27th March 2024

Aged Care reform transformation planning – 8 reasons why you might fail



Anchor Excellence

Transformational leadership is a style of leadership that inspires and motivates employees to perform beyond expectations. Leaders in aged care right now must perform as transformational leaders and create a shared vision and a sense of purpose among their followers, and they need to enable them on a journey which has significant VUCA.

VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It is a concept that originated from the military to describe the conditions and challenges of the modern battlefield. In a business context, VUCA is used to describe the unpredictable and rapidly changing environment in which organisations operate. 

  • Volatility: Refers to the speed and magnitude of changes happening in the environment. It highlights the unpredictability and the need for organisations to be flexible and adaptive
  • Uncertainty: Refers to the lack of predictability about future events. It emphasises the need for organisations to gather information, analyse trends, and develop strategies to cope with the unknown
  • Complexity: Refers to the interconnectedness and the multiplicity of factors that organisations must consider when making decisions. It highlights the need for organisations to understand the various systems and stakeholders involved
  • Ambiguity: Refers to the lack of clarity or the existence of multiple interpretations in a situation. It emphasises the need for organisations to communicate clearly and ensure that everyone understands the goals and objectives

Transformational leadership is not easy, and the last three years in the aged care sector has proven some will succeed, and some will fail. 

In order to be successful, we need to start by recognising the characteristics of transformational leaders:

  • Visionary: They have a clear and compelling vision for the future
  • Inspirational: They are able to motivate and inspire others to achieve their goals
  • Empowering: They empower their employees to take ownership of their work
  • Supportive: They create a positive and supportive work environment
  • Trustworthy: They build trust and rapport with their employees

We also know that transformational leaders have the ability to:

  • Increase employee engagement
  • Improve employee morale
  • Increase productivity
  • Increase innovation
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Increase profitability

So why might you fail?

John P. Kotter identifies eight common errors made by leaders during organisational change efforts. These errors can sabotage even the best-laid plans and lead to failure:

Reason 1: Not establishing a sense of urgency. People need to understand the need for change and be motivated to support it. 

As the Reform agenda is unfolding the temptation is to put off planning and wait until the legislation is finalised. The Department of Health and Aged Care and Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission have been issuing DRAFT documents at speed in order to genuinely assist best practice transformation management. 

There remains an important sense of urgency and this needs to be role modelled by transformational leaders through good stewardship of communication, fully activating their advisory bodies and keeping managers across the organisation regularly informed and updated. Forums that provide a safe space for asking questions and clarifying understanding helps critical thinking and improves good consideration as to what planning will be necessary to set up for success and include those beyond the executive in learning and development of transition plans. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of taking a hard look at your competitive situation, technological trends and financial performance. A paralyzed senior management often comes from having too many managers and not enough leaders. Management’s mandate is to minimise risk and to keep the current system operating. Change, by definition, requires creating a new system, which in turn always demands leadership.

Reason 2: Not creating a guiding coalition.  A strong coalition of leaders is needed to drive change and overcome resistance.

Achieving leadership success requires a coalition approach driven by the executive, board, and broader management team. In both small and large organisations, a successful guiding team (Think PMO) typically consists of three to five people during the initial year of a renewal effort. However, in large providers, the coalition must expand to 10-20 members (or more) to make significant progress in subsequent phases. Senior managers form the core of the group, but sometimes board members, representatives,  older persons, staff members or union representatives may be included. Documenting team charters will ensure clarity of roles and responsibilities within the team and create the foundations for excellent collaboration.

Reason 3: Lack of a clear vision. People need to know what the future state will look like and how it will benefit them.

The Aged Care Reform in Australia is a significant shift towards a Rights-Based Aged Care Act, even though there is VUCA in the Reform. This means that the planning process for aged care providers should start with the end consumer in mind and consider how this translates through and with their Vision.

A simple test to check if your planning is aligned with the Rights-Based Aged Care Act is to see if you can articulate your Vision to someone in less than 5 minutes. If you can, it is likely that your Vision is clear, concise, and focused on the end consumer. If you cannot, it may be necessary to revisit your planning process and ensure that it is aligned with the Rights-Based Aged Care Act.

Here are some additional considerations for planning a rights-based aged care vision:

  • Focus on the individual: The Rights-Based Aged Care Act is all about the individual. This means that planning should focus on the needs, wants, and preferences of the individual consumer.
  • Promote independence and choice: The Rights-Based Aged Care Act promotes independence and choice for older Australians. This means that planning should provide older Australians with the opportunity to make decisions about their own care and live their lives as they choose.
  • Respect dignity and privacy: The Rights-Based Aged Care Act respects the dignity and privacy of older Australians. This means that planning should ensure that older Australians are treated with respect and their privacy is protected.
  • Be transparent and accountable: The Rights-Based Aged Care Act is transparent and accountable. This means that planning should be transparent and accountable to older Australians and their families.

Reason 4: Under Communicating the vision. The vision needs to be communicated repeatedly and consistently so that everyone understands it.

Successful transformation requires the support of dedicated individuals willing to make short-term sacrifices. Even dissatisfied employees will be hesitant to make changes unless they believe in the possibility of positive outcomes. To capture the hearts and minds of teams, consistent and effective communication is essential.

Effective executives utilise existing communication channels to convey the vision in successful transformation efforts. Rather than relying on dull, unread company newsletters, they revamp them into engaging articles aligned with the vision. Routine quarterly management meetings are transformed into dynamic discussions centred around the transformation’s goals. Generic management education is replaced with courses focusing on business challenges and the new vision. The key principle is to leverage all available channels, eliminating the waste of nonessential information.

Reason 5: Not empowering employees. People need to be given the authority and resources they need to make change happen.

The oversight project team must work hard to remove obstacles and keep a clear line of sight on what might block. Not empowering employees can come down to narrow job descriptions, poor accountabilities and leaders stuck in status quo working to undermine the change management effort. Structure this agenda into your transformation plans so that the elephant in the room is allowed to be in full sight with open dialogue on how to prevent this from being part of your post mortem failure story. A Premortum will go a long way to help.

Reason 6: Not creating short-term wins. People need to see progress early on to stay motivated.

In a successful transformation, managers need to take an active approach to creating short-term wins, rather than passively hoping for them. This involves actively seeking out ways to obtain clear performance improvements, setting goals within the planning system, accomplishing those objectives, and recognizing and rewarding the people involved. It is essential to acknowledge the efforts and hard work of your team, while also identifying and addressing any individuals who may be seeking to revert to old or less effective working practices. This proactive approach is crucial for sustaining a successful transformation.

Reason 7: Declaring victory too soon. Change takes time and effort, and it’s important to stay the course until it is fully implemented.

Given the multifaceted nature of the Reform program, adopting a fail-fast approach to updating and adapting is crucial. New regulations will inevitably present subtle interpretation issues, and while we strive to interpret intent and outcome accurately, the Regulator’s assessment of performance will provide valuable learning opportunities. Experience has shown that organisations that closely monitor these learning opportunities and incorporate them swiftly demonstrate a rapid learning cycle. This agility is key, as adjustments are an ongoing process, and there is no singular victory while in a cycle of continuous improvement.

Reason 8: Not anchoring changes in the corporation’s culture. Change needs to become part of the way things are done in order to be sustainable.

Transformational leadership is a leadership style that motivates employees to surpass expectations. Transformational leaders create a shared vision and purpose among their followers and empower them to take ownership of their work. They foster positive work environments, building trust and rapport with their employees.

Institutionalising change in corporate culture requires two key factors. Firstly, demonstrating how new approaches, behaviours, and attitudes have improved performance. Secondly, ensuring that the next generation of top management embodies the new approach.

Although there are additional mistakes people make, these eight are significant. Simplification is necessary for brevity, but successful change efforts are often complex and unpredictable. A simple vision guides people through significant changes, just as a vision of the change process can reduce errors. Reducing eros can make the difference between success and failure.

Anchor Excellence offers comprehensive support to help you prepare for transitions effectively. Schedule an appointment with me today to discover how we can assist you further! Our services include expert training on the latest aged care standards and reform readiness, ensuring you stay ahead in your industry.