When first stepping into his Chief Executive role at National Grid, Steve Holliday turned to the people around him, specifically the top 70 executives, taking each one aside for a few hours and asking some key questions. “The business was successful, but our investors and other stakeholders thought that we could tidy up the portfolio.

I felt that we weren’t very clear on it. The answers I got confirmed there was a definite lack of clarity and coherence, and our strategy was not something that they could simply describe.

I wanted to listen to a lot of people inside the organisation. I wanted to know their views on our strategy, because “I asked about the style of the organisation, the way in which we went about our business, and what changes they would like to see. I also asked them about me and what sort of CEO they wanted, and, as they all knew me, I asked them what they thought I needed to work on and change. Through those discussions I gained an enormous amount of data, which I could build on.”

Steve then took a look at National Grid’s capabilities, as he wanted to discover what it was that the business really excelled in. “What are we really good at? What are our real core capabilities? Where do we create value, where might there be value in the future?” he asked himself. Those questions led to a focus on energy. In those days the company had a pretty large telecommunications network business as well, both in the UK and in the US. It also had a small business in Australia, and another small business in Argentina.