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I’ve seen the future

Roland Naufal reckons he's seen the future: a bit of murder and mayhem, like the death of a lot of bureaucratic management and the fatal wounding of some non profits. But then again, we see a future that works better for many NDIS participants and hands on staff. It’s a world of dramatic, constant and often exciting change.

By Roland Naufal

Updated 15 Apr 202430 Jun 2016

This statement has two famous and very different endings. Applied to the NDIS, which would you choose?

and it works.  Lincoln Steffans 1936

brother: it is murder. Leonard Cohen 1992


Tomorrow the NDIS goes live and national, and when I look into that future I do see a bit of murder and mayhem, like the death of a lot of middle management and the fatal wounding of some non profits. And then again, I see a future that works better for many NDIS participants and hands on staff. We have now done so much consulting in the NDIS that I reckon I’ve seen the future, and…


Planning Gets Better

Just like in the trial sites (but with a much greater degree of difficulty)… participant planning in the early days of the full roll out will be mayhem. ‘My First Plan’ has come out of left field and it appears this mechanism to simplify planning will at least temporarily dash a lot of initial hopes for the NDIS really making a difference in peoples’ lives. And the new non profit LAC players doing the planning will have real problems processing the thousands of new applicants; the grief will often outweigh the joy for both participants and planners. It certainly won’t be pretty for a while, although it will get better as the new planners learn their jobs and the sheer pressure of numbers eases (that’s years, not months).


Clients are also Customers

Yep it will happen. Although we see a lot of client stickiness in these early days of the NDIS, in the future people will vote with their individualised funded feet. Participant controlled social media such as the NDIS Grassroots Facebook site will be the great un-sticker; showing people where they can do better and how to go about it. Grassroots will be replicated in many different formats and mediums; the more successful ones will be less aggressive and more user friendly in every sense. Many people with disability in the major urban centres will have real choice and control; those in rural and remote areas, CALD groups and Indigenous communities will still be struggling to find quality services, unless the ILC program gets a serious and rapid rethink…


Serious New Shortcomings

My biggest worry in the NDIS future is the many people with disability at the margins, those not eligible to become participants (the estimate is up to 900,000 people). The ILC program is meant to cover them and state governments were also meant to continue supports. Neither looks like it is going to do the job properly. I recently wrote about the inadequacies of these current developments in the blog: A Serious Imbalance in the NDIS. What is going to happen to people who only need a little support to carry on or vital programs where funding cannot be individualised? The NDIA will have to pay if the 900,000 start crashing through to become NDIS participants because they didn’t get the preventative support they needed. The NDIA and state governments need to find some better ILC-type answers now and not wait for the planning chaos to subside.

Another very significant shortcoming is the area of mental health in the NDIS. This can only be described as a mess: the assessment criteria and process fit so poorly for people with mental health challenges, and I have real concerns about the adequacy of the NDIS to adapt quickly enough to ensure quality of outcomes.


RIP Bureaucratic Management

The NDIS margins are so thin, organisations cannot afford much management and emerging software will replace many of the functions anyway. Gone will be the days when middle managers focused on delivering communications and paperwork up and down the chain. Coaching style senior managers will replace the command and control ‘C level’ dinosaurs. What the bosses want will be much less important and the ‘troops’ will have much more decision making power in the future. If you are a middle manager in disability, right now is a great time for a mid-career crisis. Aim for senior management or why not start up one of the many successful people focused small disability organisations of the future?


Autonomous Frontline Staff

It’s a self managed teams kind of future. If you haven’t heard us bang on about the new cost cutting, client and staff empowering team models, it’s time to get with the program. Both overseas and here we are seeing teams operating at the neighbourhood level; employing people with lived experience and highly qualified staff. They are paying higher wages with extremely low management ratios and delivering better outcomes. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that future?


Sensational Software

There is some great software out there and a few of our favourites are in the communication space. Slack has changed the way our team communicates, it provides a virtual team environment for people who don’t have the time or ability to get face to face very often. Libby Mears the trend setting CEO at Leisure Networks uses Yammer and Twitter to successfully engage her staff. Then there is Lantern, the great new software that supports clients to self manage. Gosh the world is changing.


No More Offices

Lots of people think I am a hermit or a nutcase because I think we waste a lot of money on offices. But watch that (office) space, change is gonna happen. People are going to master the office-less organisation by using great software and diverting the building cost savings into processes for building great teams. We need to get much smarter about how we support team collaboration and our work is in the community, so why do we need to congregate in expensive purpose built bricks and mortar. Won’t someone please listen?


Better Utilised Infrastructure

In the future we will have identified lots of infrastructure in the community that we can all use better. We will find and use lots of places and other resources like the massively underutilised disability mini bus fleets. We just don’t yet know where or what they all are.


Some Not for Profits Dead

But how many? Was it murder or suicide? All of my career before consulting was in non profits yet I am still amazed when some of them tell us they know they are not competitive and that their corporate service charges are way too high. The amazing bit is that many are not doing enough about it; definitely rabbit in the headlights type behaviour. Wait and see is not a strategy, it is an epitaph. Some will end up roadkill while there also seem to be a significant number on the death by a thousand cuts trajectory. Ouch. Too many organisations are doing too little, too late, to survive in the NDIS. Sounds a little harsh? It’s a final call to many to get your acts together. And remember Vanessa’s advice, what got you here, won’t get you there.


Winners and Losers

You may call me naïve, you may think I’m cynical (somehow, I get accused of both) but I have seen the future, it’s a world of dramatic, constant and often exciting change. Like always, there are winners and losers but it looks to me like some of the winners this time might be the underdogs, people with disability (but mostly those that are urban dwelling NDIS participants) and the great hands on staff that work with them.


Roland Naufal

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