It's Time

There are still lots of people that doubt the NDIS is really going to happen and many more who think it will be cut back from its original intent.

Yet when I look at the politics that sit underneath the scheme, it looks to me like the full roll out is already set in stone. In a sweetener to help get the scheme up with the states, the Gillard Government committed to pay for 100% of any cost overruns. The commitment was built into the bilateral agreements created to set up the NDIS. (Bilateral agreements are basically Commonwealth State contracts about who is going to do and pay for what).

So with the NDIS roll out, the states are now in the process of getting out of disability service delivery (some a bit too hastily) and will also leave any potential funding problems to the Feds. The only way the Commonwealth can now change any major aspect of the NDIS roll out is through changing the bilateral agreements and that’s done by mutual agreement with the states. Which state would be crazy enough to want to agree to change a deal like the one they have got? (Note: WA didn’t sign up to the full NDIS roll out and all its benefits because they were so proud of what they were already doing in disability services).

And if you are still struggling to believe the NDIS is happening, just last December the states and Commonwealth (COAG) met and committed to the scale, scope and timing of the roll out of the NDIS. The COAG statement from NDIS Minister Fifield read: ‘All governments will ensure that the transition to full scheme is achieved, consistent with the timeframes and funding arrangements set out in the Heads of Agreements already signed between the Commonwealth and State governments.’ 

And to further underline the positive politics of the NDIS, Tony Abbott has always been a big supporter of the scheme and Bill Shorten was one of the key people who led its creation in the previous government. And then there’s Every Australian Counts, probably the most effective grass roots lobby group in Australia, no government would be willing to take them on and especially not a government doing so badly in the polls.

Yep the NDIS is happening big time, on time.



The graph above is the National Audit Commission’s estimate of the timing and numbers for the NDIS roll out. The scale of this social change is unprecedented in this generation. Even the most basic analysis of the speed of the roll out tells you that organisations that are not organised in 2015 will miss out on the uptake of the scheme and be forever left competing for crumbs or simply go out of business!

In this climate of significant change, I have been hearing a lot of fear being expressed about organisations being too small to compete in the NDIS. Some of the bigger organisations are using the fear to gobble up smaller services. This seems nuts to me.

I have been a senior manager and CEO of some of Australia’s largest disability services and I started out in some of the small ones. I would much rather be running a smaller, more nimble, closer to customers service that one of the big organisations who are so hard to manage, change or even understand. Think about why Qantas started Jetstar.

No-one is talking about ‘diseconomies of scale’ but they are real and exist in most of the larger providers. Just think of all those personal assistants, top heavy management structures and the massive amount of time wasted in organisational meetings.

I recently asked a very knowledgeable senior NDIA trial site manager if there was any advantage in being a bigger org, she said there was absolutely no evidence emerging that bigger was better in the new world of the NDIS. She agreed with my opinion that small can be beautiful.

Besides which, we know how much time and staff motivation is lost in mergers. Merging two different organisational cultures is not for the feint hearted. In mergers, everyone worries about their jobs and little productive momentum can be garnered for 18 months or more.

You lose the next 18 months on that graph above and you might as well pack up your gear and go home! The time for mergers and acquisitions has passed, that ship has sailed.

So forget about the mergers, stop wondering if the scheme is really going to happen. It’s time to get your skates on and get ready for the fundamental change that is the NDIS.