Mercury became New Zealand’s leading multi-product utility retailer following the acquisition of the Trustpower retail business in May 2022. After this acquisition, more than 300 people (at peak) worked at pace to bring Mercury and Trustpower (people, processes and systems) together in just over 18 months.

In 2020-2021, Mercury Head of Integration Nick Pudney, then a member of the company’s Finance team, was a part of a small team focussed on looking at the future strategic direction of the retail business. The world was changing rapidly, and Mercury wanted to change too, from being a solely energy retailer, to a multi-product utility provider and more responsive and resilient company overall. Trustpower’s retail business then came onto the market giving Mercury a choice: keep maturing organically or acquire Trustpower retail and accelerate its strategy.

Once the acquisition was complete the “real” work began to bring together two different organisations with two different cultures, ways of working and technology stacks - and Nick found himself in the hot seat.

“History had told us that organisations that had successfully merged brought their people, processes and technology together sooner rather than later. The longer you take to merge, the further and further the two operating models diverge, making the job bigger and harder. So, from day 1 we decided that time was going to be our biggest driver,” said Nick.

Mercury went through a few different iterations of what the Retail Integration Programme and coming together would look like.

“It was essential that the vision resonated with our people. We knew that realising the synergies of the acquisition was never going to win the hearts and minds of our people so instead we asked people what they wanted Mercury to be like and focussed on the incredible opportunity for people to contribute to making Mercury the type of future-ready organisation they want to work for.”

The first stop on the Retail Integration Programme journey was named ‘Fit For Now’, denoting a focus on moving quickly and pragmatically onto a common operating model (people, processes and systems), and encouraging “progress over perfection”.

Doing things differently

The Retail Integration Programme was intentionally set up differently than any Mercury or Trustpower programme or project had been in the past.

“We wanted to become a more adaptive organisation in which people can more effectively navigate complex challenges and opportunities that may arise and a large, strategic initiative like the Retail Integration Programme was the perfect opportunity for this,” said Nick.

“The programme Steering Committee came up with the programme scope, but it was very high-level and overarching – the guardrails – with people working on the programme empowered to make decisions and make things happen.”

The programme embraced adaptive ways of working, including a culture of experimentation in which people could “test and learn".

“We really pushed people to go out and try things and make themselves uncomfortable in the process. There were some tears, but also many wins and learnings for the programme and for individuals. Once people embraced the concept of experimentation, risks were taken, and progress was made.”

Some of the adaptive tools that were used included having ‘big room planning’ sessions which brought hundreds of people together in person to collaborate towards shared goals; working in squads with rituals such as sprint planning and retrospectives and using tools like Jira and Slack to plan and collaborate on work.

People at the heart of change

Mercury knew that people and mindsets would be key to success.

“We decided very early on that this was a cultural programme, not a technology programme or a brand programme,” said Nick.

A major focus was on harnessing and growing internal people capability to set Mercury up for the future.

“Choosing the right internal talent to lead and be part of the programme was important. We chose the best people we had and empowered them to take the programme forward.”

Mercury also worked with vendors, such as Radically (who helped set up the ways of working) and Gentrack (the core technology partner) on the programme. “We had employees, contractors and vendors all working together as equals in truly collaborative ways in which there was trust and transparency.”

Keeping people connected and clear consistent messaging across the programme helped people to transition through the change.

“While we embraced flexible working, we also made sure to have face-to-face sessions, as we knew the importance of connection and relationships to the success of the programme and establishing a new culture. Being face-to-face also allowed issues to be raised and resolved much earlier in the process.

“We created communications to engage and excite, such as a weekly journey tracker through Slack, people leader connections, fortnightly InterGREATing calls where anyone in the business could dial in to hear updates and have questions answered, and we had a good dose of fun competitions.”

Embracing tension

As with trying anything new, the new ways of working took some bedding in.

“By no means was everything perfect – change is hard, and everyone’s been on a change journey - sometimes there was pressure, sometimes there was hard conversations.

“It was often at points of tension when things got hard that there were break throughs, which ultimately helped improve our processes and lead to better outcomes.”

Opportunities ahead

Mercury is now taking learnings from the programme and applying them to other parts of the organisation, including further embedding adaptive ways of working, fostering more dynamic decision making in the face of change.

It has also launched a new purpose: Tiakina te anamata, mā te tūhono i ngā tāngata me ngā wāhi o te inamata. Taking care of tomorrow: Connecting people and place today. This has helped to further bring people together across the business and guide the work they do together.

Mercury is also in a great position to strengthen and grow its position as New Zealand’s leading multi-product utility retailer and deliver better outcomes for Mercury customers, people and the company well into the future.

Mercury InterGREATing Snapshot

  • 300+ people worked on the programme
  • 3 Big Room Planning sessions
  • 25 InterGREATing calls
  • 190,000+ downloads of new Mercury app and 92,000+ conversations (webchat, email, phone) in the 5 months after the Trustpower brand transitioned to Mercury
  • 1500+ hours of training/e-learning for frontline staff