#21 Insanity or 42?

Image of man holding burning newspaper

Whilst I welcome consultation I continue to struggle with consultation that does not start with clarity of the intended outcome.

It also seems to be human nature to lean towards repeat behaviour and doing repetitive actions makes us most comfortable. In addition comfortable is often consolidated by doing or being around things or decisions we have done before.

Having said this the act of repeating things, simply for repeating them as a result of habit or because it’s the way it has been done (even though the results achieved are not the ones required) can also be described as insanity!

I believe it was Einstein who was quoted to have said:
Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein).

To assist with this Blog I shall use a very current and topical example. Most recently the Federal Government of Australia has tasked the Productivity Commission to consider part of the ‘Inquiry into Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice Into Human Services.’

As noted in David Crosbie’s (CEO of Community Council Australia) brilliant critique for Pro Bono this Inquiry has major ramifications for the future of charities and the Not For Profit sector. David provides an excellent summary and I encourage all to support the Community Council of Australia in all that it does. I am so pleased that David and colleagues have been able to further review the Inquiry and comment on the content of the Inquiry as I am struggling to turn the first page because the very setting is at odds to a global paradigm that Australia is part of.

The key part for me is around the topic of insanity. I believe considering Einsteen’s definition it is insanity when there is an inquiry looking into the process and performance of human services and a sector when the country in question ie Australia has yet to have clarified the purpose or outcomes across the lifecycle of those being served by the sector, meaning CIVIC SOCIETY or End-User or simply put the people!!

Before I go any further this is definitely not a negatively framed message or Blog towards any linked person to the inquiry and especially not at members of the Productivity Commission (I continue to be a serious fan) but more of a frustration for ‘Our Luck Country’ (and compared to the world it is) that seriously needs to get its act together and step into the ‘purpose economy’ or brave new world and be on the front foot and not the back foot of the global paradigm. We cannot be the innovation nation if our actions are driving a dichotomy.

Now I know this is not the first time I have made the reference to global paradigms but how can I be true to a Blog titled Consequences if I don’t continue to point out the Consequences of continuing to ignore purpose and outcomes. This sentiment and the importance of purpose (outcomes) is a thread that has been woven through all my Blogs and in contributing to the Inquiry in question am I reminded of the following:
Field centric approach vs Organisation centric approach.

Considering decisions around which services? What are costs and benefits? Barriers to new and old suppliers?

All these questions (taken from the Inquiry) are based at an organization centric approach and simply lead to dead ends. To make decisions around any form of human services it must be accepted that the situation is complex and therefore requires clarity of outcomes before any processes (never alone performances) can be articulated. To step into the later stages (process and performance) before clarifying the outcome (purpose) is like hitting balls on a golf course with no holes or in Australia’s case a golf course with too many unidentified holes.

The second part of the Inquiry describes how it is going to test and introduce greater competition and user choice to the services that are going to be identified but this action is to occur before agreement of outcomes! This approach and sentiment is being made at a time when countries with longer development histories than Australia are no longer following such options – especially as it leads to Trumpism or Brexitism – some of the most recent global fall outs. In this Blog I point to my first Blog#1 which drew on some wise words from Stanford reviews about such business models no longer being fit for purpose.

The values that have allowed western capitalism to thrive now threatens its future.

An earlier Australian example of where such decisions of Australian government were definitely not fit for purpose was the Abbott government approach to the Department of Social Services community services tendering process (see Blog #7).

The drive of this Blog#21 and what I hope will be considered, as part of this Inquiry is not my defense of a sector wanting to stay the same – that is not the case. I totally support much of the direction of the Treasurer Scott Morrison to search for efficiencies but would like to reorder the setting of his words and search thus re directing his actions into a direction of purpose.

Finding innovative ways to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness of the human service sector, but to firstly identify the outcomes at a population level that target improved outcomes for individuals and the economic benefits will follow.

I continue to advocate for action at the macro level to bring together previous collaborative outcomes framework (COAG, AIHW), better use of the Wellbeing frameworks already based in Treasury and to most definitely align with the 17 Sustainability development goals which are NOT specifically just for climate change or developing countries – (see a most recent thought provoking example of Australia in this).

I know like the Hitch Hikers quide to the Galaxy this Blog does not provide all the answers (if only it was as simple as 42 – those under a certain age range you will need to check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aboZctrHfK8).

On a more serious note there is a warning within this Blog, which is not just for the Charity and Not For Profit sector. There is little debate around the fact that the knowledge era is bringing change at a pace like never before. There is also much evidence of global businesses embracing transformative change in the way they do business.

The way forward is innovation and to step into such opportunities by rethinking the way this is approached in the order of purpose first then process and then performance is key but to use methods of the old and with no clarity of purpose to me is insanity!


Productivity Commission Inquiry: http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/human-services/identifying-reform/issues

David Crosbie: http://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2016/07/compete-not-compete-big-questions-sector/?utm_source=Pro+Bono+Australia+-+email+updates&utm_campaign=113d23f66a-News_Bulletin_14_7_167_14_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ee68172fb-113d23f66a-147105461&mc_cid=113d23f66a&mc_eid=9f67d4ca81

Bradach, J, Grindle A (2014) Emerging Pathways to transformative scale SSIR 1 Spring

17 Sustainable Development Goals https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

Australia alignment sustainability development goals https://theconversation.com/its-a-fallacy-that-all-australians-have-access-to-clean-water-sanitation-and-hygiene-61436

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