrous operating model presents a unique advantage in attracting and retaining a diverse talent pool. Traditional hierarchical structures may hinder innovation and limit opportunities for individuals to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas. In contrast, an ambidextrous model fosters a culture of collaboration, open communication, and empowerment, making it more appealing to a diverse workforce.

Embracing diversity brings forth a range of skills, experiences, and viewpoints. This diversity fuels creativity, enhances problem-solving abilities, and fosters innovation. It equips organisations with the adaptability required to address new challenges and ensure long-term success.

Sustainability Over the Long Term; Achieving a Responsible Future

The adoption of an ambidextrous operating model contributes to the long-term sustainability of mining companies. By balancing short-term profitability with future-focused innovation and growth, organisations can navigate evolving market dynamics, address environmental and social concerns, and seize emerging opportunities.

The exploitative arm of the operating model ensures stability and cash flow, which are essential for sustaining operations and for funding growth. Simultaneously, the exploratory arm drives innovation and prepares the organisation for future disruptions. By harmoniously integrating these two facets, mining companies develop agility, adaptability, and resilience in the face of uncertainty.

The Role of the CTO in the Ambidextrous Model

In leveraging an ambidextrous operating model, the role of the CTO becomes pivotal. The CTO’s responsibility extends beyond implementing technology solutions; they strategically harness innovation and digital transformation to drive long-term success. By identifying disruptive technologies, exploring their potential applications, and integrating them into the organisation’s operations, the CTO plays a key role in driving transformational change. Collaborating with the CPO, they align technological advancements and project strategies, creating an environment that fosters innovation and embraces change.

The Role of the CPO in Transformational Change

The CPO plays a vital role in leveraging the ambidextrous model through their focus on transformational change and project management expertise. By aligning project strategies with the organisation’s vision and goals, the CPO ensures effective execution and delivery of desired outcomes. This includes project selection, resource allocation, risk management, and alignment with the overall strategic direction. Collaborating with the CTO, they cultivate an innovative environment that encourages employees to embrace change and drive forward-looking initiatives.

The Role of the COO and CFO in Ensuring Exploitation and Sustainability

While the CTO and CPO are instrumental in driving innovation and transformational change, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) play crucial roles in ensuring the success of the exploitative aspects of the operating model and the overall sustainability of the organisation.

The COO oversees day-to-day operations, ensuring the efficient utilisation of existing capabilities and assets. They focus on maximising production, optimising processes, and delivering revenue. The COO’s role is essential in maintaining the exploitative arm of the ambidextrous model, ensuring smooth operations and generating the necessary cash flow to fund the exploratory efforts of the CTO and CPO.

Simultaneously, the CFO manages the organisation’s financial resources. They are responsible for budgeting, forecasting, and allocating funds to various aspects of the business, including both exploitative and exploratory endeavours. The CFO ensures that financial decisions align with the overall strategy and support the long-term sustainability of the organisation.

Navigating the Future

By adopting an ambidextrous operating model and leveraging the expertise of the CTO and CPO, mining organisations position themselves to navigate the future successfully. They can harness the potential of technology, sustainability, and human capital to drive innovation, optimise operations, and deliver long-term value. By fostering a culture of agility, adaptability, and project excellence, mining companies can embrace the challenges and opportunities of the future, ensuring their continued success in a rapidly changing world.


In conclusion, the adoption of the right strategy and operating model is crucial for mining organisations aiming to thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape. By addressing key challenges, nurturing effective leadership, and adopting an ambidextrous model, organisations can remain productive and efficient in the short term whilst cultivating a culture of agility, innovation, and adaptability for future success. By embracing the future with a focus on technology, sustainability, and people, mining companies position themselves as drivers of change, ready to seize opportunities and overcome challenges on the path to long-term success.


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