Home' acuity : Acuity Oct 14 Contents to the NZ media – presumably by a
nervous employee who could sense
that change (a “c” word that has
pride of place in Moutter’s leadership
lexicon) – which in part outlined
the role that individual units would
play in Telecom’s transformation:
“I’ve charged each member of my
leadership team with getting their
business unit fighting fit to implement
our new strategy as soon as possible –
that means over the next few months.
I’ve told them to question everything
we do, then decide what’s right for
their business unit and for the group as
we realign for the future.”
Spark comprises five core business
groups: Spark Home, Mobile & Business;
Spark Digital; Spark Ventures; Spark
Connect; and Spark Wholesale.
Moutter says silos comprising “tighter
groups” ensure decision making that
enables rapid “organisation-wide”
“Within a silo it is much easier to
define and implement an initiative or
outcome,” he explains.
Moutter says it is up to the chief
executive to ensure that each unit
is accountable and consistent with
“ The accountability rests with each
unit to ensure they get the skills and
resources they need to keep moving.
Each business unit is completely in
charge of taking an initiative through
to the end, but I’m very demanding
when it comes to each unit being
directionally aligned with the rest of
Moutter says collaboration can be
“disabling” in a large organisation and
in some cases become an excuse for
“When you need 30 people to say
‘yes’ for an idea to proceed, but you
only need one to say ‘no’ for everything
to come to a halt, that’s when the well-
intentioned desire for collaboration can
lead to inaction.”
Asked to describe his style of
leadership, Moutter offers “movement”,
unfortunately it is also true that the
times do, as respected management
writer and Financial Times columnist
Gillian Tett explains.
“ The bad news is that the curse of
silos will not be easy to beat. For one
bizarre paradox of the modern age is
that while technology is integrating
the world in some senses... it is
simultaneously creating fragmentation
too,” Tett says.
“And as innovation speeds up, this
is creating a plethora of activities that
are only understood by ‘experts’ in a
silo – be that in finance or in numerous
A CEO with a focus on the customer
is the managing director of NZX-listed
telecommunications company Spark
New Zealand, Simon Moutter CA, who
has headed the telco since 2012.
An independent management
thinker, Moutter does not like to be
pigeonholed, nor does he have much
patience for management fads.
“My approach to management or
leadership is situational,” he told Acuity.
Spark is the former Telecom NZ – the
new name became official on 8 August
and the rebrand is the most visible
sign of a company in transition.
Change has been a constant at the
telco, which traces its roots to the NZ
Post & Telegraph Department formed
in 1881, but arguably nowhere nearly as
dramatic as its most recent past.
Telecom NZ became one of the
first telcos in the world to be fully
privatised in 1990 – seven years before
the first partial privatisation of Telstra
in Australia. In 2011, the network side
of the business was hived off as the
publicly listed Chorus, leaving Telecom
to focus on retail.
Moutter had been Chief Operating
Officer of Telecom between 1999 and
2008, when he left to become CEO of
Auckland International Airport, where
he is credited with transforming the
airport from a “piece of infrastructure”
to a commercially-savvy international
aviation and retail hub.
Moutter’s task as chief executive
of Telecom-cum-Spark was to break
down lingering perceptions of the
company – internally and externally –
as a grey government monopoly and to
transform it into a vibrant, successful,
consumer-focused retailer of phone,
internet and mobile services. And to do
so quickly, sustainably and with impact.
The challenge, he says, dictated his
“ The leadership model has to suit
the situation, and the situation for
us was the need for fundamental
change. Speed and definitiveness were
a lot more important than seeking a
collaborative approach,” Moutter says.
“ The business had been declining for
ten years and my job was to steer it in a
positive direction. That required a bold
adjustment to the business.”
Over the past 18 months, upwards
of 250 major initiatives have been
implemented towards achieving that
change, he says.
In such a hothouse environment,
Moutter’s C-suite has little time
for the “c” words that figure so
prominently in modern management
mantras: collaboration, consensus
and compromise. But true to his
iconoclastic tendencies, he finds favour
in the “s” word – silos.
Not long after he took the helm a
staff memo from the boss was leaked
were a lot more
than seeking a
acuity | OCTOBER 2014
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