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Empowering by Design

Success is built on fluidity, accountability and the capacity of employees to operate without fear of failure. We look at how the world’s largest and most successful organisations have integrated empowerment into their DNA, and how this impacts the rest of their operations.

3 min

Decentralised Success



Decentralised Success

Collaboration is critical, but it’s also tough to deliver. Australian business has a serious problem: productivity has fallen by an average of 0.6 per cent a year for the past seven years, according to Deloitte.

This means Australia’s performance is worse than most other developed economies.

That same Deloitte research, found that only about 33 per cent of Australian organisations were genuinely innovative, down 41 per cent on the previous year.

The study’s authors also discovered the main difference between fast-growth companies and the laggards was a collaborative corporate culture.

The message is simple: fast-growing companies make strategic use of a collaboration to stay ahead of competitors.

Change is hard

Although business leaders know they need to become more agile and decentralised in order to become more innovative, many are understandably reticent to embark on a transformation process.

Harvard Business School professor John Kotter observed back in the mid 1990s that nearly 70 per cent of large-scale transformation programs fail to meet their goals; a finding which has been replicated in virtually every study ever since.

The main challenge is that innovation requires empowerment, empowerment requires decentralised decision making, decentralised decision making requires organisational transformations, and organisational transformations are hard to get right.

Despite assertions to the contrary, people aren’t against change – they are against royal edicts. The alternative: change that’s rolled up, not rolled out.”
– McKinsey & Company analysts Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini

McKinsey & Company analysts Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini have picked up on this idea and made transformation the focus of much of their research and commentary.

“The reality is that today’s organisations were simply never designed to change proactively and deeply –they were built for discipline and efficiency, enforced through hierarchy and routinisation,” say Hamel and Zanini. “As a result, there’s a mismatch between the pace of change in the external environment and the fastest possible pace of change at most organisations. If it were otherwise, we wouldn’t see so many incumbents struggling to intercept the future.”

Socially constructed success

To succeed in an era of constant change, the McKinsey research suggests that companies need change platforms, not change programs, and that collaboration rather than command-and-control needs to be the watchword.

Hamel and Zanini say employees simply will not embrace prescribed change. “A change effort must be socially constructed in a process that gives everyone the right to set priorities, diagnose barriers, and generate options,” they argue. “Despite assertions to the contrary, people aren’t against change – they are against royal edicts. The alternative: change that’s rolled up, not rolled out.”

Success Stories

Although many change programs struggle to get off the ground, there are also significant success stories. In 2013, the UK public health body the National Health Service developed and implemented NHS Change Day, described as the biggest improvement effort in the organisation’s history. Using social media tools, the NHS got more than 189,000 people to commit to take action to change health outcomes. The following year the number grew to 800,000.

In a similar vein at US-based medical device company Nuvasive the entire company “hacked” the customer-fulfilment process, via associates from around the globe working with a group of volunteers to develop a common view of the problem along with initiatives to improve outcomes.


These approaches allow for the diffusion of decision making, but require a highly engaged leadership team – starting with the chief executive, says Malcolm Alder, co-founder of Sydney-based strategy firm Orchestrate and a former partner for digital economy at KPMG.

“Leadership by demonstration is critical,” Alder says. “The big question has to be: Does the CEO commit visibly by using collaborative solutions once they are in place? If not, then people lower in the organisation who think it’s a good idea can legitimately ask: ‘Why aren’t you using it?’”

During his time at KPMG, Alder saw firsthand the power of collaboration and workplace democratisation.

“KPMG has an internal crowdsourcing problem-solving platform,” he says. “The company can post a client challenge internally, often for a relatively short period of, say, 48 hours, and garner hundreds of responses. To be able to draw on that level of intellectual horsepower at low cost has definitely proved to be very effective.”

Social business consultancy Kinship Enterprise has developed specialist knowledge in enterprise social networking. “When internal social networks – collaboration platforms – are deployed, everyone again has a voice, and an equal voice,” says Kinship’s general manager, Victoria, Walter Adamson.

Rather than being prescribed, Adamson says “leadership emerges by actions”.


The case for collaboration

Need to boost productivity? Collaboration is crucial:

  • Companies growing faster than their competition say collaboration is a critical component of their corporate strategy
  • Harness your workforce’s intellectual horsepower by creating a social-media type system on which you can post challenges for staff to solve
  • Companies need change platforms not change programs – collaboration rather than command and control is the key
  • The diffusion of decision making and workplace democratisation demands highly engaged leadership – starting with the chief executive.
2 min

Empowerment 101



Empowerment 101

In the old days, offices were organised hierarchically. Management typically occupied the top floor. The lower your floor number, the further down the organisational chart you were.

However, a new way of organising workplaces is emerging. Activity-based working brings teams together in flexible workspaces that accommodate collaboration but also offer workspaces where people can work individually.

“It’s changing the traditional office,” explains Telstra senior business consultant Stuart Kirkby. “It’s about ensuring that people have engaging workspaces for performing specific tasks.”

Making the transition to activity-based working isn’t just about creating a funky new office. It’s a journey that everyone embarks on and moves through together.

So, how can you make that journey?

1) Understand why you’re making the journey

Activity-based working is just one component of employee empowerment. “It’s an enabler,” explains Kirkby. “It’s not a driver – strategically you need to be careful not to blend enablement with empowerment.”

In Kirkby’s experience, simply setting aside space in the office and buying some cool new furniture won’t empower your teams. It will, however, allow teams who are empowered to work more effectively.


2) Ownership

Telstra’s director of unified communications and collaboration practice, Gwilym Funnell, believes people are empowered when they have a say in the outcome of the task on which they are working.

“The most important part of empowerment is ownership of developing the outcome you’re trying to achieve rather than just delivering the outcome,” Funnell says.

This can be challenging as the strategy may have been developed and dictated by higher levels of management. “It’s really making sure that anybody who’s working on something feels that they do actually own the decision of how to do it,” Funnell adds. “That’s one of the key starting points.”

3) Flexibility

Activity-based working requires a flexible view of how and when people work. For companies working across multiple time zones using skills from many disciplines at different times, it doesn’t make sense to embark on an activity-based workplace and expect everyone to work a conventional nine-to-five day.

Team members need to be able to move in and out of the activity-based workspace as needed. That means managers should be goal-oriented rather than attendance-focused.

4) Incremental changes

More than 2500 years ago, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. In other words, long processes need to be executed in user-friendly chunks.

“You can make a gentle shift to being goals or outcomes-based,” Kirkby explains. “You don’t have to suddenly let go and make the change in 12 months.”

To empower people, managers need to create a working environment in which trust, respect and freedom are key values. People need to be taken on the journey so they can assimilate the internal changes they need to make in order to accommodate the workplace changes.

It’s really making sure that anybody who’s working on something feels that they do actually own the decision of how to do it.”
– Director of Telstra’s unified communications and collaboration practice, Gwilym Funnell

5) Celebrate the wins

“The more people see the behaviour of empowered teams, the more infectious it becomes,” Funnell says. As people see the benefits and success, their understanding of activity-based working increases.

“People learn not just from lessons and being told what they need to do, but from observing,” says Funnell. “Raise the visibility of the cultural change and look at the teams that are doing it well and those that are less successful. Then work out how to help those that are not doing as well.”


Creating a single strategy for people, workspace and technology transformation:

  • Activity based working is a potential component of a Future Ways of Working (FWoW) strategy, but every business is different
  • FWoW aligns culture, work practices and the tools people need with the strategic goals of the business
  • A FWoW strategy helps organisations to improve core performance whilst responding to the changing needs and expectations of their workforce – increasingly staff expect to be empowered, and allowed to work flexibly.

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1 min

5 Steps to Hybrid Happiness



5 Steps to Hybrid Happiness

The cloud has been the most important change in how companies and individuals conduct business over the past decade. Companies no longer need to buy expensive hardware and deploy complex applications: today, they can rent the services and access them on demand.

One of the main challenges companies face is the need to maintain internally hosted systems and make them work with cloud services. Although the cloud promises a great deal, moving to a cloud-only IT infrastructure can take some time. This means you’ll be working with a hybrid infrastructure: some services will still be held locally, while others are hosted in the cloud.

Broad partnership ecosystem

Telstra has partnered with leading IT vendors to offer platform-agnostic cloud services for a wide variety of businesses. As a result of these partnerships, Telstra offers a single, integrated hybrid cloud offering that simplifies the process of transitioning internal systems to the cloud.

For many companies, a hybrid cloud environment preserves investments in high-value legacy systems through the ability to access mission critical data and workflow processes. At the same time, new cloud services can speed the time-to-market for new products and seize new market opportunities.

“There’s a shift from consuming IT-based components from inside your business to consuming them as raw materials then building your own solutions, or having someone build the solutions for you,” says Erez Yarkoni, Telstra’s newly-appointed Chief Information Officer.

The hybrid cloud isn’t just about infrastructure: it is many things, such as software-as-a-service and platforms that are extended as a service”
– Telstra’s Chief Information Officer Erez Yarkoni

Five-step transition process

The transition doesn’t happen overnight – it needs a keen eye to ensure that the right solutions are chosen to meet the business’ needs.

Yarkoni suggests following a five-step process in moving towards a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

  1. Conduct a full audit of software processing and storage requirements to assess which hybrid solution will best fit your business – then match the hybrid model to your requirements
  2. Gain a deep understanding of peaks and troughs of demand, and how workloads vary over the seasons
  3. Look for solutions and technologies which complement your existing technology and make sure you know how the systems will connect before selecting a technology
  4. Ask all service providers how simple the systems are to control and manage to minimise stress on the IT team
  5. Seek technologies and service providers which offer a smooth transition from existing network structures to the hybrid model.

Hybrid cloud means you can:

  • Make the transition into cloud services at a pace that’s right for your business
  • Access a mixture of excellent technologies without being locked into to a single vendor
  • Combine different technologies within a single system management interface
  • Dial up and dial down storage and processing power according to seasonal requirements
  • Maintain IT resources within a secure perimeter.

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2 min

The future of healthcare is now



The future of healthcare is now

Providing access to quality healthcare to people across the community has always been a challenge. Simple services such as diagnostics, pathology and monitoring of chronic diseases have been difficult to deliver to people in remote areas, or those who are not able to travel due to age or disability.

However, thanks to a combination of innovative technologies, and creative medical researchers all this is beginning to change.

Fast forward

Over the coming years, the way individuals access healthcare services and professionals will change considerably. Telstra’s chief scientist, Hugh Bradlow, has pinpointed five emerging trends that will change the way health will be managed.

1. Individuals will manage their own health records

By combining the results of medical tests with wellness data such as activity, diet and sleep quality, patients will have greater control of their health data and be able to shop around for experts to better manage their health and wellbeing.

2. Data and analytics will be used to improve personal and community health

With so much data being collected, it will be possible to aggregate it anonymously and conduct big data analysis that could be used to look at both broad population trends and improve diagnostics at the individual level.

3. Complex medical devices will be consumerised and commodified

Medical scientists are finding new ways to identify biological markers; for example, and in some cases, blood tests can be replaced by analysis of perspiration.

4. The cost of genome sequencing will plummet

When the first full human genome sequence was completed in 2000 it took about 10 years and cost about $3 billion, according to Bradlow. Today it costs just a few hundred dollars and can be done in hours.

5. Individuals will have access to health professionals independently of location

Continuous improvements in connectivity, communications tools such as high-resolution video-conferencing equipment and better medical measurement tools mean people will be able to choose their preferred healthcare provider regardless of location.


Pointing to a solution

Remote healthcare provision is already a reality for many Australians:

  • Vital health data for patients with chronic conditions can now be tracked and shared directly with healthcare professionals using platforms such as MyHealthPoint and new measurement devices developed and/or integrated by Entra Health Systems. HCF, the largest not-for-profit health insurer in Australia, has partnered with Telstra to offer services using MyHealthPoint to its members on the MyHealthGuardian program. Data from Bluetooth or Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as glucometers, thermometers, blood pressure monitors and oximeters, which measure blood-oxygen levels, is gathered and tracked through the MyHealthPoint platform. This service empowers doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers to remotely track patient progress and intervene to help prevent critical episodes.
  • In mid-2015 Telstra Health will also launch ReadyCare, Australia’s first purpose-built 24/7 definitive telemedicine service for diagnosis, prescriptions, care and treatment.

Data and analytics is also being used to provide quality care:

  • The Quality Investigator tool provides measurement, variation analysis and clinical benchmarking so health departments and hospitals can make data-driven decisions on patient care.

Telstra Health

At Telstra Health we believe that every person of every age, and in every corner of Australia, should enjoy the best possible health care. We call it a brilliant connected healthcare future for everyone. That’s why we’re connecting patients, healthcare workers, hospitals, pharmacies and health funds to build a safer, more convenient way to manage our health – with patients at the centre.



Find out more at: www.telstra.com/health or call us on 1800 HEALTH.

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3 min

Empower the customer



Empower the customer

As social media and smart mobility become ubiquitous, brands have an opportunity to bring their customers into the heart of the creative process.

This is especially so in the Asia-Pacific region with its fast-growing and younger populations who are beginning to capture a greater share of the world’s wealth. Remarkably, success can come rapidly when brands listen closely to their clients.

So for chief marketing officers, what does success look like? Here are four campaigns that truly moved the dial by bringing customers into the heart of the story.

1) #SPCSunday

When iconic Australian food brand SPC Ardmona was threatened with closure, the company and its marketing partners immediately recognised the potential to tap into the deep well of local community sentiment and support for a company that provided 3000 local jobs.

Reinforcing customer sentiment as expressed on social media delivered a powerful outcome for SPC: 15 million Twitter impressions were generated in four days and the attendant publicity generated $5 million in earned media. By comparison, SPC only had to spend $2500 on paid media.

The real improvement, however, was in the bottom line: SPC fruit sales increased 60 per cent; the company sealed a new, five-year, $70 million deal with Australia’s largest supermarket chain; and the government chipped in with $22 million in funding to secure the company’s future.

Take away: customer-generated gems are already out there – but you have to listen to find them.

2) The People’s Car

Volkswagen took co-creation to a new level when it asked consumers to help it design a new car. And consumers loved the idea – more than 30 million people got involved. The project morphed into a 10-part online series through which an average of 1.2 million people per episode watched the car come to life. Ultimately, they saw the seven-seater multipurpose vehicle launched as a concept car at the 2013 Shanghai auto show.

The People’s Car became a top 10 trending topic on Chinese microblogging site Weibo and the company registered an increase of almost 20 per cent in intent to purchase Volkswagen vehicles. Like the #SPCSunday campaign, the impressive results saw the People’s Car campaign shortlisted for a Spikes Asia creative communications award last year.

Take away: customer-generated campaigns must be built on authenticity and deep cultural understanding.


3) Best Jobs in the World

One of the earliest local examples and still one of the most famous customer-content campaigns is the Best Jobs in the World competition run by Tourism Australia. It was designed to entice young travellers Down Under and to publicise the Working Holiday Maker program.

The six-week campaign attracted more than 600,000 applications with participants representing 196 countries. More than 46,000 video applications were also submitted, accompanied by thousands of supporting references, including those from applicants who had also managed to enlist support from world-famous celebrities.

Take away: customer-generated campaigns should be built around letting your customer tell you what’s great about your brand.

4) Malaysian Wonderland

When Samsung launched its Samsung Galaxy Note II “phablet smartphone” in Malaysia, the company and its agency, Leo Burnett, married the power of celebrity to the reach of social media. A print and online campaign drove consumers to a website where they were asked “What makes Malaysia a wonderland?”

Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna, who is both internationally successful while also enjoying a huge local following, then incorporated the customer content into a new song that was used in the campaign.

“To get people truly invested, we leveraged on Yuna’s fan base, engaging them in the process of making the music video,” explained the Samsung entry to the Spikes Asia awards. “On her Facebook and Twitter accounts Yuna discussed her personal wonderlands and almost daily updates of the work-in-progress using photos, doodles and video logs – all produced on the Note II.”

The campaign generated more than 426,000 page views on the Galaxy Wonderland website, along with an estimated $1 million in earned media. More than 5000 people submitted videos, stories, doodles and photos during the month-long campaign.

Take away: customer-generated campaigns embed your target audience deep within the messaging.


Brands don't have to embrace user-generated content but you certainly can't ignore it. Here are five tips to help get you started:

  • Like advertising, customer-generated content requires a strategy and a plan
  • To understand what will work, listen to what your customers are already saying about you
  • Be authentic – customer-generated content must be culturally relevant
  • Let your customers tell you what will work
  • Embed your target audience in your messaging