Three simple truths to strengthen your organisation for change

Thinking for Change: part three

Previous blogs in this series:

Part 1: Playing with the rules 
Part 2: Finding inspiration

If you’ve been anywhere near a business blog in the last month or so, you’ve probably seen some predictions for the year ahead. While we can’t be sure which predictions will come true, one thing is certain: change will come. When it does, how will your organisation adapt? Will it respond to chaos in “firefighting mode”, or with intention and grace?

Instead of wasting energy trying to predict change, it can be more helpful to focus on the factors that never change.

In this post, I’ll share the three areas to focus on this year – and every year – to strengthen your organisation, ready for whatever the year has in store.  

How about you? What enduring truths have helped anchor your organisation in stormy times? Let us know in the comments!


It starts, and ends, with the Mission.

Every purpose-led organisation has a mission statement. A great mission statement describes your organisation’s enduring purpose. When well expressed, it can be the catchcry that drives everyone in your organisation forward. While it’s great to have your mission written on the wall, and in your annual report, it can do so much more when embedded into all of your programs.

An impact model (otherwise known as a logic model or theory of change) can help. It’s a roadmap to describe how your organisation delivers on your mission. It specifies:

  • The specific outcomes your program/s must deliver to realise the impact you hope to achieve.
  • The activities and outputs that will create your chosen outcomes
  • The inputs or resources you will use to deliver the activities and outputs.

The Compass: Your Guide to Social Impact Measurement from the Centre for Social Impact is a great place to start learning more.

If you don’t have a logic model, think about establishing one. As organisational changes happen, you can review and adapt the model – giving you a solid roadmap to guide your decisions as things change. Mapping your annual business plan to your impact model is a practical way to make reviewing, adapting, and measuring your progress easier.

This diagram shows how the most common areas within an annual plan, relate to the different stages in a simple impact model.

People are everything.

It goes without saying that for-purpose organisations put people ahead of profit. But how well does your organisation really understand the people you serve?

If you’re involved in service delivery, it’s likely that your organisation has strong empathy for the people you serve – and has been delivering services to similar people over a long period. The danger here is getting stuck in a service orientation where your culture assumes that your experience as a provider of service means you automatically understand the perspective of the people you serve.

The shift towards market-based models in areas like Aged Care and the NDIS demands that we take a step beyond service orientation, to a market orientation. This perspective:

  • Starts from the assumption that you, as a provider, are biased – and cannot understand the customer, donor or beneficiary’s perspective
  • Looks beyond your existing customer and stakeholder relationships to understand the whole market or landscape. Including only your existing customers and stakeholders in research is like the parable of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant. If you try to guess the shape of something by feeling just one part, you might be partly right, but also wholly wrong.

Embedding a market orientation requires a cultural shift, and takes time. A good place to start is by improving your market research practices.

A good research program will investigate the needs of your customers/donors/beneficiaries, as well as provide you with a solid assessment of the context in which your organisation operates, and the core competencies you bring to the table.

Armed with accurate human insight, you’ll be better prepared to respond to the unexpected in an informed way.

Evolution before Revolution.

You can’t achieve your mission if you’re always struggling for survival. The world does change quickly, and with this comes the need to find innovative ways to adapt your business model.

While it’s exciting to think about new products and services, setting up a new model takes a lot of resources. Provided there is proven, ongoing demand for your service, if you need to improve your viability it can be better – and easier – to aim for an evolution, not revolution.  

Start by gathering a detailed understanding of the way your current systems function. Making assumptions about what’s happening isn’t helpful, but it’s often exactly where we start – getting straight to brainstorming solutions without really understanding the issues at hand. Holding off on the brainstorming until you have all your facts will save you time and generate better solutions in the long run.

First: Gather Data. If you don’t know where you’re spending time and wasting resource, start measuring! At CBB our consultants use the time tracking software Harvest to measure the outputs we generate. We know how much time is being spent with clients, and how long it takes to keep up with professional development. We can measure the inputs used to deliver different kinds of projects, which helps us give clients realistic proposals.

As well as tracking inputs and outputs, it’s important to take time to observe your activities. This will help you put the data in context so you see both the trees, and the forest. Use your observations to diagnose the barriers against, and drivers towards better performance, and prioritise which to tackle first.

Need support to evolve your services, business model or marketing? CBB’s consultants can help guide your organisation through the process from gathering data, to generating ideas, and implementing changes.

Talk to us….

Meg Drechsler
Senior Marketing Consultant
Phone: 1300 763 505


February: a time to plan for future success

small pawn looking at his image in a mirror and seeing a kingWhilst there’s still work to do this financial year, an eye needs to be cast forward to next financial year – in particular developing your marketing budget.

But, before you can develop a budget, you need to have your marketing strategy in place, and any existing marketing strategy needs to be reviewed, challenged and redeveloped. This will allow you to create a marketing plan and budget based on strategic objectives and outcomes:

  • Improving your return on investment and your effort
  • Be fully justifiable, increasing your chances of approval
  • Provide rationale and focus for all your efforts. So as new opportunities arise, you can assess if they are on strategy.  Making it easy to discard some and focus on opportunities that may present a better investment than those in your current plan.  For tips on assessing advertising opportunities read ‘Deal or Dud?…’.


Not every organisation’s strategic process will be the same, but here are some things that should be considered in every strategy

  • First of all, forget the 4Ps (product, place, promotion and price) for the moment. Whilst this is vital in developing your tactics, you need to look beyond these at first and understand the market and your audience.
  • Your marketing strategy needs to tie into your organisational strategy. What’s the organisation’s goals and mission? What outputs (financial) and outcomes (impact) does it want to achieve and how can your marketing strategy achieve these?
  • What is happening in the market – what changes have there been in the last twelve months and what changes are likely to happen in the next two years? What are your competitors doing?  What threats and opportunities do these changes bring?
  • Who are your audience and what are their needs and wants? Don’t limit yourself to looking at your existing clients, understand the whole audience so you can create unique segments and build new business.

Once you’ve considered all the factors relevant to your organisation, you can develop your marketing strategy.  Make sure you’ve covered which segment(s) of the audience you’ll target, your positioning to each segment and what your objectives are.

Tip:  Whilst your working document will be many pages summarise it in one or two pages – this will be a powerful tool to keep the whole business and your efforts on track. 

Tactics and budget

With your strategy complete it’s time to develop your marketing plan and look at the 4Ps (product, place, promotion and price).  Analysing these against your strategy will allow you to create an effective marketing plan that:

  • Ensures current services and business practices meet the needs and wants of customers, allowing you to make adjustments as necessary or add new services to your organisation’s portfolio.
  • Ensures you reach the right audience at the right time with information that is relevant to them.
  • Allows you to create a marketing budget where you only allocate a budget line to activities that achieve an objective in your strategy, rather than just repeating what you did last year.

Tip: Make sure your plan helps you achieve short and long term success. It’s much easier to get your message through to someone who already has a connection with your brand.  Make sure you include activities to connect people to your brand and your mission. Whilst this will yield a lower return on investment short term, in the future it will make your marketing efforts more effective.

If you need help creating your strategy, marketing plan or budget, get in touch with our marketing consulting team via or book a free 30-minute consult.

Tom Rippon
Marketing Consultant
Phone: 1300 763 505

NDIS cancellation rules – reasonable and fair for all?

Organisations can suffer serious financial damage if clients fail to keep scheduled services or cancel scheduled services at the last minute. NDIS cancellations are often beyond the control of the client and the service provider. Ill health, hospitalisation, poor weather, lack of transportation or difficulty getting out of bed can make it impossible for clients to attend a pre-booked NDIS support session. Most people have probably forgotten appointments in their lives and sometimes an appointment is simply inconvenient.

Service businesses generally try to lessen the financial loss through cancellations by establishing cancellations policies, charging cancellation fees or factoring cancellations into the hourly service fee. Under Australian Consumer Law, organisations’ cancellation terms and fees must be fair and reasonable and must be communicated to the client when booking into the service. 

NDIS service providers are bound by a price cap. Assuming they are charging at the maximum price (as most providers do) they cannot adjust the fee if the risk of cancellation is high. The NDIS price guide also prescribes the cancellation rules that apply to all service providers irrespective of service, location, customer base and needs.

The February 2019 NDIS Price Guide states:

  • Providers may charge up to 90% of the agreed price if the participant makes a short-notice cancellation. Short notice is defined as a cancellation after 3pm the day before the service or a ‘no show’ on the day.
  • For personal care and community access supports, the fee may be charged against a participant plan up to 12 times per year. Beyond this threshold, the NDIS will require the provider to demonstrate they are taking steps to actively manage cancellations.
  • For therapy services the provider can charge a maximum of 90% for up to six hours within the period of any service booking.
  • Providers may not charge for cancellations, where the participant provides notice of cancellation prior to 3pm the day before the scheduled service.

Surely, the intention of the cancellation rules is to strike a balance for participants and providers while safeguarding participants against unfair contract terms. Participants and providers enter into service agreements with a minimum of 14 days’ termination notice period. Yet, participants can cancel the scheduled service at any time and at reasonably short notice, for any reason. The responsibility is with the provider to have individual arrangements in place to minimise the risk of cancellation or late changes to the delivery of scheduled support.

The 90% charge for very late NDIS cancellations or ‘no shows’ on the other hand seems generous and difficult for participants who have limited budgets and substantial reasons to miss services frequently. Yet, is seems justified if the provider still has the same cost, irrespective of whether  the client is attending the scheduled service. Should a provider doing a home visit get paid less if the client is not at home? The provider is also required to make every effort to follow up with the customer to find out if the client is in crisis and needs immediate help.

The NDIS 3pm notification rule implies that if the organisation or support worker receives the notification earlier in the day there is a chance of filling the slot with another client. This may work for therapists and specialists who have wait lists and requests for appointments on the day. Personal care and community access services however are generally pre-arranged and scheduled and ideally staff are thoughtfully matched to clients. Last minute bookings are unlikely.

How can providers mitigate the loss?

In case of one-on-one support provided by casual staff, the staff will likely receive a call and have the shift cancelled or reduced (as long as they have completed the minimum hours stated in their work agreements). This leads to disjointed shifts, unpredictable working hours, insecure income for the disability workers, and may impact on their reliability. Casuals often sign up with several providers or jobs to ensure a reliable income. For the provider this increases staff turnover, recruitment and training costs, difficulties in filling shifts and finding the right support person for each customer.

But what if you cannot send your staff home? The costs for salaries, rent, utilities, administration and other overheads remain the same. 

If the participant was booked into a program delivered in a small group, the program will go ahead with one less paying attendant, which is unlikely to be viable if there are frequent cancellations prior to 3pm. When raising this issue with the NDIA it was suggested that the provider could charge the fee according to the ratio of the actual attendance on the day instead (with prior consent of the customers). If for example the group was scheduled at a 3:1 ratio and only two customers attend, the provider could charge the attending clients the 2:1 rate instead. This approach creates administrative nightmares for providers, making budgeting, quoting and service bookings more laborious and difficult. It also seems greatly unfair for the attending customers who must bear the costs of absent customers while having to monitor their NDIS budget. A customer who cancels the attendance of a program that runs for several hours and on consecutive days, creates a major loss for the provider or the customers who get charged a higher fee. At the time of NDIS plan review, the absent participant might also give the impression that the allocated NDIS budget is not needed.

Cancellation policies of programs outside the NDIS service provision (such as social, educational or sports activities) tend to differ in what is considered fair and reasonable. Once booked onto a program, consumers pay the full program fee from the point they start until the conclusion of the program or cancellation of the contract. If they are sick or choose not to attend, in most cases they still pay the full fee. At times customers that missed sessions are offered make-up sessions within a set period and if vacancies exist. Customers willingly pay for their recreational activities and respect the agreed termination notice periods unless there is a major problem. Unlike the providers of consumer recreational or educational programs, NDIS providers are also not permitted to charge in advance or keep money as bonds from participants prior to the service.

What arrangements would be reasonable and fair for participants, NDIS providers and staff? Should the NDIS establish cancellation rules that are more differentiated or will this make the system even more complex and difficult to navigate? Should NDIS service providers be able to set their own cancellation rules or would this increase the risk of abuse? And how do participants get protected from providers that cancel at last minute or do not show?

We are keen to learn how NDIS service providers deal with the current 3pm notification rule. We would like to hear how your organisation minimises the risk of NDIS cancellations and what barriers do you face? How do you manage the business impact of NDIS cancellations? What would work better for you and your clients, especially for those who need to cancel frequently? Please share your thoughts and experience with me by emailing me at the address below. We look forward to hearing from you and are planning to share and discuss our findings in one of our next Foreword editions.

NDIS consultant

Dr Ellen Schuler
Business Consultant
Phone: 1300 763 505

Reflections from 2018 Governor’s Leadership Foundation Scholarship recipient

There are many benefits to working and volunteering in the not for profit sector. A feeling of working for a higher purpose, a calling, the satisfaction that comes with an alignment of values. Yet one thing NFPs often struggle with, compared to our more affluent corporate cousins, is finding sufficient funding to train and develop staff. Which is why I felt incredibly privileged and blessed to be a recipient of a half scholarship from CBB when I was accepted into the 2018 Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program.

It was with high hopes and expectations that I attended the opening retreat in February, and, 10 months later, emerged as graduate in November. Was it hard? Yes. Was it everything I had hoped for? Yes, and more. Would I recommend it? Absolutely.

The GLF is an immersive course, which operates on a deeply personal and professional level. We were guided by expert facilitators through an understanding of what adaptive leadership involves and given tools and models to explore and apply through a community action project which ran concurrently throughout the course. We were exposed to sectors and places in our state that most of us never thought we’d have access to – from a women’s prison to a tour of the Australian Submarine Corporation; from the RAAF base in Edinburgh to the Whyalla steelworks. And among the way we heard from leaders of these diverse organisations on their leadership challenges, lessons and opportunities.

This in itself is a mind broadening experience, but it is also attached to an intensive program of self-awareness and feedback which had a major impact on me this year. The GLF provides a comprehensive 360 feedback model, together with professional coaching and peer-to-peer coaching amongst the participants. This provides an opportunity to understand our blind spots, confirm our strengths, come to terms with our developmental areas and provide a fertile ground for growth. It certainly did that for me.

I’ve learned a lot about our state of South Australia this year. I understand that there is much to celebrate, and that there is a lot of good work and innovation which potentially does not get the attention it deserves in the mass media. But more than that, I learned a lot about myself.

The GLF has been permission-giving to shift away from continuously enhancing technical expertise and instead be more inward looking. This hasn’t been easy; I found some of the 360 feedback challenging. But over time, I learned to absorb and understand the lessons, and I found my behaviours changed as a result. I formed new habits; I became more sensitive to the perceptions and interpretations of others.  I read – a lot. I particularly recommend two books which supported my understanding of areas to change and then to be able to form new behaviours. Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and Charles Duhigg “The Power of Habit”. Well worth a holiday read.

As a recipient of a scholarship, I also feel a responsibility to share this gift and opportunity with others. Throughout the year in my workplace, I shared my learning and experiences with the management team. We worked through some of the journal articles and readings provided, which generated a lot of lively debate and discussion. Whenever I have the opportunity, I talk about the experiences, tools, models or readings from the GLF so that there is a cross-pollination of these ideas that ripple into the workplace environment and the wider community.  This would not have been possible without CBB’s support, and for this I am sincerely grateful.

Astrid Kuivasaari – General Manager, Resources at The Uniting Church of SA

Lessons learnt from NDIS Transitions

For the last 18 months we have been assisting nearly 100 disability providers in SA with their NDIS transition journeys.  It has been an interesting ride and a steep learning curve for all involvedLessons learnt NDIS (clients and consultants alike) as we’ve ridden through the white water NDIS landscape.  As the year is coming to a close and our direct involvement with our current clients is coming to an end, it is time to reflect on the strategic impact of the NDIS in a People and Culture context.

While it is tempting to prioritise a ‘top five list’ of things to focus on, it might be more useful to talk about the ‘organisational hygiene factors’ required to succeed in an NDIS environment. These will not be prioritised, but rather seen as a collection of interdependent people and culture success factors that need attention.

Strategy, strategy, strategy

Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable – Dwight Eisenhower

Strategic planning is an oxymoron – Henry Mintzberg

Whichever side of the fence you sit on in regards to strategic planning, there is one basic truth; Have it and it doesn’t guarantee anything, don’t have it and it guarantees aimlessness.

The process of strategic planning has remained much the same over the decades however, I’ve noticed that strategic planning documents are getting thinner!  Glossy, high colour one page documents are becoming the norm (finally!).  So if less is definitely more, we need to accommodate this trend and be punchy and attention-grabbing.

The outcome for People & Culture executives?  This document becomes the centre of everything we do.  Every initiative, practice and policy must be tied back to this document. Our specialist expertise should be a proactive critical engagement with this process. Understand your business, know the external operating environment, contribute, critique and ask informed questions to add value to this process.

People & Culture goes hand in hand with Marketing

If you are lucky enough to have a marketing team, then form a partnership.  These two functions go together like peaches and cream – separately they can tick boxes, but together, you get something unique, unified and much more appetising!

The main synergy to get right is your brand DNA and resultant employee value proposition (EVP).  Never underestimate the effect of your organisation‘s brand value in the marketplace.  It attracts customers, clients and prospective employees to your doorstep.  In a time of ‘shallow talent pools’ and skills shortages in our sector, we need to have this firmly on our strategic agenda.

If you do not have in-house marketing/HR expertise, it is worth engaging external assistance.  After all, you would engage a financial professional with CPA qualifications to go through your books.  You might even find that external investment positively affecting your balance sheet in the long run.

Values and culture is your foundation; Inspiring leadership drives performance

OK, we hear this a lot.  So much so, that it’s starting to sound old hat, part of the background noise and identical to what everyone is saying. ‘Our people are our greatest asset’ no longer cuts the mustard. Having ‘collaborative leadership styles’ is not really inspiring anymore.  Our audience (workforce) is getting more sophisticated and we are stuck using terms that they have grown out of. The intention of the messages are OK, don’t get me wrong here.  What I often fail to see, is the ‘walk’ or the ‘how to’ behind these declarations.

What are the structures and frameworks that support the ‘talk’?  How do we ensure that ‘walk’ is empowering, engages with technology, measures our targets, focuses on results and people?  In short; how can you harness the energies in your workforce and tap into that huge discretionary effort where initiative and potential resides?  This is the area to dabble in, and believe me, there is no step by step process to guide us towards organisational peak performance.  We will make up the steps as we go along, and those steps will be different for each of us.  If it was easy to do, then everyone would be doing it!

Place the people that you serve at the centre of your universe

We are often so focussed on what we have to do in our organisations, that we forget the needs of the people that we serve and the general community.  At worst I’ve seen customers treated inappropriately – like an interruption to someone’s ‘to-do list’!  Our customers provide us with our bread and butter and put food on our table.  Employees who don’t understand and respond to this, need not apply for vacancies in your organisation.

Take the time to check with your stakeholders (customers and workforce) on their level of expectations and the quality of your exchange in services.  Conduct surveys, quick pulse checks on service levels, check for underlying needs, are your products and services still relevant, are they changing, conduct focus groups for in-depth feedback.  There is no shortage of methods to get feedback – we need the fortitude and desire to learn about our stakeholders and to be stronger than the desire to stand still and hear meaningless superficial feedback that results in BAU.

Manage change before it manages you

Full stop. Employees need a reason to change, so give them one. Then work together to make a new future. Listen to your employees who are confirmed resistors – they usually have a different way at looking at things that we cannot afford to ignore.  Communicate with them, ask them lots of questions and overall have an open mind to their point of view. They are resisting for a reason – it’s up to us to find out what that reason is and then engage them early in the planning process. If they are still refusing to come to the party after all your efforts to engage them, then it’s time to discuss their suitability for the organisation and the other possibilities out there for them.

As with all hygiene factors, merely being on top of these things does not guarantee success – it will however form part of the ‘cost of doing business’. It’s the things that we do between the lines that brings these together to help us remain sustainable, competitive and here for the sake of our communities, the people that we serve and the sector that we support through meaningful employment.

Andrea Collett

Which CRM/database to use?

The National Disability Services (NDS) ‘State of the Sector’ report highlighted that the number one priority for NDIS providers in relation to improving their business capability in 2019CRM ready, is ‘Information, communications and tech strategy’, ranking ahead of ‘costing and pricing’ and ‘HR strategy and workforce planning’.

Over the last months, CBB has facilitated a review of some of the many Customer Relationship Management (CRM)/database products on the market that purport to be NDIS-ready, to assist NDIS providers to understand which products should be on their radar.

To receive a copy of the full report, add your details here.\

Continue reading…

Blogs are important, improve your ROI

Content marketing is an excellent way of explaining to people why you do what you do. One of the simplest ways to start is with a blog. A website blog has numerous benefits, it:blogging

  • helps you connect your organisation to people;
  • improves your website’s search engine optimisation and search engine ranking;
  • increases traffic to your website and keeps people coming back;
  • positions your organisation as an industry leader;
  • allows people to get to know individuals within your organisation; and
  • informs people that you are keeping up with today’s issues and the information on your website is up to date and regularly refreshed

Continue reading…

NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework: Best practices for preventing compliance toothaches

Just like the recall letter for a dental check-up NDIS providers in SA and NSW have recently received their letter from the NDIS Commission outlining the start date for registration renewal. TheNDIS quality application for renewal will involve a self-assessment followed by a field audit conducted by a NDIS Commission-approved NDIS quality auditor.

While some providers are already expected to start the process by October, others are due for their check-up in 2019. Most providers are aware that the new Quality & Safeguards Framework has introduced a list of requirements however we have noticed some misconceptions about compliance which we aim to brush away:

Misconception # 1: You only brush your teeth when you see the dentist.

Continue reading…

Free tools to make your website accessible for everyone

When thinking about accessibility, we mainly think about people with a disability being able to navigate our website. This is an important focus but providing a better user experience is important not only for users with a disability but for everyone.Accessible website

Thinking more broadly about making your website’s content accessible in multiple ways, to suit a broader audience, can help you to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Changing the page structure, thinking about terminology, improving readability, labelling images correctly, or even something as simple as making it easier for your readers to share one of your blog posts or pages are good improvements.

Your website should also work for older and younger users, non-English speaking users and people with a temporary impairment. It might sound strange, but someone with a fuzzy head from a hangover or the flu who is trying to use a site will also benefit from it being more accessible.

At Community Business Bureau, we use accessibility tools on our own website and on websites we have developed for our clients. They are free and easy to install so you don’t need a web developer in-house. With basic web management knowledge, you can do it all by yourself!  Here they are: Continue reading…

Talent Management Part 4– Measuring success

In this Talent Management series (Part one: Do you have a lack of talent?, Part two: exploring the employee journey and Part three: getting confused with definitions?) we have defined Talent SuccessManagement as a series of interconnected development activities that when executed thoughtfully, add value to the employee journey and the organisation’s brand.

As our sector continues to grapple with the VUCA environment and shrinking risk appetites from Boards and executive leaders, there has never been a more crucial time to invest in our organisations. This puts pressure on workforce leaders to provide evidence based measures of program success. Continue reading…