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The Five Deceptively Simple Questions to Ask When Seeking to Build NDIS Readiness


Monday, 10th July 2017 at 4:09 pm
Bessi Graham
Current approaches to NDIS readiness just don’t and won’t cut it, writes Bessi Graham, the co-founder and CEO of The Difference Incubator (TDi), which has sought to unpack ways to support providers on this journey.


Monday, 10th July 2017
at 4:09 pm
Bessi Graham


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The Five Deceptively Simple Questions to Ask When Seeking to Build NDIS Readiness
Monday, 10th July 2017 at 4:09 pm

Current approaches to NDIS readiness just don’t and won’t cut it, writes Bessi Graham, the co-founder and CEO of The Difference Incubator (TDi), which has sought to unpack ways to support providers on this journey.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with many service providers in the disability sector.

In all of our work at TDi we help organisations grapple with finding the “sweet spot” where they have a business model that sustains them while delivering the results they seek on the social or environmental issues they care so passionately about. The introduction of the NDIS has seen an explosion of interest and focus on this exact journey for disability service providers all over the country.

In work we conducted with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) we assessed the NDIS readiness of a number of organisations in South Australia, focused on preparedness to deliver customer-driven business models. We found that:

  • no provider was assessed as having a “strong” level of readiness
  • 40 per cent of providers were assessed as being “moderately prepared”
  • 60 per cent of providers were assessed as being “poorly prepared”.

With the readiness of providers being so low we sought to unpack ways in which to support them on this journey.

As these organisations seek to develop desirable, viable and feasible business models we’ve found that there are five deceptively simple questions they need to ask themselves:

  1. What is our organisational intent?
  2. What do our customers want and need?
  3. What is our value proposition to our customers?
  4. How do we realise our value proposition through our business model?
  5. How do we align our organisation to our intent and new service models?

The questions need to be answered in sequence, and the relative importance of each is different for the four key groups we work with in this area: executives and boards, senior managers, front-line teams and back-office teams.

1) Organisational intent

You may think that the intent of an organisation in the social sector would be the area they would have nailed most strongly. Interestingly I have found consistently with the hundreds of organisations I’ve worked with over the years that this is not in fact the case.

While we’re driven by a social or environmental mission or purpose in this sector we struggle, like everyone else, to really name powerfully our “why” and to tease apart and articulate the critical aspects of intent. I have focused much of my time and attention in the last few years on this area as it forms the foundation on which we build organisations that have the ability to “Do Good and Make Money”.

When you do the work upfront to name, your intent becomes the touchstone or anchor for your organisation. It informs decisions and helps you assess if the business you’re running, or the products/services you deliver are aligned to your intent.

2) Understanding customers

Organisations need to understand who they do and don’t serve and what different segments of customers value. It will no longer be enough for leaders to assume that they “know their customers” without robust customer engagement and participation in designing, shaping and reviewing service and product offerings.

As providers become clear on what their unique value proposition is to customers and realign their services and support around that, it is critical that the voice of the customer reaches throughout the organisation rather than being confined to interactions with frontline staff to continue to shape and influence policy and strategy that impacts on them. For senior managers, this involves an understanding of the tools and methods that can be used to surface customer insights, a commitment to their implementation and the structural realignments required internally to ensure customer insights are heard at the executive level.

3) Value proposition

No provider can be good at delivering everything to everyone, and increasingly such claims will seem hollow and lack credibility. Organisations need to develop expertise in their core offerings and be prepared to “retire” the parts of their business that they are not so skilled, equipped or interested in delivering through divestment or simply cessation.

Customers will respect and trust providers who are honest about what they can and cannot deliver, and who can offer effective signposting to other options that meet people’s needs better.

4) Realising your value proposition through your business model

Senior managers need to develop distinct value propositions which align with the organisation’s intent and resonate with customers’ needs, aspirations and priorities. This is a critical element for senior managers, to enable them to have the tools to translate value proposition and intent into a business model that is desirable for their clients, feasible to deliver with their staff and viable as a business.

Working through this with senior managers enables them to identify key decision-makers in the NDIS process, core offerings and business channels, while also surfacing gaps and assumptions in their thinking and planning. Our view is that providers should get really good at delivering specific services to specific customer groups, and seek the partners who complement organisational offerings and values.

5) Align and support staff to deliver

The scale of change for staff under the NDIS will be at least as dramatic as the change for people with disability. New kinds of demand from customers will mean that staff can expect changes in role, skill set, culture and behaviour. For a time there will also be uncertainty about what these changes will be.

Organisations need to understand their staff’s readiness and support personal, professional and emotional dimensions of the change journey. Focusing on training and skills development will be insufficient. Senior managers need to provide clarity to front-line staff on what the intent, value proposition and subsequent business model mean for their delivery of services and support, not only in what they deliver but in how they deliver it, and what it means for them personally and professionally.

Current approaches to NDIS readiness just don’t and won’t cut it. As one of the senior managers we worked with in this space put it: “We realised that to be ‘NDIS ready’ is more about understanding ourselves as an organisation, and our clients’ needs, not just about getting processes in place.”

If we are to see the NDIS get traction and live up to the promises it has made to so many we need to raise the bar on what constitutes NDIS readiness to include the capability to develop customer centred services and business models.

About the author: Bessi Graham is the co-founder and CEO of The Difference Incubator (TDi).  She is a leading practitioner in social enterprise and impact investment. Graham is internationally recognised for her work in designing the NAB Impact Investment Readiness Fund and her tireless advocacy for the role of Investable Social Enterprises (ISEs) in bringing about solutions to society’s most pressing challenges. She co-authored the report Impact Measurement: Exploring its role in impact investment with NAB’s Elliot Anderson. She tweets as @BessiGraham


Bessi Graham  |   |  @ProBonoNews

Bessi Graham is the co-founder and CEO of The Difference Incubator.

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