Working Locally

Working Locally
Organisation: Avivo: Live Life
Contact: Rosie Lawn

This project demonstrated how self-managing teams can provide timely, flexible and high quality services to NDIS, and how a traditional service provider can transform from a hierarchical to a team-based organisation.

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The Context

Avivo supports people to live in their own homes and communities across three sectors: disability, mental health and aged care. Avivo’s vision is for all people to live as valued citizens. In the 2015/2016 financial year Avivo worked with 1,205 people with disabilities and families in the Perth, Mandurah, the Wheatbelt and Midwest regions of Western Australia.

The Problem

Realising that traditional ways of providing services and workforce management will not be able to meet the demands of the NDIS, some service providers are adopting solutions which include uberisation and casualisation of the workforce. These practices will decrease the training and development opportunities for workers, decrease the work conditions and will not develop a workforce that is effective in supporting people with disabilities to achieve their goals. Avivo’s project aims to demonstrate how self-managing teams can provide timely, flexible and high quality services to NDIS participants across metropolitan, regional and remote areas, and how a traditional service provider can transform from a hierarchical to a team-based organisation.

The Solution

Avivo’s Working Locally project aims to change the organisation from a hierarchy with power and control sitting with management to an organisation where power and control sits with customers, and the employees who work closely with them. The project involves changes to the organisational structures, roles and accountabilities for support workers, office-based staff and the leadership team.

Avivo has determined that it needs two different but complementary team models to meet the needs of different types of customers:

  • Local neighbourhood teams of support workers, developed and matched to the needs of people within their communities.
  • Person-specific support teams, recruited and developed in partnership with the customer, their family and carers.

Expected Impact

Key intended outcomes will see support workers, working in self-managing teams, able to work more closely with customers, and have greater decision-making ability. By increasing job satisfaction, the support work roles will become a more attractive career choice, which in turn will help to attract and retain staff.

At the end of the project staff in Working Locally teams reported:

  • Improvements in team members level of autonomy, ability to make their own decisions.
  • Permission and the opportunity to give new things a try, adapt and improve.
  • Happier, more confident and comfortable sharing vulnerabilities and successes.

For NDIS customers, the transition will result in more flexible and individualised support, and increased choice and control. The project will provide an example of a large service provider transformation. The learning from this transformation will assist other organisations to embrace similar change.

At the end of the project participants supported by a Working Locally team have been positive e.g.:

  • A customer supported by a Person team has reported that through inclusion in the team emails she is now enjoying a far better experience, communication is transparent and the team are responsive to any requests. There is no need for her to approach the office based team.
  • A customer who had previously raised and escalated concerns about Working Locally to the Chief Executive Officer, is now reporting back positively, complimenting the team on the service she is receiving. 

Stage and Spread

This project is a follow-up from a trial phase in which extensive research was conducted into self-managed team models in other organisations, and six neighbourhood teams were trialled. These were different locally led team models with varying levels of self-management. Significant levels of engagement and alignment were achieved.

For this project, Avivo developed a Roadmap to Working Locally mapping out how the structures, frameworks, supports, consultation and reflections would be put in place to support the rest of the organisation’s transformation. Several working groups were formed for specific Roadmap activities such as Team Framework and Supporting People. Activities to support the implementation of our Roadmap over the year focused on:

  • communicating the change, the vision and how we are going to get there 
  • developing the definitions, principles and framework for local teams
  • developing principles and processes to support colleagues with the change process
  • developing the mechanisms to establish and support local teams 
  • identifying and addressing workforce conditions for local teams 
  • identifying the IT functionality required to support local teams

Avivo also regularly holds ‘Stop and Learn’ events to reflect on and learn from implementation. 

Lessons and Insights

  • Avivo is finding that everyone understanding why they are making the transformation to local self-directing teams is very important. In hindsight this could have been made clearer in the first months of the project.
  • There are high levels of engagement and interest across Avivo. The process of collectively developing the Roadmap and having working groups undertake tasks is highly effective in engaging and developing people as well as creating better solutions.
  • Working groups nearing their end date are not only producing their required deliverables, they are also presenting recommendations for next steps, new working groups and offering the continuation of a few members to provide context to the new group who will be responsible for progressing the next stage.
  • Teams where all individuals self-nominate their move towards self-direction are better placed to succeed than teams this doesn’t happen and there is less buy-in.
  • Progress towards establishing to local self-managing teams has been much slower than anticipated due to the time needed for the following:
    • the culture change to support an entirely new way of working and addressing the individual impact for all employees
    • building momentum and engaging and supporting employees through the change, using their energy to drive progress, rather than a traditional, directional approach
    • learning and adjusting as we go, recognising and removing barriers as they are identified e.g. hierarchical approval processes. Taking the opportunity to understand what individuals and local teams need to ensure back office and management roles support local teams effectively.
    • teams that have faced challenges with self-direction have found it difficult to know when and how to seek additional support and/or determine what type of support is needed.  They have felt that there was an expectation on them to resolve internally rather than seek external advice. In addition, where it has been noted that a team is experiencing challenges external parties have been unsure as to when the right time is to step in. This has been challenging and difficult experience for all involved.
    • dealing with the massive changes and administrative demands associated with the NDIS and aged care.

Roadblocks and Risks

Working groups have reported challenges with attendance of field based staff due to prioritisation of support work with customers. In order to address this Avivo has:

  • Increased the volume of invitations to field-based staff to ensure they have fair representation across teams.
  • Ensured field based staff are given sufficient notice (est. min 3 wks.) so that alternative support arrangements can be put in place to enable them to attend events and participate in working groups.  
  • Organising some workshops in the evening and weekends.

Further work needed to be done to support the development of new teams, help to set ground rules and how they will function as a team. Experience has shown that as situations became difficult the tendency within teams was to regress back to hierarchy. It became obvious that they needed clarity on the purpose, team definitions, expected behaviours and support tools, ensuring that the core foundations and relationships were in place to support a well-functioning team before exploring anything else.  

Lack of agreement between managers on how to reorganise into local teams has presented a significant barrier.  Managers all committed to the concept of Working Locally but were supporting their teams to trial working locally in a different way.  This has been addressed by reorganising leadership resources to include:

  • A Working Locally team with responsibility for developing and supporting local teams across Avivo 
  • A Mentoring team to support and mentor coordination teams to take responsibility for their work and transition to supporting the local teams
  • A Sector Support team to develop the processes and systems required to meet funders requirements and not burden local teams 
  • A small Executive team with responsibility for the whole of Avivo.