Chess Dynamics

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Chess Dynamics's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Chess Dynamics is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Graham Beall, CEO and founder
Quadrant House,
Chess’s headquarters
Chess Dynamics Ltd is a specialist electromechanical,
electro-optical engineering company that designs and
manufactures military, naval and high-end security
surveillance systems. It is a small to medium-sized enterprise,
employing 130 people at three sites. The following review article
was written by its founder and CEO, Graham Beall, and provides
an overview of what the company does and how it does it.
We are a company that encapsulates that indefinable term “crown capability”, the
loss of which will cause immense damage to the country’s ability to remain self-
sufficient and not be reliant on other nations for the provision of high-tech defence
systems. Some may regard this as misplaced loyalty to the government (which
has sought to reduce the size and importance of the defence sector, preferring to
source from abroad instead); but within the sector itself there remains a caucus of
companies who are happy to rise to the occasion when called, while maintaining
key, core capabilities without which the country would become highlyexposed.
The journey
Chess Dynamics celebrates 25 years in the defence manufacturing sector, having
started life as a specialist fabrication machine producer for the semi-conductor
and electronics industries. In this time the company has grown from a business
that manufactured specific, definable products to one that designs and integrates
specialist surveillance systems. Growth has been pretty steady but was limited
and entirely dependent on the health and success of Defence Prime Contractors
and Tier 1 system solution providers. Diversification into system design and the
»CEO and founder: Graham
»Incorporated in 1993
»Based in Horsham, West
Sussex; Plymouth, Devon; and
Wokingham, Berkshire
»Services: Supply of electro-
optical and electromechanical
surveillance systems
»No. of employees: 130
»Turnover: Around £20 million
»ISO 9000 accredited
»Supporter of the Armed Forces
Chess Dynamics
acquisition of the necessary skills to
deliver it has accelerated growth in the
past three years, doubling turnover in
the past year alone.
Quantifying that elusive description,
“best practice”, is hard to pin down,
but underpinning everything that Chess
Dynamics does is a belief of “yes, we
can do that” and “how can we help
solve your problem?” Having a positive,
imaginative and infinitely flexible
approach towards electromechanical
engineering problem-solving has meant
that Chess Dynamics has become
the go-to company for innovative
solutions. This may be saving lives at
sea, protecting troops deployed on
operations or, at home, defending
critical national infrastructure from the
malicious use of drones. Either way,
taking on and solving challenges that
other engineering companies wouldn’t
touch has meant that Chess’s profile
has grown from someone who “makes
up the numbers in the supply chain” to
“one whose solutions are used to set
requirements from the outset”.
The journey from product producer to
system provider over the past 25 years
has been complex, difficult at times,
breaking barriers, and required winning
trust through force of argument and
excellence of solution, all while being
viewed with suspicion and some
degree of envy. Fighting entrenched
attitudes and prejudice against the SME
has been frustrating, but has equally
provided the spur of encouragement
and desire to win. In this year of the
RAF’s 100thanniversary, it is perhaps
appropriate to use their motto, “per
ardua adastra”.
The will to win
Harnessing and focusing enthusiasm
and curiosity, combined with
maintaining a desire to win, is the
motivating force behind Chess’s recent
growth. What defines best practice
in a small company operating in a
niche sector is as follows: a dogged
determination never to be beaten, while
at all times wanting the best solution
for operators. Those operators, that is,
whose lives depend on the effectiveness
and reliability of the equipment they
operate and we manufacture.
Respect and appreciation
In many respects, Chess Dynamics is
a small family. There is trust in the
hierarchy; everyone from the CEO
downwards is treated as an individual
– their opinions respected and the role
they play in the company appreciated.
One of the production
How can we
help solve
Highlighting best practice
Much of this respect is down to the
fact that the CEO gets his hands dirty
on the shop floor and likes nothing
better than cutting metal. Though
it may be hard for someone on a
production line to appreciate that the
boss may know more about his job
than he perhaps may like, the fact
remains that engineering is the CEO’s
DNA and that is respected.
Fostering talent and
maintaining reputation
An old-school belief in giving the young
a start in life, fostering talent and
offering generous apprenticeships is at
the heart of Chess’s modus operandi.
Even before the government’s drive to
increase the level of apprenticeships,
Chess recognised that one has to
identify and train the workforce,
recognising that one is never going
to hold on to all one’s trainees, but
realising that with the right start many
of the trainees will return. Recognising
and rewarding excellence generates
not only pride in individuals but faith
and pride in the company, along with
a subtle respect that delivered wisdom
is there to be challenged. Equally, there
is an understanding that hard-built
reputations have to be maintained
and that lapses in performance and
reliability can see these reputations
evaporate overnight.
Understanding what the
customer wants and delivering
What is best practice? Understanding
what the customer wants and building
to his specification; building personal
relationships and maintaining them;
showing willingness and an aptitude
to listen; and knowing when to walk
away and doing it with respect brings
dividends. Knowledge that customers
do not like being preached to is also
important. This is ignored at one’s
peril, particularly when dealing with
customers in new and emerging
markets. In a company where 80 per
cent of the revenue is derived from
export, this characteristic assumes ever
greater importance and, what’s more,
it builds a loyal client base.
Resilience, self-belief, nerve
and forward thinking
Success is fickle – it is in part self-belief,
part resilience and part trust in your
subordinates. Above all, though, it is
understanding and anticipating where
the capability gaps are going to appear
– filling or bridging those gaps and
having robust solutions ready when
the market wakes up to them. Of
primary importance also is having the
nerve to take the risk, and that comes
from the top. More often than not, it is
export customers that recognise these
shortfalls faster than the home market
and are first tomove.
Summary and conclusion
Generating respect among one’s peers
is hard won. Maintaining respect
is harder still. Chess has a great
reputation for supplying innovative
surveillance solutions. Its size works
for it; it is agile, responsive and quick.
These characteristics, while admirable,
are also seen as threatening to the
defence manufacturing establishment.
They shouldn’t be; they are entirely
complementary and above all else have
the security of this great nation of ours
at heart.
Chess has a
reputation for
Our counter-UAV
defence system, AUDS.
“Filling a capability gap”

This article was sponsored by Chess Dynamics. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister