A Rabbit in the NDIS Headlights?

Some of the disability service providers I have met over the last couple of years remind me of a rabbit in the headlights. They see danger ahead but are not responding. I think I am now beginning to understand why they are stuck in the midst of the dramatic NDIS change.

Over 25 years experience in the disability sector (with the last 4 years working on the NDIS) tells me we are at an inflection point, a point of real danger for existing industry players. The NDIS is leading dramatic change across the disability sector, changes which will then flow to all community services. That might sound like hyperbole; it’s not.

The NDIS has taken service level decision making away from organisations (governments and charities) and given it to consumers operating in contestable markets. When you combine that move with the huge increase in NDIS funding and the changes technology is bringing to all industry fundamentals; then the change just got seismic.

Just look at the changing role of disability organisations in the table below.

Yes, there will be a role for organisations but think Uber instead of Yellow Cabs, think Airbnb instead of Hilton. Think flat, distributed organisations run with great technology and highly autonomous, motivated staff. It doesn’t sound a lot like what we’ve currently got and too often we are seeing people underestimate the transformation we need to go through. If you are looking for examples of organisations attempting this level of change, check out the RDNS; it’s become an office-less environment for field staff.

Disability is an industry that is built on human contact, between the people providing services and the people who need a service. With customers now able to switch providers, success is going to demand great staff who build the capacity of the people and communities they work with. And bingo, this also meets the key two NDIS success factors: satisfying customers and reducing lifetime costs.

Just imagine when someone invents the new model for disability day services. I am guessing it will make better use of existing underutilised infrastructure, it will support individuals to explore genuine interests, build capacity and be included, they will pay staff better and have a fabulous app that matches people and places with no middle management and no-one manually managing a booking system. Wow!

So much of the current NDIS discussion in conferences and workshops is missing the point. We have to stop talking about being more efficient with our current models of disability service delivery. It’s about rethinking the game altogether. If we are going to pay staff more (and we have to) we are going to have to operate very differently to the current models.

I now think that those rabbits in the headlights are the organisations stuck in old ways of thinking. They are the ones still paying for bad advice that is going to keep them in harm’s way. They are stuck in those conferences and with industry associations charging for advice about the need to merge, about the need to have a $3M turnover, about the need to ‘unit cost’ broken service models.

It’s time to rethink our organisational structures, to break free and start thinking about a new world order with new service models, where staff are motivated, where technology dominates and outcomes are much better for everyone. It’s time for the rabbits to get off the road.