When was the last time you posted a letter? When was the last time you shopped online?
In a nutshell
- NZ Post have embarked on a journey to transform the business' role in New Zealand society.
- The business is undergoing a cultural shift from inward looking to being an outward focused customer-centric organisation.
- Transformation is a continuous process that continues to evolve as the business evolves. Tethering transformation to a timeline doesn’t allow for new developments outside of your control that will come along as you progress.
If your answer was more recent for the latter, that should give you some insight into why NZ Post have undergone an enterprise-wide transformation programme, rebooting their business to make it fit for the future.
We talked to NZ Post's chief executive David Walsh, and group general manager, customer experience, brand and people, Jo Avenell, about change, leadership and the internet.
Transformation and cultural shifts
Although Walsh only became chief executive in 2017, he was previously chief financial officer, so was able to describe the whole journey starting in June 2013 with the goal of transforming one of the country’s largest employers, a State Owned Enterprise, and owner of some iconic Kiwi symbols, but one most people viewed as a business in inexorable decline.
Building a future business is the sexy end of a transformation process, but before getting to that NZ Post had to face up to the fact that a very big part of their business was indeed in a bad spot.
Over a five-year period letters had dropped from over a billion pieces to less than half that. Few businesses can survive such an aggressively dynamic market shift - imagine losing half your sales volume over such a short period. Plus, NZ Post needed to respond to the decline in this part of its business before it could fund regeneration.
“The transformation drive was our core business, core mail, was getting decimated. And the transformation initially started from how do we ensure that we line up to that challenge of letter decline, right size of cost, operational efficiency, everything you could possibly do to get the business viable as that disruption occurred, ” says Walsh.
It was inevitable that there would be a human cost in staff reductions plus a shift in the skill base and competencies required for the future business.
Avenell was emphatic NZ Post prioritised the handling of this process and its impact on staff, with three core pillars of ensuring people understood why the business had to transform, keeping people informed and using clear and honest communication, and supporting people through the process with a programme.
“We are committed to being very honest and upfront with our people. It is a principle we hold dear and we believed it was important that our people heard the news of change from us as management first, before seeing it in the press. People might not have liked or agreed with the decisions, but I think they by and large trusted that we were doing the right thing," says Avenell.
The other big cultural shift that needed to be managed was to reorient the business from being operationally driven and inward looking to being a twenty-first century customer centric business.
Walsh and his team recognised that to survive and then thrive, they would not only need to find new customers, they would also have to embed a customer experience approach to what they delivered.
He says the company has always been receivers of mail and now they're having to build our capability.
"Not just at our people level but at a technology level, to win work, to win customers, so it really is a transformation around being customer-centric. That really is it.”
The journey or the destination?
Timelines seem important at the beginning of the journey because it creates both a sense of urgency and an end point of arrival at success – if you never arrive it’s hard to feel you have succeeded. For this reason NZ Post set themselves a five-year plan and the end is near - or at least the end of 5 years is near.