Chorus is New Zealand’s largest telecommunications infrastructure company. Its mission is Connecting Aotearoa so that we can all live, learn, work and play and it does this by building and maintaining NZ’s fixed-line telecommunications network. Chorus has delivered the majority (~ 70%) of New Zealand’s Ultra-Fast Broadband network, however with this task now largely completed, the organisation is moving from network builder to operator. This brings about a raft of changes, both internally and externally including a new regulatory model, new customer behaviours and expectations, new technologies and changing market needs. This case study outlines how Chorus is adapting to a changing environment.
“What took us on the adaptive journey was the fact that we are moving into a different phase of our organisation and therefore we need to reflect that in the way we are working. What we've really liked about the Radically team is that they took the time to listen to us, understand the circumstances, the things that we wanted to do, our priorities, and they really adjusted their model to that. That is something that we've really appreciated.” - JB Rousselot, CEO
Chorus redeveloped its strategy for the new “post-UFB build” environment but was well aware that strategy alone was not enough. While the previous ways of working had served Chorus well to date, a new approach was needed to be successful in the future. Chorus saw an opportunity to execute its strategy more effectively through new and different tools, mindsets and behaviours. They saw an opportunity to be a more adaptive business. They had tried adaptive and agile techniques previously, however one of the biggest challenges was that it was too evangelistic or too “one size fits all”. Until they met Radically, who took a pragmatic approach and tailored the ways of working to meet Chorus’ needs.
Radically’s work started with the executive. Through a blend of workshops, site visits, and education, we helped the executive team develop a vision that anchored the work on a clear goal: better execution of strategy. This goal became a top priority focus for the entire executive team.
From the outset, our approach was based on culture and mindset, with a focus on increasing organisational strengths in three key areas:
Organisations are complex systems and to properly understand them, a system-wide view is required. To achieve this, we wanted to test what did and didn’t work. Together, we helped Chorus select a series of business initiatives that could be run in a new and different way. These were not trivial projects – they were major strategic initiatives that were vitally important to Chorus.
Using a structured process, Radically stood up new mission-based Tribes for three of the key strategic initiatives. This involved:
To support these initiatives Radically also established the Adaptive Organisation Tribe – a team of experienced Chorus people who would observe progress and key learnings and use this to help shape Chorus to adapt to a changing environment. Radically provided leadership, expertise, and guidance throughout, working closely with the executive team to help them support the new approach. Radically also designed and co-delivered an organisation wide capability & awareness programme to help all Chorus people understand and support the change.
Quicker momentum to get things moving, clarity across teams of who is doing what, better ownership of outcomes - David Collins, former CFO
The pilot was a resounding success and all three Tribes successfully delivered their strategic outcomes. It also created something important – an opportunity for previously untapped talent to bubble to the surface, offering new opportunities for Chorus people to take ownership and grow. The pilot also highlighted some challenges in the business, creating opportunities for improvement. Working more cross-functionally also helped build understanding and empathy across functions, supporting a more diverse & inclusive culture.
As a result of the pilot, the next round of strategic initiatives were all set in a similar way, with ways of working customised specifically to their particular type of work.
How Chorus is adapting to a changing environment
Our ambition was always to create an environment where people could actually choose this change for themselves, rather than telling them what to do, we put it back on them and it's happened quicker than we expected. Hannah Croft - Tribe Lead of Adaptive Organisation
A year after starting the Adaptive journey, Chorus refined it’s strategy with Adaptive being a key pillar that shapes “how” the strategy will be delivered. With a deeper understanding of the value of new tools and practices, leaders gained insights into the strengths of the organisation along with the gaps that needed to be addressed. While some of these were pre-existing, other gaps were highlighted by the new ways of working.
This informed the next steps, which included
All of this was underpinned by recognising the biggest opportunity lay in Chorus unlocking the potential of its people. To support this, Radically and Chorus co-created Evolving Leaders – a bespoke leadership programme. Currently, cohort one has completed the programme and cohort two is underway. The aspiration is that all Chorus people leaders will go through the programme. While the programme builds fantastic new leadership skills and tools, the true value rests in how these leaders approach leading their teams, so that they become the champions of change in the long term.
They are the coach with a bit of edge. They are not about being nice, but they are here to push us in the right direction, and that sometimes feels uncomfortable, but it shows that they are doing the right thing - Shaun Philp, CPO
Chorus continues to apply adaptive ways of working to better prioritise & deliver strategic priorities and collaborate across the business. With increased awareness of what is possible, along with a clearer understanding of the organisational challenges, leaders are continually improving the business.
Adaptive ways of working, alongside a strong commitment to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, is now a key strategic enabler for Chorus. With this new experience, the organisation is well positioned to continue learning, showing the NZ business community what is possible.