Impact Story
dtac custom program

Cultivating a culture of empowerment in Thailand’s Telco titan

Impact Story

dtac custom program

Cultivating a culture of empowerment in Thailand’s Telco titan

Empowering leadership transformation: dtac’s journey from hierarchy to agility


Championing the digital future of the Thai people has always been in dtac’s DNA, even before the company’s merger with True to become the largest telco in Thailand.

At the core of that commitment is the understanding that the work starts from within. In 2018, dtac embarked on a strategic cultural change journey to transform into an agile enterprise powered by empowered employees.


When then-CEO Alexandra Reich stepped into her role in August 2018, she was met with a challenging landscape. The external challenges such as network issues and fierce competition, which led to loss of market ground, were quickly addressed. However, the internal cultural challenges remained. Quickly, Reich recognized the need to fundamentally shift the organizational mindset from a hierarchical top-down culture to one where every dtac employee takes active responsibility for results and is constantly seeking better ways to execute.

The IMD approach and the power of co-creation

Recognizing early on that their leaders would be the best people to help drive change, dtac decided to kickstart its cultural change journey by focusing on the 46 leaders who sat on the extended management committee (EMC). At the same time, they knew they wanted to go beyond the standard methodology or solution offered by most vendors and have a hand in designing individualized transformation journeys.

For two months, Nardrerdee Arj-Harnwongse, dtac’s Chief People Officer, and Misiek Piskorski, IMD’s Dean for Asia and Oceania, worked together to develop a visionary journey according to these criteria:

  1. Individualized journeys for each EMC leader and his/her team. dtac and IMD both agreed that change could only happen if the EMC leader went through the journey with their team. However, since each team had a different starting point and their own set of needs, the treatment would need to be specific to the team. Each team thus had its own coach who would be the ultimate arbiter throughout the journey and accountable for the outcome.
  2. Journeys must be cohesive at a higher level. While individualized, certain elements of the journeys must be similar, so the participants shared a common frame of reference. This meant that coaches had to collaborate closely to ensure that there was agreement around the tools and techniques used throughout the journeys.
  3. Enabling local trainers for program longevity. Everything about the journey had to be deeply embedded in Thai culture, customs, and the way Thai executives thought and worked. As the intention was to have later cohorts led by local coaches identified by dtac, a crucial element of the journey was for IMD coaches to embark on a train-the-trainer program.


Based on their pre-assessed needs, the EMC members and their teams kicked off their learning journey with individualized introductions. Following that, they converged for an all-team experience – a leadership course with IMD coaches, before diverging again into breakout groups with their team coaches for deep coaching. This convergence and divergence not only allowed for a healthy balance of learning, coaching, and collaborating in a project within teams, but enabled teams to address any problems with leadership or ways of working together.

Although the learning journey had to be suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions, which led to a pivot from an in-person to a Zoom-based experience, the continuous cycle of learning and application led to significant positive changes in the leadership behaviors of individuals and teams. With a newfound openness, willingness for active listening, and a shared sense of purpose, participants reflected that they were able to work more effectively and collaborate better within and between teams.

The emphasis on participative leadership, speedy decision-making, and working effectively across the organization not only empowered employees to achieve success in their own roles but became dtac’s compass as it navigated through the uncertainties of the pandemic and the high-profile merger. Truly, this journey has enabled dtac to transform its organizational culture from the inside out.

It was quite a fun experience to co-create the journey. We had the end in mind. We briefed Professor Misiek on our ambition and our problems, where we are and where we want to be. He came up with a solution, then we discussed it and we helped each other to take the design forward.

Nardrerdee Arj-Harnwongse Former Chief People Officer at dtac

Through some of the exercises and the discussions we had, we were able to improve the openness of the communication within our team, being open and direct. Ultimately, this created more confidence and trust in each other, and helped improve efficiency.

Magnus Muller EMC member
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