The lowdown on being chief transformation officer

The Transforming Organisations Panel: Craig Sims, chief operating officer, ANZ Bank New Zealand; Jo Avenell, group GM, people and capability, New Zealand Post Group; Matt Crockett, chief turnaround officer, Telecom; Stephen England-Hall, CEO, Loyalty New Zealand (moderator).

The new norm these days is constant change and 'disruption'. That's the view of Matt Crockett, chief turnaround officer for Telecom New Zealand. The organisation is undergoing massive change, including a brand change to Spark in August.

“The pace of change is not going to let up,” says Crockett. “You need to build change resilience of your leaders and staff."

He says as staff's confidence builds, they start to enjoy the change. “That is the dynamic you want.”

Crockett, who is one of the panellists at the Sustainable Transformation forum of the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, says he has “a lovely title” to go in heading this change. But he does not want it to become “another chief failed turnaround officer”.

Technology is driving the need for change, he states. It is a critical enabler of change, but it can't be the driver. “As soon as you are in a situation where it is a technology driven change programme you are in trouble,” he states. “It has to be a business change programme.”

You need to build change resilience of your leaders and staff. Matt Crockett, Telecom

One of the panellists, Jo Avenell, group general manager, people and capability at the New Zealand Post, says a lot of the changes in the group was driven by technology and meeting the customers' changing needs and choices on how, when and where they want to do business with them.

“People think New Zealand Post is a sunset dying business,” she says. “But when you look across the group, we are anything but [that]. We are transforming every part of the business."

She says research shows 70 per cent of transformation efforts fail largely because of the cultural aspect of change, and not understanding the impact it has on the people.

“It is easy to work out what needs to be done, actually harder is the ‘how’," she says.

The heart of the change is the people, agrees another panellist, Craig Sims, chief operating officer of ANZ Bank.

Sims says he was the “captain of the team” for the ANZ and National Bank merger in 2012.

We are transforming every part of the business. Jo Avenell, NZ Post

“We call ourselves the new ANZ,” he says. The strategy was to simplify the business and have one team looking after the whole organisation. “We have to change the fundamental business model,” he says. The change involved a conversion of the core systems that allowed the bank to streamline the organisation and create a new brand.

“The leadership team has to be unified. If not, you have got a pretty hard road ahead,” says Sims on the basics of implementing change.

Sharing some lessons learned from the merger, he says it is important to have the leadership team define what success will look like. “Map out what are the fundamental issues in the organisation,” he says, and the three to four things that are going to change.

“Get rid of the clutter,” he states. If you know what success looks like, this will help drill down into the "people dynamic" of the change.

From a technical point of view, it is important to understand the scope you are trying to deal with. Then, he says, make sure the team you bring in together is also unified.

It is also important to focus on the people who are going to make the change happen. In ANZ’s case, this means involving the 5000 sales staff who will interact with the customers.

Avenell says NZ Post “put a lot more” on how they work with people who were exiting the business.

She says this focus made a “massive difference” to the process. “That has been an invaluable tool for our leaders, so they feel equipped supported and empowered to help navigate change and they see how we treat the people leaving the organisation.”

Sims agrees, saying people “don’t want spin”. They want the executive team to say here are the issues. “People respond better to you if you go straight talking.”

The leadership team has to be unified. If not, you have got a pretty hard road ahead. Craig Sims, ANZ Bank

He says with the brand change, the bank had to be careful as 3000 people were aware of this even before it was announced to the public.

Sims says these people were brought into a room and told they have a “mission” and what are the issues involved, and that at the end it will be a much stronger organisation.

You will have better buy-in and support for the change process if you are straightforward in what is going on “within commercial reason”, says Sims.

At the same time, Sims says it is important to bring the organisation’s partners and suppliers along, as they are also going through a life changing event. The conversion at ANZ, for instance, moved 2.6 million customer records, 500,000 security records, 80 million transactions and over $42 billion of funds to the new system. “They understood the seriousness of it.”

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6 digital transformation success stories