Case Study


In 3 years Aurizon transformed from a public sector bureaucracy into a world class railway. MCC coached the 70 most senior leaders to deliver that world class performance.


Aurizon’s leadership team had to transform a state government rail freight bureaucracy into a national, commercially focussed private rail freight business. For that transformation to occur, both leaders and the culture needed to transform. There were significant challenges for leaders in this context. A functional structure had been implemented to drive a culture of collaboration across the traditional business unit silos. This required leaders, instead of just being responsible for their business unit deliverables, to now be held accountable for delivering integrated solutions across the organisation. At the same time as this structural change occurred, there was a major change in the makeup of the top two levels of the business. Seventy percent of these senior leaders were new to Aurizon and came from a variety of industry backgrounds. Consequently, there was a lack of a common language, common experience and industry knowledge to drive the leadership and culture changes needed to deliver the latent commercial potential of the organisation.


Mel Cowan Consulting conducted an initial analysis of the leadership challenges facing Aurizon and provided a strategic and tailored program to address these. The key desired outcomes were to build a common language for leadership and to foster a culture of collaboration across the functions. Mel Cowan Consulting worked with the executive team to assist them to align their team’s purpose, make up, values and scorecard with these objectives. The program included 360-degree feedback for the top two levels of leaders, supported by individual and group coaching. Mel Cowan Consulting also worked on specific initiatives to support collaboration across the most critical functional linkages. One particular initiative that required major internal and external collaboration was the joint venture project Aurizon created with Chinese, Korean and American companies to build a 5 billion AUD mine, railway and port. Mel Cowan Consulting worked with leaders in the project team to develop the level of internal collaboration required to enable them to be an effective partner externally.


The retest results in the 360-degree feedback demonstrated a significant improvement in leadership effectiveness and higher levels of effective peer to peer collaboration. This improvement in leadership effectiveness and collaboration had the impact of realising the organisation’s latent potential and value, leading to world class results. The engineering design for the joint venture project was delivered on time at a significantly reduced cost. Within 3 years Aurizon improved its organisational and safety performance dramatically, doubling its freight tonnage with half the staff and a better safety performance. Aurizon was now delivering world class performance on its key operational, financial and safety metrics.


“I have worked with Mel for many years and experienced first hand the excellent capability he has in leadership, strategy, cultural change and safety. Mel draws on many years of practical experience as well as sound research underpinnings. His approach is friendly and encouraging, while at the same time truly has the ability to hold up a mirror to individual and group capability and motivations. The results of his work are transparent and effective.”

Lance Hockridge

CEO, Aurizon