Forum: What’s the game plan and why should we care, Paul?

Telecom seems to steadfastly avoid any attempt to actually inspire people, either internally or externally

There was something oddly familiar about Telecom’s latest uninspiring half-year results presentation this month.

It reminded me of Telstra a few years ago, just after Sol Trujillo took over as CEO. Many of the messages were similar, about transformation and a renewed focus on the customer.

But there were also significant differences and not just in the fact that Telecom is in the midst of operational separation. Most different was the manner in which these messages were communicated.

When Trujillo took the reins at Telstra, a few months passed as he got his feet under the table. Then he called stakeholders together, outside of the reporting cycle, to present his plan for the company.

A huge space was booked on the edge of Sydney Harbour and shareholders, analysts and media were invited to hear details of what Trujillo would do to drive Australia’s biggest telco forward into a new converging telecommunications environment.

Stakeholders in Telecom, and I use the term “stakeholders” in its broadest sense, could do with similar treatment. What’s the game-plan, Paul, and why should we care?

Telecommunications is a vital part of our infrastructure and Telecom sits astride that market. Ideally, future New Zealand telecomms markets will be healthy and competitive and in the middle of it will be a healthy and competitive Telecom, delivering globally competitive services in both price and quality.

Despite the tendency to Telecom bash, a totally understandable one given the company’s execution and intransigence over the past few years, we need a healthy Telecom.

I follow the company, but I have no idea what its mission is. I have deep reservations about the way it communicates. It seems to steadfastly avoid any attempt to actually inspire people, either internally or externally. We are more than clever toys.

At heart these are cultural problems and cultural problems are the hardest to address. But they need to be addressed and Telecom has to talk straight and deliver clear and detailed messages about what the company is now, what it wants to be and how it’s going to get there.

I don’t want to hold Telstra up as some kind of role model in this. That company has its own issues. But it has developed an unmistakable voice and it uses it loudly and often.

Telecom’s customers and the people of New Zealand are one in the same. Telecom should talk a lot about New Zealand and what it wants to do for us, what it wants to deliver and how it can contribute to our economic and social journey.

Then it has to steadfastly set out to deliver those things.

It needs, in short, to engage with us in more than just financials. If it does that, it might just find the revenue starts flowing too.

CEO Paul Reynolds got off to a good start on some of this stuff, but his honeymoon period is now ending. Now he needs to tell us what the plan is. He also needs to tell us why we should care.

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