#7 Is leadership the only missing link?

Image of hats for sale on stands

Before the Blog begins I need to make one thing clear – I do not agree with the statement in the picture!

In fact I am more interested in the consequences of this statement as experience has taught me that one size does NOT fit all! The Social Connect platform provides a pathway to assist with the navigation of this consequence.

In continuing with the description of the Social Connect Platform, in Blog #7, I introduce the second breakthrough. This second breakthrough of Social Connect highlights a missing link, which also describes the kind of leadership that is missing and needed to mobilise long-term systemic change.

Introducing the missing link…

“Leadership for Collaborative Advantage describes a form of leadership that can nurture systemic change”(Meyer Tucker)
LCA requires a leadership style that can balance uncertainty whilst in a disequilibrium state (Lichestein & Plowman 2009). In layman terms this mean being able to effectively straddle structure and spontaneity.

As a champion and chief evangelist for such a straddle, in particular for long term systemic change, I would also like to add to my portfolio my commitment of being an eternal optimist! I therefore find it quite hard to engage with pessimism in my writing especially in what I choose to share, but in this Blog it is important to embrace the negative!

On a positive note I am writing to share the qualities of LCA but on the negative in this Blog I am going to refer to the Commonwealth community service tendering process, which commenced June 2014 and went horribly wrong for all involved.

My comments in this Blog are a reflection of the 2015 enquiry that followed the 2014 tendering process. The enquiry sought to better understand the impact on service quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth community service tendering processes by the Department of Social Services.

Without going into the unpleasant details of this tendering experience, it was the most devastating tendering process that I have ever encountered in any of the continents I have worked and/or during my professional career (which can be measured in decades!). I know I am not on my own and the dialogue around there needing to be some form of a reform is a shared one (as skilfully articulated in Pro Bono).

It is also important to state that a reform does not always equal funding cuts and likewise founding cuts and likewise funding cuts do not always equate to a reform. Having said this I am an advocate for there needing to be a social reform but what on and why will become relevant throughout this Blog.

The process leading up to the enquiry was challenging as it included submissions being sought by 20 March 2015 with an extension to 12 May 2015. The extension for the final report was made two more times with a report being released 16 September with twelve recommendations.
I have considered each recommendation introducing the LCA missing link. This way I can demonstrate the second breakthrough in action and identify three calls to action to encourage the recommendations to be acted upon.

Recommendation 1: an analysis of the service delivery gaps is to be undertaken that includes the results to be shared and published. This is to be applauded as those funding such provision and those delivering the services – who have the contact with those most needy – can only benefit from sharing such information.

LCA: Taking responsibility that every decision is based upon clarity of the outcome whilst reinforcing the decision to ensure that service delivery gaps are expressed in the expected outcomes.

Recommendation 2: future tendering processes should be placed strategically – this recommendation almost reads as agreement that the strategic alignment for this tendering process was out of sync (slight understatement).

LCA: The statement of ‘failing forward’ is a soft way of reminding all leaders that mistakes will be made and when they are made it is best to own the learning from them and not repeat the same mistakes again. Be clear and agree the outcomes (Australia must never repeat this experience again)

Recommendation 3: selection criteria to consider the cost mechanism to be based on the weighting of the contribution that community based organisations provide.

LCA: Funding decisions are based on the outcome to be achieved. This also deals with the numbers game for example 30 children in one community may be a great number where in other locations to change the lives of 5 has just the same impact on society – sometimes more!

Recommendation 4: outlines that if one group is not given a grant then any subcontractor or consortium arrangement offered for the same service must be on comparable terms.

LCA: having clarity as to the outcome to be achieved is more of a priority than a set figure for any agency no matter their structure.

Recommendation 5: five year contracts are a vast improvement from one year’s contracts but more importantly the life of the contract must be protected from changes in political administrations.

LCA: All funding agreements are to meet the agreed outcome and should not be impacted upon by such changes as a shift in political paradigms.

Recommendation 6: privacy concerns regarding data exchange is a must and continues the drive for the Commonwealth grant guidelines to achieve a single data portal entry point.

LCA: collaborative leadership takes advantage of the digital arena. Transparency and sharing of data is fundamental to managing this world of dramatic distraction. With a focus on the outcome rather than the process the Department can be confident that future decisions will also be in the right strategic direction.

Recommendation 7: support of advocacy in particularly around the vital component of community services is most welcomed
LCA: takes a welcoming approach to advocacy but the key point of difference is the willingness to make the changes that are identified in particular those proposed to meet an agreed outcome.

Recommendation 8: supports the need for community sector funding to include consistent and adequate indexation of funding (to wage price index)

LCA: Great demonstration of LCA in action, achieving the outcomes through supporting equality

Recommendation 9: agreement to make public the release of the enquiry completed by NOUS. (Is the NOUS enquiry the best use of resources?)

LCA: No matter how an evaluation is considered the importance of being inclusive of the end user is imperative especially in meeting the agreed outcomes.

Recommendation 10: The government has agreed to share knowledge of critical service gaps and make this information known to ensure that vulnerable people get the support they need.

LCA: is all about the focus being on the end outcome not the process so the gaps should be where such outcomes are not being met. The services to fill these gaps do not need to be prescribed and the focus of LCA is on the outcome not the prescription.

Recommendation 11: An agreement for 18 months time for an independent evaluation to determine if the outcome of the tender process has been an improvement of services.

(operation not clear whether from June 2014 when tender issue began or release of enquiry September 2015. The first time outcomes were mentioned in a recommendation!)

LCA: It is important to share experiences and not ‘reinvent the wheels’. Having clarity around the outcomes does not always mean ownership.

(Enabling Government = Empowered Civil Society)

Recommendation 12: Attorney-General to conduct its own review into the tendering process – (a duplication of efforts?)
LCA: Working in partnership around shared outcomes can prevent the duplication of efforts

Unfortunately the word outcome only appears in one of the recommendations (Recommendation 11). If true reform is to be achieved then my aspiration would be that outcomes become integral to the future roll out of these recommendations and not just for the Department of Social Services but to truly deliver on the #AustraliaWeWant.

Leadership for Collaborative Advantage need not be the missing link. I encourage all that continue to have a touch point in making these recommendations become a reality to commit to three calls to action:

  1. Dispute ‘one size fits all” and never allow such disparity to occur ever again.
  2. keep focused on the outcomes to be achieved to keep the #AustraliaWe Want.
  3. Actively pursue Leadership for Collaborative Advantage as the way to straddle between structure and spontaneity

Until next time stay good!

References

Unpublished PhD – Meyer Tucker, J (2015)

Lichtenstein, B and Plowman, D (2009) ‘The leadership of emergence: a complex systems leadership theory of emergence at successive organisational levels’ Management Department Faculty Publications Paper 63 p-617-630

Parliament of Australia 2015 ‘Impact on service, quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth Affairs’ Hansard Australia
http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/Grants

Smardon, X. (2015) ‘Devastating’ Social Service Funding Cuts Slammed’ Pro Bono News Australia https://shar.es/174BKW

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