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Person-centred organisational change in an NDIS setting - a five phase approach

Children and an adult playing with a parachute


Change comes in all shapes and sizes, and only rarely does a change of the magnitude of the NDIS come along. Some see it as an incredible opportunity to do things differently, others get a headache just thinking about it. Whatever your mindset, very few providers transition to the NDIS without having to make significant changes. By now, you’ve probably heard the stories, ranging from the inspiring to the horrifying. How are you supposed to make it all work? How will you keep your team engaged and informed about the changes in your organisation while supporting participants?

With changes of this scale, there are no easy answers. However, you can be proactive, once you have decided on your NDIS strategy and the workforce plan to support the strategy, and once you have taken time to consider how you will manage the change. Taking 30 minutes to plan could save yourself 30 hours of confusion. A change plan doesn’t have to be a thick and wordy door stopper, rather a simple one pager with key principles and a high-level approach. Here’s how that works.

Think of change as a process of five phases that you and the team go through together. The value of walking the path together is that you develop a shared sense of meaning about what the change is, its impact and potential solutions. This also avoids staff feeling that the change is being done to them instead of with them. The driving thought behind this simple approach is that teamwork is more likely to produce practical and acceptable solutions.

One thing to remember about change is that it doesn’t care about organisation time-frames or deadlines. It takes as long as it takes, as do the people (including you) in the process. Starting in time and staying committed is the obvious winning strategy, but of course that’s easier said than done.

The below five-phase approach is simple and known to deliver success across a six to 12 month timeframe, because it’s centred around people and not around processes. 

The five phase approach to change works in these steps:

1.  Creating Awareness 

In this phase, you explore why things are changing, when it happens, and to who. The best outcome in this phase is a mutually-agreed understanding of the known facts. To assist with this, NDS has produced a video to explain what the NDIS will mean for frontline workers. National Disability Practitioners (NDP) has also dedicated a section of their website to help frontline and other workers in our sector to understand the ‘ins and outs’ of the NDIS. 

2.  Making Decisions

Change takes time to process. The bigger the change, the longer it takes. This phase is the time to ask and answer all the questions, especially those ‘What’s in it for me' questions. By giving people information, insecurity and uncertainty are significantly lowered. This allows for better decision-making and acceptance. If you have been able to align the change to what people value, enthusiasm will increase. Prepare for criticism - even welcome it. Do not brand people as resisters, as they might be trying to prevent bad things from happening to the organisation and bring in a different perspective that you may not have considered.

3.  Sharing Knowledge 

Change often means doing things in different ways or learning new ways to do the same thing in a modern way with or without technology. This phase is where you train and educate as required. Make individual assessments and talk to your team members about priorities, options and opportunities. Think about training in the broadest sense. Some of this might be classroom training, but it could also be peer-to-peer, watching videos or self-directed learning. Be creative and respect that people learn in different ways. Do not push people into this phase without them having gone through the first two. Training someone who does not know why or what they should learn is like pouring water into a jar with its lid still on it. 

4.  Building Capability 

This is the most critical phase. After all your efforts in the first three phases, will your team start to exhibit the new skills and behaviours you agreed on? Things will go wrong - that’s how most of us learn, and that is fine. Create an environment where failure is acceptable and support staff and the organisation as a whole to learn from every mistake. By encouraging people to share what went wrong - as well as the learnings and improvement opportunities - everybody benefits. More importantly, you get to iron out design flaws in what looked good in theory, making it clear to everyone that you’re serious about quality and continuous improvement.

5.  Reaffirming Agreements 

This final phase is the one we all love to hate: the documenting and mapping of everything that was changed. Often, teams don’t feel this is a priority, or when they do, they get almost obsessive about it. A winning strategy when it comes to making sure everyone keeps doing what was agreed is to have regular periodic ‘stop, learn and reflect’ meetings to discuss if things are working as planned, and to make adjustments as required (which requires renewed agreement from all parties). Documenting the changes to existing processes and describing the basics of new processes might be a bit painful, but keep in mind that new colleagues will be forever grateful that you took the time to help them get started. And aside form creating a shared source of truth, it will save you tons of work explaining things over and over. 

If you have multiple teams, allow for different teams to move at their own pace - it’s not a competition between teams. Creating a sense of competition generally leads to undesired behaviours.

NDIS News Victoria will continue to dive deeper into these change management phases. If you are keen to increase your organisation's capability in managing change, you might be interested in our Change Room workshop. Learn more here or watch this video.

If you are involved in a change process and need some tailored advice on your person-centred change approach, contact our Workforce Adviser on the details below.

Contact information
Yumi Stamet, Workforce Adviser (DWIN), 02 6283 3211, submit enquiry/feedback