The Last Word: NZTE’s Peter Chrisp

Chrisp may have been out of New Zealand for many years but he’s come back after senior management roles abroad with deep sense of urgency. One of Chrisp’s first actions when he took over at the end of August last year, was to shift his office into the open plan area. “I wanted to get out into visible transparent environment.”

He blogs his activities every week updating staff on board and senior leadership meetings, visits to customers and what he’s learnt. He carries camera and blogs his shots. “I’m just trying to open up the organisation and make it more transparent. I’m saying to people if in doubt, act. Do what you think is right.”

Chrisp says the initial getting-to-know-you sessions with stakeholders, customers, markets and staff were part of his programme to “deeply sample the organisation”. He’s backed these sessions up with an independent review, inviting the State Services Commission to run public sector performance improvement framework over everything from NZTE’s culture to its cost structure and customers. He jokes that the commission was “pretty stunned that someone would actually want to go to the dentist”.

He’ll release the results soon. Anecdotally, though, he can say they’ll paint picture of an organisation with solid foundation. “Our culture says most of our people are driven by very strong commitment to New Zealand. We’ve got some really great people: about 90 percent of them are recruited from the private sector. And we have some really good programmes in place.

“On the other hand, there was sense that we could be doing lot more: sense that we’re spread mile wide and an inch deep so we need to get some focus. There was sense that there are some pretty important government strategies that we really need to operationalise and implement. The economic growth agenda, for example, says [we should be] adding more value to the food and beverage sector, lifting growth of high-value manufacturing services, and focusing on China and Australia. So we need to give more impetus to these strategic directions.”

Working collaboratively with NZTE’s policy partners including the Ministry of Economic Development (MED), Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and Treasury, list of NZTE’s 10 top challenges is being created. All of which means Chrisp is now on the cusp of kick-starting his doing mode. “I’ll have my team and my 10 top challenges, and I’ll apply one to the other and go after results.”

He argues that, internationally, NZTE must go after some of the “harder, deeper, more long-lasting stuff… such as building capability across cluster of companies, building an aquaculture, building the marine industry with good composites technology underpinning it”.

Chrisp is mindful that strategy is not static process but argues the sense in identifying, and adhering to, top few hits. “That’s why I’m keen to get the stakeholders and the people I’m accountable to lined up to make some choices: because strategy is about choosing what not to do as well as what to do. I want some positive choices in the system so people know there are trade-offs. Once we’ve made those decisions we’ve got much better chance of success.”

Bright shiny objects will still pop up. “Then the question is which part of the strategy won’t we do if we’re going to do that one? There’s got to be some strategic discipline in the way we go about our work.”

Chrisp is greatly in favour of tracking the customer’s view of performance. “We have redefined who our customer is. We have said… and it doesn’t sound very radical… but we’ve said that New Zealand’s private sector companies are our customers and the government is our owner. What I inherited was that the government was the customer.

“The owner is paying us to be relevant and add value to customers. It’s much better construct for us to work with. It hel

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