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A Painful Interview

Entry 1172, on 2010-03-10 at 20:34:58 (Rating 4, News)

I just listened to an interview featuring Theresa Gattung, the previous CEO of Telecom New Zealand, who has just released a book, titled "Bird on a Wire". It might be an interesting book to read because it sounds as if she hasn't hesitated to be critical of the people she sees as being to blame for the problems Telecom (which is still New Zealand's biggest company as far as I know) is currently experiencing.

Most of what she said in the interview (I haven't read the book yet) wasn't necessarily untrue, but it was obviously misleading in that it came from her very biased viewpoint. I must say that there were some things I agreed with though.

So what did I agree with? That the current top management of Telecom, including the new CEO, are being paid too much. Everyone - except the really extreme right wingers and libertarians - would probably agree with this. It's obscene to pay someone $7 million per year to run a company which was given a monopoly situation for years and has captured a large part of the market as a result and then to mismanage large sections of it.

So what has been mismanaged? The XT network is the most obvious example. Experts say that such a major disaster has occurred nowhere else in the western world. Alcatel-Lucent has taken the blame but is it really their fault? I suspect not. I suspect that Telecom tried to implement the new network with insufficient hardware, to save money, and now they have created this situation themselves.

Telecom's internet service has consistently been found to be the worst in New Zealand. The last survey I heard placed it at the bottom of customer satisfaction three years in a row. Again, they provide the absolute minimum necessary to maximise profit while placing their customers near the bottom of their list of priorities.

The emergency system has failed more often than it should as well. Not only that, but when it did fail Telecom didn't even have a monitoring system to detect that and had to be told about it by the emergency services.

So yes, she's right. Paul Reynolds is paid too much. Actually I wouldn't pay him anything. I'd send him back to where he came from! But I wouldn't hire someone like Gattung to take over because it's largely because of her gross incompetence and dishonesty that Telecom is in the position its in now.

She likes to blame the government for everything that went wrong but that's easy to do. Everyone has to work within government regulations, especially a company like Telecom which should never have been sold to the private sector to start with. That's another thing she got right when she said New Zealanders would be far happier with Telecom as a state-owned enterprise (SOE). I would go further and say all important infrastructure should be run that way because it gives a good compromise between too much and too little government control.

She likes to blame everyone else for problems she caused and the ultimate cop-out came when she claimed she was subject to more criticism and scrutiny when she was CEO because she's a woman. Yeah sure, it would be nothing to do with her dirty, underhand tricks and lack of ethics would it? of course not! Using that excuse is the ultimate in cowardly dishonesty!

Its undoubtedly true that Telecom's problems are partly due to government regulation but she really can't use that as an excuse. Originally the company was given the opportunity to act as a monopoly and when that right (which was given to them by the government) was taken away again they really shouldn't have gone around saying that was unfair.

And the claim that there was no warning that the government wanted the Telecom monopoly broken is very disingenuous. I remember at the time that it was clear to everyone and Telecom seemed to be deliberately defying the government by avoiding their obligations. If they suffered because of that then its their own fault.

Gattung thinks the government's plan to put high-speed internet into New Zealand homes should be handed to Telecom to implement. She says Telecom has gained its dominant position through providing good services, that it has demonstrated its competence with technology, and that it's an obvious partner to work with the government. The fact that she really seems to believe these three points shows how out of touch she really is!

Apparently she's into some sort of new age healing nonsense and the general feeling I got when I listened to her is she's not particularly smart. In fact I found her almost painful to listen to: very fake and rather shallow. Actually I really couldn't even listen to the end of the interview.

One last thing. You can really tell that a company's failure has been noticed by the public in general when jokes like this start to circulate: "Did you hear about Steven Spielberg's latest move? It's about an alien who couldn't call home. Its called "XT".

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Comment 1 (2620) by OJB on 2010-03-15 at 11:08:57:

Two more reasons not to trust Telecom with important infrastructure...

1. They own half of the Southern Cross Cable and extract huge profits from running it forcing the whole country into having substandard, expensive internet services.

2. Their backup and support is abysmal. Many people I speak to just give up on using their helpdesk because it just so frustrating, understaffed, and useless.

Telecom consistently provides terrible, overpriced services, pays their management heaps while saving money by firing technical staff, and rip us off while sending undeserved profits overseas. Why would we trust them with anything?

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