Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Management speak

I always like the fact that Don Watson used a number of examples from telcos in his classic critique of management speak Death Sentence.

Today's Crikey prints a staff e-mail from Optus CEO Paul O'Sullivan (aka POS). It reads

From: Paul O'Sullivan -- Chief Executive
Sent: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3:04 PM
To: Optus People Everywhere
Subject: Repositioning Optus for the future

Hi team

Today we are taking another step in our transformation journey. In a highly competitive industry it’s important we are efficient and streamlined. Over the past few months we have reviewed our structure, our capability, our systems and processes, and our cost base. As a result of our review we have made some hard decisions -- to consolidate roles, reduce headcount and reduce operating expenditure. Today we are announcing the removal of 250 roles from across all areas of the business. This will result in around 180 people leaving the company.

We have spoken today with each of the affected individuals to discuss their situation and any alternative employment opportunities. Redundancies will not be voluntary -- they will result from areas where we can flatten our management structure, reduce duplication or streamline the business. To ensure the best personal outcome for those people impacted we have engaged an external provider for counselling and career services.

We have a comprehensive strategy to take us into the future, and we have already delivered a number of major initiatives to prepare us, including the establishment of ODM and release of the first product set including TV Now and Smart Safe. These changes are part of our ongoing transformation to continue our focus on customer experience and support our evolution as a digital services provider. We will communicate more over the coming months on our strategy to enable us to compete in a rapidly changing market and manage growth for the digital future.

Please take time to talk to your manager or HR representative if you have any concerns or questions.


This has all the classic hall-marks - most notably an attempt to sound concerned for people while never really mentioning their contribution. The Watson examples were all about writing to "valued customers" about taking something away.

What I find fascinating is how every telco seems to have as its core ethos "transformation" - this is the ter that David Thodey uses and Paul Broad used to at AAPT. But a transformation is a one-off event that has a starting condition and an ending condition. What telcos use it to mean is a never-ending process that is partially reactive to external change and partly driven by the inability to ever consider all the dimensions of the business and respond to the current "crisis".

Telcos lurch on a rhythmic cycle between focusing on market share or revenue growth, margin growth and cost containment. They never seem to be able to have strategies that address the optimisation of more than one key metric at a time.

The good people at Optus though can rest easy. Their CEO has told them "We will communicate more over the coming months on our strategy to enable us to compete in a rapidly changing market and manage growth for the digital future."

Meanwhile I'm informed by people who have had recent Optus experience that their metrics are just as bad as the Government's Digital Economy ones...what I've critiqued as ordinal rather than cardinal goals. Optus still thinks it wants to "beat Telstra" on things like customer service rather than define what it thinks customers want and then delivering it.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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