Opinion: The value and inevitability of ‘change’

The single peak organisation debate is part of a natural, inevitable need to respond to a changing environment and it needs a sensible change management approach, writes Benetas CEO, Sandra Hills.

Opinion: by Sandra Hills

Above: Sandra Hills, CEO Benetas

As a strong advocate of the recent PwC report, Is the sum greater than the parts? The value of a single industry aged care association, I have been following the debate surrounding the concept of a single united voice with interest.

While I’ve enjoyed the variety of opinions about whether or not we should unite and why, it’s worth noting that we need to consider the HOW.

When I presented to the Productivity Commission in response to its draft recommendations in March, I compared aged care reform to a change management project. Recent coverage of the PwC report has made me consider this in the same vein.

All CEOs would, and should, have experience with change management, and be well versed in the basics principles of why it’s necessary and how to implement it.  More broadly, we all have an idea of what elements we should be looking at if we change the structure of something – whether it’s a team, a department, an organisation or a peak body.

Like all living organisms, an organisation (or peak body) must evolve and adapt to a changing environment – or face extinction.

I’m not saying that change management, or transforming the face of the aged care industry is a simple task. But you can break it down into simple principles. Before embarking on any change management project, one must have a clear idea of the status quo, and what the goals are for the months and years ahead – I think most players in the industry are on the same page here. From what I can gather, we all have a shared vision of choice, access and sustainability.

Next up in the project is to undertake a review that identifies the core elements of an organisation such as values, organisational structures, systems and staff, and develop a strategy. The Productivity Commission report will be the key to identifying these elements of the overall Australian aged care industry and will set a direction for us. 

We also need a tactical plan to support the strategy and get our team (i.e. peak body members) on board. If the strategy is our overall vision and then the tactics are how we’re actually going to get there – the PwC report is one example of how we might do this. 

With any change, one must decide whether it’s going to happen quickly or more gradually. This really depends on market conditions. Conditions that support change include: the rapid pace of technological innovation; increasingly aggressive competition; sales and revenue are down; the workforce is more diverse; the organisation is complex; increasing customer and/or employee expectations; and changing business models. Sounds pretty familiar.

Basic change management principles also point out three essential aspects to consider: whether it will be massive revolutionary change; radical change to just parts of the organisation; or gradual incremental change over many years.

A high level of employee support is critical, as are reliable communications. An implementation plan with targets, timelines, milestones and accountability is also crucial to change management success. We must find resources and develop strategies for achievement, for example identifying small wins and change champions who others will follow.

In summary, if we are to embark on this change management project for a better aged care system and our goal of a single, united voice, we need:   

  • A shared vision of what the one peak body can become
  •  A gap analysis to determine changes required to realise the vision
  • To define the roles of leadership and senior management involved in the change
  • Most importantly, to emphasise that the past was not wrong – we’re changing because the environment is changing

We need skilled change management leaders to help us bring the face of our national aged care industry in line with the rapidly changing environment. To finish, I’ll quote Binney and Williams who, in their book Leaning into the Future, explain that the task of the change leader is to ‘bring together apparently contradictory qualities. Successful leaders shape the future and they adapt to the world as it is. They are clear about what they want to change and they are responsive to others’ views and concerns. They are passionate about the direction in which they want the organisation to go and they understand and value the current reality of the organisation, why it has been successful and what its people are good at. They lead and learn.

Sandra Hills

Chief Executive Officer

Tags: aged-care, ageing, benetas, change-management, peak-associations-merger, pricewaterhousecoopers, productivity-commission, pwc-report, sandra-hills,

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