AGP Ep 5: Matthew Perry—Creating high-performing teams, on the volleyball court and in the office

by | Nov 1, 2016

Matthew Perry is the CIO of the Dulux Group here in Australia. He formed the basis of his leadership philosophy while he played Volleyball at a National level.
Applying and refining insights from the elite sporting arena, Matthew has developed a repeatable approach to creating high-performing teams, which he talks about in this episode.


Alpha Geek Podcast
AGP Ep 5: Matthew Perry—Creating high-performing teams, on the volleyball court and in the office
Alpha Geek Podcast AGP Ep 5: Matthew Perry—Creating high-performing teams, on the volleyball court and in the office

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"Honesty, Trust and respect are the foundation to everything"—Matthew Perry
"There's no better education than travel if you have an open mind"—Matthew Perry
"Being comfortable with uncomfortableness, with constant change, with ambiguity, I like to build in my teams"—Matthew Perry

Show notes

  • My guest’s opinions are their own and not those of their employer
  • Matthew’s top 3 values for creating a high-performing team through ‘safe accountability’:
    • Honesty
    • Trust
    • Resect
  • The bottom of the poster Matthew’s team made for him after 12 months at Dulux Group. It highlights some of the common phrases he uses to instil the above values and the culture (click to zoom)…
    Bottom of Matthew Perry's poster
  • Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind book

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Six years of full time training, so nine a hours a day, five days a week. Four, five hours on Saturday and Sundays was a rest day and travelling overseas and competing six months of the year. You learn a lot about yourself in that environment, you learn a lot about communication, you learn a lot about team work, trust, respect, honesty, all these things become … You know in corporate world you can find some leaders or people hiding behind meetings and PowerPoint, they haven’t been subject to the same scrutiny, if you like, in a sporting arena …


Andrew: There’s nowhere to hide.


Matthew: There’s nowhere to hide you’re truly exposed …






Hello internet, on today’s episode I speak with Matthew Perry CIO of the DuluxGroup. He talks about how he learned value leadership lessons on the volleyball court and you’ll hear about how his teams have flourished and become high performers as a result of the culture of safe accountability he’s perfected over time and how he goes about it.


Susan: Welcome to The Alpha Geek Podcast with your host Andrew Ramsden. His mission is to deconstruct how great technical leaders do what they do and to steal their insights, tips and secrets for you. Join Andrew as he speaks with this week’s Alpha Geek.










I just want to take a moment now for a course that’s really important to me. Every year around 110 people die due to domestic violence in Australia. Now obviously this is horrific and has no place in our contemporary Australia, but there’s an impact here on your business as well. Distraction, stress and anxiety lead to employee turnover, absenteeism and lost productivity for staff directly affected, but also the teams around them. Now to help address the impact to your business and your staff, go and take a look at the services provided by Australia CEO Challenge. Australia CEO Challenge, a not for profit charity raising awareness of this important issue and helping organizations put policy training and support in place for staff. Go to to find out more. If you want to support the great work they’re doing think about getting involved in their Darkness to Daylight event.








I went to a conference where they played real life 000 calls. One was woman screaming just horrific screaming and then the other call was a lost little voice asking someone to come and get him. Then they said that the two calls were connected, that woman that night was killed by her partner. The little voice was their little boy who’d run away from that and was looking for help. The Darkness to Daylight Challenge run entails a 110 kilometre run overnight. 110 kilometres is one kilometre for every person killed through domestic violence in Australia in one year. We want to symbolize the darkness of that and feel that, but then bring into the light with the final 10 kilometre run in the morning where everyone comes together.





Now the Darkness to Daylight event isn’t until the 4th of May next year, but I’m giving you this early heads up so you can put time aside on your calendar and get others involved. Think about organizing a team from your work, you could take turns relaying over the 110 kilometres throughout the night, or you could all join in the final 10 kilometres in solidarity as a group together. Look, if you’re one of those ultra fit types, you can do the entire 110 kilometres by yourself if you’re up for a challenge. For more information about the event, go to










Matthew Perry is the CIO of the Dulux Group. Prior to progressing his leadership career, Matthew was a volleyball superstar, playing at a national level for 12 years and representing Australia. Interestingly his leadership philosophies were forged in this crucible of elite athletics. Matthew has achieved tremendous success in digital transformations at Dulux and he attributes that success to the culture he’s embedded there, it’s a culture he’s perfected in his teams over time. It centres on the idea of safe accountability, delegating control, decision making power and ultimate responsibility to his reports. He also talks about the importance of letting staff learn lessons the hard way, among many other philosophies and tactics. Without further delay, I hope you enjoy my conversation with Matthew Perry. Good day Matthew, thank you for joining us on the podcast.


Matthew: No that’s all right, lovely to be here.





Well I’ve been really looking forward to the opportunity to speak with you. Because you’re now the CIO for the Dulux Group, however your path to that role has been a little bit non-traditional and quite colourful. I think that really affords you a unique perspective certainly based on the conversations we’ve had that’s come through. Really keen to spend some more time exploring that.


Matthew: Sure.


Andrew: You come from a technical background, but not in technology per say, in architecture originally?


Matthew: Yes.


Andrew: However, in the early days of computer aided drafting there was a lot of technology involved, working with mainframes, before the introduction of micro stations etcetera, what was that like?










Yeah extraordinary times, fantastic times actually. Yes I began my life as an architectural draftsman aboard, where too many amendments resulted in the rise of weight cutting through paper, so you generally get a few scratches before you’ve got to restart the paper. Then with the advent of CAD back in the early 80s, so it was the mainframes, architectural production and design package on IGDS so incredibly large tapes, each of the tapes weighing 20 or 30 kilograms, so that sort of stuff. Then I was one of the first in Australia on micro station on the PC, it was a little toy compared to the big brothers, but remarkably effective of course. At that time they were incredibly expensive as much as technology was.





Wonderful journey, fantastic journey and that was another one of the industries to be disrupted by technology actually and that was back in the mid-80s of course, CAD systems, all of a sudden you’re doing 3D modelling and you’re not dealing with paper. Although you’d ended up producing an overabundance of paper because people had to … We kept on printing out to check, so paper wastage probably went up even though we were on computer.


Andrew: Wow, at least initially?


Matthew: Initially, yes.


Andrew: You would have had to have had a fair amount of technical competency to deal with those early computers I imagine.










Yeah. I think it might have helped that in architecture there’s a good spatial awareness and so you’re talking about allocating space for your file on tapes. People could comprehend that in a graphical sense if you like, some people couldn’t. I recall one architect coming in and displaying dimensions on a building many, many kilometres into the distance, didn’t quite get the spatial awareness right. Of course now it’s omnipotent of the whole architectural and construction world. Yeah so that was that, that was a fabulous journey.











Then that got interrupted by sport, so I ended up moving to Canberra in the mid-80s as I accepted a role at the AIS Institute of Sport playing volleyball. For the next dozen years it was volleyball and architecture, volleyball and architecture, volleyball and architecture off and on. During that time there’s six years of full time training. Nine hours a day, five days a week, four five hours on Saturday and Sundays was a rest day and travelling overseas and competing six months of the year. You learn a lot about yourself in that environment, you learn a lot about communication, you learn a lot about teamwork, trust, respect, honesty, all these things become a, in the crucible of a gym you become truly exposed. You know in corporate world you can find some leaders or people hiding behind meetings and PowerPoint, they haven’t been subject to the same scrutiny, in a sporting arena …


Andrew: There’s nowhere to hide.






There’s nowhere to hide, you’re truly exposed. Individual sports are different, but the same, individual sports obviously are focused far less on teamwork. One of the things that attracted me to volleyball was the strong team, a very technically difficult sport, but also very strong teamwork. Everyone’s a leader as well. That experience put me in good stead for the rest of my life really.


Andrew: That’s an interesting way to look at it as well, it’s not just a high performing team, you talk about everyone on the team being a leader. What does that mean to you?










Absolutely and that’s been reflected throughout my IT leadership journey. What I’ve done at Dulux Group or what we’ve been doing at Dulux Group is a similar journey to that I’ve travelled in other groups around the world in my various leadership roles. We have an organization full of accountable people, accountable in a truly positive sense. Being accountable is a wonderful thing, but it’s only wonderful if you have the full support of your leadership team, if there’s clarity of the journey that you wish to travel. Without that clarity of vision you can be accountable, but flying in a number of different directions. In Dulux Group and all my previous roles we focused on that clarity of direction, then being accountable is a wonderful thing.






At Dulux Group we have 15 service managers. Each of those service managers is accountable for a particular service, whether it’s CRM, or data management or integration or digital engagement, or data centres, or telecoms and data, whatever it maybe. There are absolutely accountable for the relationship with vendors, contracts, SLAs, staff, internal external budgets, roadmaps, the whole work and truly accountable empowered people. I believe people are always more capable than what they’re often given the opportunity to be accountable for. That’s been proven time and time again so we have with that accountability and a clear direction, then you have the unity of direction.







Building up teams with a strong direction, high expectations and unity of action means you deliver an agile organization. I’m amused by people that focus on building agile organizations without the clarity of direction or the unity of action, so it’s an impossibility I believe. I’m not saying it’s successfully done, you can’t be agile in one particular area and not elsewhere, so it requires a complete team approach. Any of that can be undermined, it can be undermined by the slightest of messages; verbal or nonverbal, body language, written word. That trust and that valuable trust and respect forms a foundation of this sort of activity is critical and it must be true.





Wow, there’s a lot of lessons in there I think and a lot of clarity around a framework for how to create a high performing team.


Matthew: It’s all about people isn’t it? The technology I’ve always found to be the easy part and I’m not suggesting that it’s not complex or challenging, but there’s lots of IT professionals out there that know exactly what needs to be done with any of those services, but perhaps aren’t empowered with a clear direction or empowered with that accountability, that positive accountability that they need to deliver.




That’s I guess about the high expectations and the expectation that they will actually deliver, but I imagine, and I’m reading in between the lines, but it sounds like there’s a fair degree of flexibility and trust and delegation and for them to really own that and to end. I mean that’s not a silo, it’s sort of vertical, it’s pretty much end in horizontal, you’re looking after the experience across this entire area of responsibility.




Absolutely. It’s comical sometimes because it’s a bit confronting for some, I’ve not found anyone fall over. Of course people will stumble and they’ll make the wrong decision and stuff happens, but it cannot be undermined. We all make mistakes, we all fall over and stumble but with the clarity of that journey ahead, people travel at different times along that journey as well. Everyone has a different cadence, some are rushing forward, some are a bit slow a bit more reluctant, but if it’s all the same path then you can build a wonderfully agile organization.


[00:13:30] It’s another motto that I’ve always lived by, which is to always assume positive intent. It’s easy to do the alternative, whether it’s a mistake in email or a third party conversation and I think so much can be resolved by always assuming positive intent.


Andrew: Until proven otherwise I guess. It’s just so important to assume from the get go that that’s what it was and then lets disambiguate from there.




That’s right, there’s going to be cultural misinterpretations. There’s going to be ambiguity. I like also building organizations that are comfortable with ambiguity. You provide as much clarity as you can, whether it’s me or anyone else that’s leading and that’s also of those service managers, that’s all, in fact everyone’s a leader and removing as much ambiguity as possible, but also feeling comfortable with ambiguity. I mean there’s so much ambiguity in life anyway.




There is, yeah and there are so many opposing forces, opposing concepts, paradoxes that we have to live with and make sense of.


Matthew: In technology in particular, there’s 20 answers to any solution.


Andrew: How do you do that? How do you make an organization that’s comfortable with ambiguity?






The same way I use a similar method with the volleyball teams that I coach. Setting high expectations of themselves, making sure they have high expectations of themselves that they also know they’re capable of far more than they think and the having high expectations of each other.


Andrew: Nice and then they become comfortable with each other and then if there’s ambiguity that’s okay?





That’s fine yeah. It is quite confronting and it’s confronting for everyone, there’s a three to six month period of anxiety that I’ve generally found in the five to six times I’ve done this, followed by a nervous acceptance and then a positive embrace. Any one of those steps can be undermined by a misspoken action or word and I think you truly got to believe this approach, otherwise you’ll be found out. We’ve all worked with those people that have been a little bit disingenuous and had fallen over because of it.





I’m joining the dots here and feel free to pull me up if I’ve made a mis-action, but it sounds like there’s a process here of creating a safety or a safe environment and there’s messages there about the fact that people held high expectations and they are accountable, but then there’s another message that failure is okay. I think that’s what’s creating this high performance, but safe environment. Which again is one of those, there’s almost a tension there between you’re accountable, but failure is okay.










That’s right, there’s another angle as well that some of the ladies talk about and that is the feeling of uncomfortableness. They at many times feel a little bit uncomfortable in a positive sense and that’s a great thing. It had always amused me that many of us in technology, in this technology arena are uncomfortable with change. I mean the reason I got into technology it’s because it’s ever changing, it’s so exciting, it’s so vibrant, but I also understand their natural human reaction to the change of us. It’s that feeling of being comfortable with the uncomfortableness, with constant change, with ambiguity, that I like to build in my teams.


Andrew: Is that about creating a safety?




Absolutely yeah. Everyone is assured of their place in our world and there’s a clear direction. Having said that, when they look back and understand that create path forward, they look back and they understand that it was a winding path that got them to where they are, but it was so much clear with the spotlight that we gave everyone.


Andrew: That it’s okay for them to take a winding path?


Matthew: Absolutely.


Andrew: The general direction is fairly clear?





Yeah. Occasionally five percent of the time, we find people don’t want to be on that journey and that’s perfectly fine. They just need to be in a different company, they might be very competent, highly regarded, professionals, but if they’re not comfortable with that approach, with that style, with that level of accountability, well then they don’t belong in that team.


Andrew: Sounds like there’s a very deliberate series of … Or types of messages that go along with creating this safety that can be undermined easily if some of those messages are off the mark. Without giving away too much of the secret sauce is there … How do you create that safety? What sort of messages are these?





Sure, so I’d draw your attention to the poster in the fine corner of the room, so …


Andrew: Is that the Perry poster or the …?


Matthew: That’s the Perry poster, thank you very much.


Andrew: I have to ask if I can take a photo and stick it up in the show notes.






Yes of course. It was wonderful of the team to present that to me and say … I think it was our second of our strategy meeting. Down the bottom there’s some of the sayings, and some of those sayings they know; so assume positive intent you can see. I am absolutely confident that the professionals in the Australian market, in Dulux Group are more than competent, more than capable of delivering what they need to deliver and so what do they need from me? They need their clarity, they need support absolutely, they need to be accountable and they need to know that I’m comfortable with them failing and falling over, but they get back up and they just run faster. I mean that sincerely.







Sometimes it’s a bit confronting. One example of that confrontation was in the first I think it was probably three or four months, the leadership team, the IT leadership team, wanted to schedule regular weekly or by weekly meetings with me to gain what they thought was direction, but what they really wanted was decisions from me about areas that they were accountable for. I refused to have those meetings and I told them, “You know what you’ve got to do, you know we’ve set this direction together, we’ve build this path together, you know exactly what you’ve got to do and if you don’t, find out. If you want to draw on my experience then I’m more than happy to talk upon my experience and that may be relevant to you, you may be able to draw upon that to reach your own conclusions or not, but everything else we know.”


[00:20:30] That was very confronting for them, but as they say now, it’s been a wonderful journey and they’ve matured far beyond what the market would expect I think of people in their roles. Each of them is far more takeable and competent than anyone could have imagined I think. This is one thing that gives me a great source of joy, it’s a great source of joy for me to see them blossoming as professionals, as people as well through this journey.





Absolutely, I think that’s really quite powerful. Again making assumptions I see almost a coaching conversation there in this, I would assume it’s a parallel into how a coach would operate in that players on the court have to be able to make decisions in real time, they can’t stop the game and go and talk to the coach for, “Do I jump this way or that way or do I do this technique or that technique?”









Beautiful. That leads to another parallel, it’s not a metaphor it actually happened months ago and that was a team that I’ve been coaching at the start of the season. My involvement was 90% and their involvement was 10%. In the grand finale that we played in most recently and won, I think I got up from my sit three times and I offered a little bit of advice, it’s the grand final it’s all them, I called one time out in four sets and they knew exactly what to do. A truly empowered team, they all talked so positively and fantastically about that experience. That’s what I enjoy doing, building up this really truly empowered teams.


Once again grand final’s over, pre-season starts in January and we start back to basics again, but we start from a high level than we’ve ever started at before. They’re expectations of their own performance and of each other, it’s far greater now than it ever has been; they realize how much more they are capable of. Same thing at work, I see no difference.





If they’ve got that clarity of direction and the coaching conversation is then about, so you’ve come to me for a decision, but what do you think?


Matthew: They’re not going to come to me for a decision.


Andrew: No, because you’ve coached that out of them.


Matthew: That’s right.


Andrew: You’ve said, “Well will that lead to the direction that we’ve talked about?”


Matthew: I talk about this at work as well. The only difference is I don’t throw balls at them from three meters away at work. I might do that in the volleyball court, but not at work.


Andrew: Just key interventions getting up from when you have to?





It’s the same journey that other functions in other geographies travelled; in Mexico, in the US and in Asia Pacific, it was a very similar journey. After a few years in Singapore I was able to back out of my role comfortably knowing that the leadership, and I say the leadership being everyone, was more than capable of continuing that journey.





That’s a powerful way to create a high performing team, I guess there’s a delegated decision making power there so that you are empowering them to really run with the ball.






Absolutely. There’s a clear direction, we have enterprise and architects, we have the board strategies and I’ve road dumpster services and all the rest. This is all aligned, but of course they know it’s their job to make sure that they are all aligned. My job is to remove obstacles and make sure there’s as much clarity as is needed and engage with senior stakeholders and take them on the same journey.


Andrew: That’s a good reflection to have as well is what we see your role being and once you’re able to step away from being into business, I guess you’re focusing on the business.





That’s right. Dulux Group took six months to a year for the IT group, now that’s a vastly different group and fantastically appreciated and respected at the organization. Now my focus has been on transforming the business, not just from an IT perspective, but looking at the organization capabilities, people, operating models.


Andrew: More and more this is coming back to technical leaders I think to help shape the direction of the business. Because there’s so much technology involved these days in every aspect of what we do, whether that service delivery front of house or back of house, supply of chain, this technology wrapped up front to back?











That’s true, but I think it depends on the conversation that we are comfortable having. Many of us are comfortable having a conversation about data centres and about bits and bytes, and about telcos and the likes. These are all very important conversations to have. They are not a conversation I would like to engage in with our business. They’re not commercial conversations I want to have with our business, I want to talk to our business about how we can drive my activities through different gutter market channels, or how we can better engage a customer consumer, or how we can grow our revenue through some other channel.


Andrew: You have a really strong grasp of the business mechanics as well as the technology?






Dulux Group isn’t a technology company, certainly their 6200 is full of technology companies, they’re all technology companies as in they are all impacted by or influenced via technology. Dulux Group is a manufacturer and marketer of a high end consumer and construction products with home improvement and the place that we live in. Garden products, driveway products, roller doors, kitchens and paints and so forth, Selleys and Yates and so on, all of that incredibly impacted by and influenced by technology.





I guess if I follow your work history through it, there was the architecture and then there was the volleyball. Then there was some leadership roles within the architecture space and then a transition into technology. At what point did the business and your understanding of the business sort of deepen, when did that come in?






Well I see that’s a good question. I think I’ve rarely been able to concentrate just all of my attention on one thing. The only time I have been able to do it is in my time in the national team and it can do your head in. You become incredibly selfish in sport. Anyone beyond your team doesn’t exist. You can become incredibly … You’ve got to be incredibly focused, my wife’s a very strong lady and patient.





After I disembarked that sport journey, then I suppose I needed to challenge my intellect. I enjoy that feeling of being uncomfortable; being in places I’m not familiar with. One of the joys of my time in Asia Pacific was achieving great things with vastly different cultures. Being able to best exploit the strengths and cover the weaknesses of the many cultures throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, was one of the joys of my life. Vastly different cultures and with different attitudes and attributes.








In fact there was probably one of the most helpful books I’ve read was, Software of the Mind, Geert Hofstede. Yeah, it’s an interesting book, it does talk about how different cultures, the attributes of different cultures and of course, we are all individual, the line from Life of Brian. Being aware of that, being cognizant and remaining aware was critical to the success that we had, the collective success we had in that region. Yeah it’s all about people.


Andrew: Is there a universality there of setting up a high performance team in different cultures or?






We have very far more challenging or easy certainly and I’m on our culture, yes. Having said that there were a few rules that we implemented in Singapore, we built up, in Singapore, a fantastically multicultural team. We had that the Filipinos, South Africans, Australians, Chinese, Koreans and Malaysians and they were beautifully diverse. We just had one or two rules and that was when someone wanted to send out a communication, and they had just joined the Singapore team, that team. We didn’t centralize everyone right away. Everyone could stay in their countries. They had to check it with another culture.









Because of course when I got to Mexico it was a similar of experience. In Mexico they’d receive an email from our German counterparts and be astonished and disappointed by the tone of the email which was very direct and very precise, but didn’t enquire about their wellbeing or their families’ health and of course the return email from our Mexican colleagues to our German colleagues was similarly disturbing, because it was much more vague than the Germans would like. There’s nothing wrong with either position, but recognizing the importance of those cultures and bring out the best in them is key.


Andrew: How did you say, if they can assume that it’s the best intentions and it’s just that different filter whether that be cultural or otherwise.


Matthew: Yeah.


Andrew: I think it’s a fundamental truth.


Matthew: Certainly I agreed.


Andrew: If we can do that and extending other people the benefit of the doubt, it’s not easy is it? Because emotions get in the way.










Assume otherwise don’t we? It’s our natural inclination to assume otherwise which is quite extraordinary isn’t it? You are assuming that someone is deliberately trying to undermine your position. Of course if you were to have a chat with most of these people face to face and put aside body language and everything else, you would find, actually, that you’re probably more closely aligned than you ever suspected. Of course in life we all want the same thing, you know, health and wellbeing and strong family and good friends and all the rest, right?


Andrew: Yeah absolutely. Now I think there is a famous quote along the lines of, ‘never attribute to malice what you could attribute to incompetence’. There has been a few different variations of that. I think Tim Ferriss likes to add on ‘or busyness’ to the end and I like to add on ‘miscommunication’ because sometimes it’s just a simple fact of misunderstanding.


Matthew: Yes of course, very perfect. That’s right.





I think there is a lot of really interesting things there that I’d love to dig into. You talk about this idea of being comfortable with discomfort or being comfortable being uncomfortable. Which I think is a really important factor for personal growth as well is overcoming those anxieties and fears that we feel that hold us back from learning or growing or stretching ourselves. Obviously that’s been a key part of your personal growth.










Absolutely. I’ve had a very fortunate journey myself through life. I’ve lived in many different countries. I’ve travelled extensively. I think there is no better education than travel. If you have an open mind to culture, to religion, to food, music, architecture there is so much to learn. If you were to approach the same journey with a closed mind then that’s there … They are the racists and bigots and the ill-informed and the uneducated if you like.


Andrew: Are there any techniques or is there anything that you did specifically to, sort of, teach yourself to be comfortable being uncomfortable?





I think it’s a bit the journey. I’ve been talking about the journey that I’m still on through sport as well. You are very exposed in sport. It requires a lot of introspection. The formal performance reviews of the corporate world that occur twice a year or once a year whatever occur in the sporting arena every hour. You are under constant scrutiny.


Andrew: Wow, what if you are just having a bad day?


Matthew: Well you can’t just have a bad day, can you?


Andrew: Right.










You may not want to listen to music on Sundays, that’s fine, but you can’t have a bad day in sport. It could be the wrong day. The constant scrutiny, the constant feedback, performance feedback and the acceptance of that from people, who you may not trust, but have an informed opinion. This is dichotomy. You are taking advice from people that maybe you don’t know and strong advice of course from the people that you do know. The ones that you trust, that you’ve built your life around, formed life-long friendships with and others that, I don’t know, if the form of a temporary coach or something, who perhaps you don’t know, but you’ve got to accept advice and apply filters where you can. It’s that constant scrutiny, the striving for perfection. If you’re not introspective you’ll quickly be destroyed.


Andrew: There is a real environment there that pushes you to become good at learning and improving.





You ask any professional athlete and it’s always about continuous improvement. That was yesterday my all is today and tomorrow. In the sporting arena you have clear objectives. There is the smart goals, you’ve got tournaments, you’ve got events. You’ve got training schedules. It’s very explicit.







There are a couple of different components there that you talked about that seem to really feed that continuous improvement loop and one of them was the introspection you mentioned. I think that’s a really important practice for leaders, is to spend time reflecting about what happened, what went well, what didn’t go so well, what could I do differently next time. Sort of, putting aside whether you were right or you were in the moment, but then asking yourself well if I had it over again could I influence it differently regardless of whether I was right.






Totally agree, totally agree. I mentioned the challenges that the leadership team had here for the first few months. One of those leaders, I mention [the stumble 00:35:23], one of those leaders spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars in an area, a solution, but he shouldn’t have. I could see it happening, but it was up to him to travel that journey, that journey of discovery and of accountability. He has matured far beyond anyone’s expectations because of the journey that he’s been on, the converse journey.


Andrew: Expensive lesson.




Well no I don’t think it is, because the converse journey is that we have a hierarchical organizational structure where that person does not feel comfortable making decisions or leading his team into the future, will always be questioning up for the right direction. Out of that you build a stubborn hierarchical slow moving incompetent organization. Really the cost is nothing.


Andrew: It can cripple an organization.




Yeah that’s right so it’s been a fantastic journey for … In fact in my experience each of the places I’ve instituted this model has been fantastically successful. Doesn’t mean we haven’t stumbled, everyone stumbles. You cannot undermine that model. I could have undermined that model. Not for one moment did I even in reflection think I would. I could see what was happening and refused to intervene. It would have undermined that whole model.





It’s a very deliberate strategy there that’s part of the long game and it’s much more important than the short game.






Yeah short game is easy to play. Short game you with traditional hierarchy and the chain of command and everything goes up and no decisions are made. That whole style and that whole approach, which has always puzzled me, never understood the logic of it. The competency is only increased the higher up you get. What a ridiculous model, right? I mean to think that and arrive at that it’s a farce, right? What type of organization is that? We all might have experienced it one way or another and they are unpleasant and they are slow and cumbersome and they are being disruptive and they’ve got no idea and they can’t react.











I think that’s another good segue back to that conversation about the potential for information, technology areas, IT areas to be influencing that digital disruption of your own business or that digital transformation journey that businesses are on and have been on for a long time and will continue to be on. I think there are lot of organizations, and government organizations as well, that are looking to fill a gap by injecting a new role, like a chief digital officer or this concept of a digital team. I think it does fill a gap in a lot of organizations, but it sounds like in the Dulux Group you are able to fill that gap from within your area, from within your role as CIO, you are able to make that connection between the technology and the business and the technology and the customers and the customers in the business,




That’s true, having said that there were huge capability gaps here. We’ve got a lot of new people filling those capability gaps simply because there were not enough people or in areas where we needed to fill skills more immediately. We had a year’s lead-time if you like to structure the conversation and the organization. Then we quickly moved to that digital arena, so setting up a digital engagement group and everything that entailed.




I get the sense though that there is a unique combination of skills that you have that make this work in allowing the new digital area to connect with the technology and your understanding of the business.


Matthew: It’s absolutely one and the same.


Andrew: I imagine you wouldn’t feel comfortable that you were doing your job if you weren’t so familiar with the business and, sort of, in that space where you can actually play a connecting role between the business strategy and the technology and the digital.










Absolutely, others might feel undermined by the, it’s the wrong word, autonomy of the service managers that we have. They are engaging directly with the business and driving these very advanced discussions. This is the type of organization that I love, would love to build, love to mature, love to foster and so then I can take … Once that path is underway with a particular service manager, whether its digital engagement or CRM or whatever it is, then I need not be at the forefront driving the conversation. In fact it would be negative for me to stay there, so I can remove myself and have the engagement completed by these highly competent IT professionals, business/IT professionals that know far more about these services than I do. Whatever it is, whether it’s order to cash or data services or whatever it maybe.




I guess I make that distinction because I feel I have a peeve theory that a really great technical leader is someone that can bridge that gap and does bother to go outside the realm of technology and does bother to connect with the business and connect with other areas. In making those connections you’re actually opening up opportunities for the business.










Sure so we’ve taken that and pumped it full of steroids. Each of those services managers was asked … This is around, be over two years ago now, was asked to present their service to a range of people in IT and the business. They were given some pretty clear instructions about what the expectations were. The first time turned into a rumbling 20, 25 minute discussion from each of them. Then we had a talk about expectations. The second attempt might have been five minutes and the third attempt, where it included the delivery of a fantastic service catalogue that describes absolutely every single one of the services and who’s accountable and what it is, was able to be delivered by the these service managers in 30 seconds in plain business language that any business person could understand.


This is the value of digital engagement. This s the value of HR, payroll, of reporting and consolidation, of CRM, of plant produced. Even some of the infrastructure services, we have master data or the infrastructure or network data or managed servicers.





It’s fantastic.


Matthew: It was absolutely brilliant. We all sat back and watched as this service managers presented in business talk the value of the hugely complex services that they deliver, the value of that business, the commercial value of these solutions.


Andrew: Value to the business or to the customer or ultimately it’s all value to the customer.


Matthew: Well ultimately to the consumer, the person buying paint, or Selleys, Dulux, British Paints, Cabbots, Yates via our business.





Sometimes it’s indirect, but they can always communicate, that connection I imagine.


Matthew: That’s right and that’s cleared explained in the operating model of the IT function s well, the operating model that we built with the customer and consumer, you know the focus. It was a wonderful journey that the service managers travelled upon. Of course each of them is now highly, far more highly competent and capable than they ever suspected they would be.


Andrew: They would feel really connected to the business as well.


Matthew: They know exactly what they’re doing and what value it brings.





That would be highly motivational and inspirational to feel that connection to the customer and that connection to the value that you’re brining to the company.








That’s right, yeah. It also makes those budget discussions very easy. Each of this service is broken down in the budget as well and the business can choose whether we want to investment or less in these services. Of course we know that we have services here that we should be investing more in, but then to ease your conversation we can say, “CRM we are investing this much last year, how much do we want to invest this year?” We understand the value and it’s all very clear what the service is, what value it brings to the group and so it’s a nice logical discussion. It’s not a conversation about the black box that IT normally is.


Andrew: That’s right so I mean this catalogue of value propositions, was this driven from your area in …




Yeah and wonderfully done by the whole IT function. I’d initially just had to describe what, sort of, outcome we wanted. We had various working teams and they’ve gone away and delivered a fantastic, you can observe this anyway, a fantastic service catalogue with an operating model. This service catalogue, which is also digital obviously, has been distributed to all of our GMs, all of our finance people so they know exactly what they’re paying for and who’s accountable for it, what that service is, what it entails and what the value is. It’s a wonderfully transparent way to deal with our business colleagues.





The business must feel really empowered as a result as well.


Matthew: There it is, that’s right, absolute clarity.







One of the other things you talked about in terms of the continuous improvement cycle, I’m jumping around a little bit, but I’m sort of keen not to leave any of these points behind, was about feedback and advice that you were getting from a range of different people. I think there is a couple of really interesting aspects to that. One of them you talked about applying filters. Obviously you said there were some people that you would trust their advice implicitly and other people that you didn’t know so well. There is a filter here to say, “Okay advice is good, I’m open to all feedback. However, I’m going to perform some sort of assessment. There might be some that I take on there might be some that I play with and try and see what are my results.” Again I’m sort of reading it on the lines.





That’s it. You’ve explained it perfectly as much in my current profession as it was in my past. In sport, I don’t know how much you know about volleyball, but one of the actions is a spike.


Andrew: I’m familiar with the spike.


Matthew: Yes you jump up and hit a ball over a net.


Andrew: In amateur volleyball that’s the most fun.


Matthew: That’s the most fun, indeed.


Andrew: Yeah.






It’s a quite a technical skill. It’s a wonderful sport. There is lots of different biomechanics involved in spiking a ball. During my career my spike was changed and my action was changed three times. This is not an easy thing to do, but it was changed three times due to the advice of various coaches at the time.


Andrew: Well you’d have practiced it so much, there’d be a muscle memory there so to change would be non-trivial.





That’s right so you’re doing this for five years and then you have a new coach, you adjust that action … As you’ve described and very, very challenging, but it also meant that you had to be deliberate and conscious of feedback and then react upon it. Not just refusing it, but accepting it and then deciding how to act upon it and what weight it had.


Andrew: I guess taking on feedback can be an uncomfortable process and they can be uncomfortable conversations, but again if you are open to that you’re going to grow and that’s going to accelerate.


Matthew: That’s right. It also comes with that confidence of a long term self-assessment. If you really know who you are anyone can throw any feedback to me. I can accept it or not without it offending my person, as it were.





Where does that confidence come from?







Yeah that’s a bigger question, but I think it comes from my openness as well. I mean Australians are well travelled people. We do tend to travel a lot and it takes a lot to get us out of country and once we’re out of the country we like to stay and travel and with that comes a degree of confidence as people finish their Uni and then take off and travel, you know, do the backpacking or whatever it is. I think it starts through that. For me it was living in many different countries and cultures and …


Andrew: Knowing that you’d be okay, that you can support yourself and …


Matthew: Yes that’s right, yeah.


Andrew: I think what’s interesting is being open to feedback and advice. The confidence helps, but there is also, I guess without putting words in your mouth, there is also a humility there to say, “Well look I am open to feedback and I don’t know it all necessarily.”












We’ve taken our journey, the Dulux Group journey to 30 companies around Australia. Myself or others in leadership team have taken this journey and I’ve said that it’s a great way for us to explain and share this journey that we’ve been on. At the same time we’re telling it, we learn a little bit more. Then we get the questions and the feedback and the other comments and we learn from them so everyone is a winner. There is nothing particularly proprietary about what we’re doing. There is a particular attitude if you like. You know this always assume positive intent, the positive accountability, these sort of things. What we’re doing won’t work for other companies, but it’s a wonderful journey of discovery for Dulux Group IT people. From that also we’ve seen our business also change.





Nice. That positive accountability is still a bit of a puzzle to me. I think it’s a fantastic concept that there are high expectations, but there is that safety as well. There is a positive sense of expectancy. I imagine feedback and advice plays into that as well in terms of you’re giving feedback to your staff, how does that factor into your approach for developing the safety and developing the accountability. Is that part of the formula?









Based on the foundation of honesty, trust and respect as the foundation to everything. It’s only with that foundation, once again easily undermined if you’re not sincere about it, that are key to this journey of maturity and discovery if you like. I think when I started in the US some six or seven years ago I held up a big banner just to make sure that it was clear, but I said something like, “I trust and respect each and every one of you, but I understand that I’ll have to earn your trust and respect, but that I’m completely comfortable with that,” was how I introduce myself to my US colleagues when I arrived. It’s got to be sincere though. There can be no falseness to the claim, otherwise don’t do it. Don’t say it. Don’t think it. Don’t act it.


Andrew: No and then it sounds like you are very away of managing that persecution over time because you are aware that it’s quite easy to undermine that.





Absolutely, yes very easy to undermine if it’s a game.


Andrew: You get caught out.


Matthew: You get caught out, yeah very quickly right. I think you’ve been there or I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. We’ve all seen that pseudo sincerity.






Absolutely, I think there is a lot of power in a lot of these ideas. One of them that I like to think about in terms of mental models is having a good intention yourself and then going and communicating that quite clearly. That intention might be to support what they’re doing and you’ll be quite upfront about the intention that you have for what you need to achieve and maybe you’re connecting them to a higher intention that’s bigger than both of you. If you’re not sincere about it, if that’s a game that you’re playing I believe you get caught you out.


Matthew: Yeah of course you will and we know it. We’ve had conversations with those people and they give it away through body language or a water cooler discussion or some third party messaging or whatever it may be.





Which is why I always assume the best intentions I guess until actions prove otherwise.


Matthew: Even then I’d say challenge it. Just because something hasn’t gone according to what you think should have happened doesn’t mean it was wrong. It could have meant were just not aware of the circumstances and they’ve being under pressure to do something or with the right thought in mind a different outcome has occurred. It could be any number of different things.





Extending them further benefit of the doubt, having the conversation, try to explore it.


Matthew: Yeah. If the path is clear and everyone’s agreed and signed up to it well then let’s assume that, right?


Andrew: Absolutely. I’d love to keep talking about this for the rest of the evening, but I’m conscious of your time and conscious of the time for our listeners as well. We’ve probably got time for just one more question, what does the future hold for Matthew Perry?









I love a challenge. The challenge that I found is with technology and people. Both of them fascinate me. I love building high performing teams that are comfortable as I said with ambiguity, commercially minded on a journey of continuous improvement and always striving for better and better. From a technology perspective what a wonderful industry we’re in, ever changing and more speedily changing now than ever before. What a fantastic industry to be in.


Andrew: Yeah, very lucky.


Matthew: Yes very lucky. I’m determined to stay in IT of the leadership of one sort or another. Where that takes me, I’m not one that plans five years ahead, but I don’t know where that’s going to take me. We are a having good time at Dulux Group at the moment.


Andrew: Nice I’m sure you’ll do fantastically well wherever you decide to take it.


Matthew: Thanks very much.





Is there anything you’d like to direct our listener’s attention to before we go.






Yeah sure, probably one last thought I’d say is that the IT function at Dulux Group, the various people, attend non-traditional events. I love for them to get out and explore, so whether its future trends or most recently TED Talks where we had three or four of our people attend and come back with a completely different perspective on something that will of course influence their lives and maybe influence work. It’s this well rounded approach to people that I think helps build this really high performing, very positive environments. I encourage everyone to get out and explore far beyond their current domain if you like, whatever that may be.


Andrew: Fresh perspectives and diversity and …


Matthew: That’s right, yeah we love diversity.





Fantastic. All right, well thank you again. It’s been a real pleasure.


Matthew: Yeah it’s been great.








That was my interview with Matthew Perry. I think it’s fantastic to hear that Matthew’s process for creating high performing teams by developing an environment of safe accountability is repeatable. Matthew has rolled this out now five or six times as you heard and it keeps working for him. If you are interested to see the post that Matthew’s staff made for him, summarizing some of those key messages for reinforcing this environment you can see it in the show notes at That’s the number 5, not the word. There you can also access older episodes and find information about how to subscribe to the show. Please do me a favour and rate comment or give feedback on the episode, to do that you also go to


[00:56:00] Well that’s all I’ve got for you this week, until next time remember: Think big start small. Enjoy life and never stop learning. Geek out!


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