The Fine Print – NZTE

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise

Learn how NZTE turned 5000 pages of policy, delegations, and rules into 4 pages by adopting a user-centred approach.


NZTE had over 5000 pages of internal policy, delegations, and rules spread across HR, Finance, Legal and IT. Staff found these documents convoluted and difficult to navigate, and found it hard to understand what they could and couldn’t do, which caused numerous inefficiencies.


In the space of four months, NZTE redesigned 5000 pages of policy, delegations, and rules into four pages (with 30 supporting guidelines). Through a series of workshops, all staff involvement and a focus on internal communication, NZTE have put the user at the centre of how they work. This foundational document is still used and known as "The Fine Print."

Observations and lessons learnt

Processes and adaptability

SystemAtise access to institutional knowledge

Staff, including leaders, weren’t easily able to access rules and guidelines for a given situation. Instead, they were relying on internal "gatekeepers" who advised them on conventions that had evolved over time, rather than actual regulations. NZTE created "The Fine Print," a foundational document to save time and minimise the scope for misinformation. 

Make the process physical

During the process, the team tackled one department at a time and printed out all the rules for the organisation on the walls to make the quantity tangible. They went through these rules line by line, evaluating the legitimacy of each one. 

Design the document for the user rather than by organisational structure

To ensure "The Fine Print" is a living and regularly used document, rules are presented not by departments (e.g. HR, Finance), but rather organised into a page for each four key areas: 1) Rules about working here (e.g. HR, Induction, H&S), 2) Rules about working with customers (their obligations), 3) Rules for spending money (e.g. Finance and Travel), and 4) Rules to keep us safe (e.g. Legal, Procurement, Security). Each page provides guidance and principles to support best judgement decisions. 

Internal communication

How you communicate matters

"The Fine Print" was used intentionally as a name that would stick. A cartoonist was used to draw up the real user stories in order to draw attention and make the stories relatable. Staff dressed up for workshops, videos were created, and updates were made in a different colour to easily communicate the changes being made. 

Everything was designed to help create momentum and energy to be able to pull it off.

— Then Business Improvement Director, now Trade Commissioner and Consul General – New York

Talk to everyone

NZTE engaged with all 600 staff. This wasn’t a document for the leadership team, the whole organisation needed to understand and own it. Engagement included staff quizzes and scenario sessions for people to understand how to use it in context. The same process is now run with new staff as part of their induction programme.

Skills to innovate

Alongside an NZTE customer focused agenda

At the same time, NZTE was undertaking work to better define their customer – the NZ Exporter – and put them at the heart of everything they do. This context and the adjacent changes enabled the organisation to be open to the proposed internal changes. Implementation wouldn’t have gone ahead without the CE’s trust of the delivery team and alignment with the organisation’s vision to be more customer centric. 

Deep understanding of the current problems first

The users in this context are staff. The desired outcome was to find out a specific answer: how can we give people time back to spend on the customer?  A design thinking coach was brought in to run "a day in the life" workshops to understand what gets in the way of different roles. User journey maps and user cases were created to visualise and understand this process. 

The intention was to hunt out what was holding our people back. To learn, what’s the grit getting in the way of us being more efficient?

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