Pioneers, Possibility and Peril: Surviving in the Hostile NDIS New World

It was only a few years ago that it wasn’t that obvious the NDIS would get to see the light of day. But it has and that’s fabulous, but the world we find ourselves in is not the world we expected when we started this journey.

At DSC we remain true believers in the NDIS and as we close off another year, it’s important to note some of the big achievements: 

  • We have ongoing bipartisan support, no party or politician is speaking against the NDIS.  
  • We have double the funding in the pipeline, that’s a massive 1% of GDP.  
  • We have a scheme that is driven by insurance principles and is focused on inclusion and capacity building (because that is what will really reduce lifetime costs) and
  • We already have 100,000 participants with approved plans.

Even with the headwinds, we are seeing fabulous change at work. But, nobody in 2012 predicted the level of difficulty we currently experience with the NDIS. The Agency is not coping, the government is not coping; most of the providers in the sector are struggling to cope. It’s a very chaotic environment and the sheer volume of what needs to be done can be simply overwhelming.

Amongst this NDIS chaos, we have all become pioneers in a challenging and dangerous new land. In the next year or two, prices may change, restrictive NDIA policies may improve, things may get better and at times they are sure to get worse. The only certainty is things will continue to change more rapidly than we can manage. The emerging NDIS landscape is unknown and can be life threatening to organisations. We are pioneers, like it or not.

Many organisations initially took a wait and see approach with the NDIS - waiting for clarity, for things to settle down and become less chaotic. Yet, even when the roll out is complete, so many plans will need to be reviewed, it will be many more years before the market settles into something more stable. So, chaos is the new normal.

It’s not easy being a pioneer. Not all of us wanted to be one and lots of pioneers die. But the best have shaped history and created the world as we know it.

For pioneers, survival is the first priority, and survival needs to remain the first priority in the NDIS. For everyone’s sake, we need to ensure the best of our values, culture and participant outcomes continue.. In the short term, NDIS survival means having both cash and commercial savvy. But to really thrive in the longer term, pioneers need the capabilities to respond to the environmental conditions, to avoid the unknown threats and grab the opportunities.

The winners, the survivors we are already seeing, are the providers who are nimble and draw on the best expertise and continuously learn. The losers will be the ones who continue to use old world approaches, who act as if NDIS is just a new form of block funding.

To succeed as pioneers, we all need to build our capabilities as learners. We need to constantly learn and have ways to monitor and gather information about our environment. We need to learn from each other about what works and we also need to pay attention to any emerging data.

Being a learner as a leader means rethinking what it means to be a leader, admitting that in this unknown frontier there is so much we don’t know. We need to let go of being ‘the one who knows’.

The exciting part of being pioneers is we are also creating this new world by our actions in it. Whether we realise it or not, we are shaping this environment with every step we do and do not take. It’s a huge world of possibility and we have a lot of freedom to innovate. The freedom to build something new that really makes a difference to the lives of people with disability.

Pioneers who make the most of the possibilities in the NDIS will engage in learning and sharing what they know with the rest of us who are struggling in this hostile new world. It's time to start drawing the new maps and writing the NDIS guidebooks for those who follow.