The Australian quarrying industry: investigating its strategy-level leadership and the industry’s possible futures toward 2029

Doctorate other than PhD

Sutton, Paul. 2021. The Australian quarrying industry: investigating its strategy-level leadership and the industry’s possible futures toward 2029. Doctorate other than PhD Doctor of Professional Studies. University of Southern Queensland.

The Australian quarrying industry: investigating its strategy-level leadership and the industry’s possible futures toward 2029

TypeDoctorate other than PhD
AuthorSutton, Paul
Supervisorvan der Laan, Luke
Ormsby, Gail
Imran, Sophia
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Professional Studies
Number of Pages295
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Research related to the quarrying industry globally, is very rare. As such there is a lack of evidence-based practice knowledge that informs the development of the industry. The Australian Quarrying Industry is not immune from the lack of evidence informing the leadership, strategy, and futures of the industry. Most related literature can be traced to the mining sector, but the mining sector is materially different to that of the extractive industries. As such, there is a significant need to address this gap in knowledge.

The researcher, as a senior executive in the Australian Quarrying Industry association, sought to address this gap by conducting a work-based research study as an insider researcher. The study was exploratory with the purpose of conducting a futures studies analysis of the Australian Quarrying Industry by 2029. The study adopted a sequential mixed methods design a set of scenarios that would provide a roadmap of possible futures and thereby inform the decision making by leaders at both the organisational and industry levels. Based on the results of the work-based research, the project artefact was an educational institutional blueprint for the industry: The Australian Academy of Quarrying.

The study sought to answer the research question: What are the possible futures of the Australian Quarrying Industry by 2029? In order to answer this question two sub-questions were addressed: What are the foresight and strategic thinking capabilities of current strategy-level leaders in the Australian Quarrying Industry and how may they reflect the possible futures of the industry? And What are the drivers of the future that are associated with the futures of the Australian Quarrying Industry? The study, therefore, had the main aim to develop a set of scenarios illustrating the possible futures of the industry in order to make an original knowledge contribution to professional practice. The purpose of the study was not to predict ‘the future’ of the industry. Rather, it served to increase the scope of future possibilities which would reveal opportunities, threats, desirable outcomes and roadmaps. Scenarios aim to provide a narrative account that is easy to remember and thereby create a ‘memory of the future’ informing future decision making.

The research design included both qualitative and quantitative research methods and assimilated two lines of enquiry. The first line of enquiry was aligned with futures studies methods typically associated with the development of futures scenarios. These included a PESTEEL analysis and Delphi study which identified and triangulated an environmental scan. The environmental scan served to analyse the industry operational environment and identified internal and external drivers of change; trends and patterns of change; linear forecasts, and low likelihood high impact events (wild cards). The second line of enquiry has not been specifically used in scenario planning before. It incorporated the Strategic Leadership theory which states that the cognitions and abilities of leaders are reflected in how organisations and industries evolve in the future. In other words, based on proxy measurements of the cognitions and abilities of leaders, the future of their organisations or industry can be extrapolated. In the case of this study, the latent variables of foresight and strategic thinking capabilities of leaders was measured and used to compliment the scenario development process.

The environmental scan and Delphi study identified key drivers, trends and wild cards across the political, economic, social, technological environmental and legislative dimensions of the quarrying industry’s operational environment. The study expanded the analysis framework to include the ‘ethics’ dimension of the environmental scan. This resulted in significant insights that informed the identification of drivers, trends and wild cards that would inform the scenario development.

The online survey collected quantitative data using previously validated and reliable measurement of foresight and strategic thinking capabilities in leaders. Foresight and strategic thinking are among a broad range of important leader capabilities that inform decision making. However, it is argued in previous studies that these capabilities are closely associated to strategic decision making and therefore notable proxies can be used in terms of applying Strategic Leadership Theory to the development of scenarios.

The quantitative leadership survey measured the industry baseline of the average foresight and strategic thinking capabilities of senior leaders in the industry. The analysis revealed that leaders had a dominant orientation to the present and a dominant ‘adapter’ style of foresight. This is explained by the dynamic nature of the industry and emphasis on optimising daily operations, production and profitability. While the measures revealed that leaders did have the ability to be more futures-orientated, stakeholder expectations, operational demands and industry culture suppressed these capabilities.

The analysis also revealed that the industry leaders primarily relied on analytical outputs in their strategy formulation and decision making. However, strategic thinking theory suggests that both analytical and conceptual inputs to strategy formulation are equally necessary. Conceptual inputs include thinking that is generative, exploratory and creative such as that associated with innovation. This was limited in the analysis and thus the industry baseline.

A traditional four-quadrant matrix approach was used to develop the scenarios. However, in addition to the identification and allocation of drivers, trends and wild cards in the matrix, each scenario was primarily informed by three versions of leaders’ foresight and strategic thinking cognitions and abilities: the industry baseline as measured, an ‘ideal’ industry leader profile and a ‘worsening’ leader profile.

Three scenarios were developed: the 'Same future, same industry', 'Involuntary administration' and 'Smart Quarrying scenarios'. The scenarios informed the formulation of an industry education and talent development blueprint in the form of the Australian Academy of Quarrying aimed toward achieving the talent development objectives associated with the 'Smart Quarrying' scenario.

Numerous limitations of the study were recorded including disciplinary, theoretical, sampling, sample size and researcher bias. Steps that can be taken in future research to address the limitations were noted.

Contributions to knowledge were primarily to professional practice as was the purpose of the study. These included providing evidence-based practice insights that are rare, providing advanced knowledge to inform decision making (especially strategic), providing advanced knowledge to inform professional practice and providing an educational blueprint for industry talent development. The original contributions to theory include utilising empirical measurements of leader cognitions and abilities as an input to scenario development, including strategic leadership theory in mainstream futures studies methods (scenario development), and initial findings toward the development of a Futures Leadership Theory.

Keywordsleadership, capability, scenarios, quarrying, strategic leadership, strategy
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020350709. Organisation and management theory
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
Permalink -

Download files

Published Version
Paul Sutton DPRS Thesis.pdf
File access level: Anyone

  • 186
    total views
  • 171
    total downloads
  • 3
    views this month
  • 4
    downloads this month

Export as