Navigating VUCA and empowering self-managed teams: A CEO’s journey in Aged Care

Yvonne Timson, Chief Executive Officer, Community Vision Australia

The pages of almost every leadership book, article or blog offering learned advice to an incoming CEO, it states how mission-critical it is to get to know the business, set a clear vision from the onset and communicate well at every level. Stepping into the role of CEO at Community Vision for me, after being COO for several years, already qualified me for two out of three of those significant tasks and as the well-loved Meatloaf tune goes…two out of three ain’t bad.

In this time of reform, uncertainty, cost of living pressures and, it could be argued, sensationalism in the media about provider performance, communicating the vision and reform has become crucial to ensure all our employees and customers are supported on this journey.

I consider myself lucky that as I stepped into the CEO role, I knew my board and employees well and found them very supportive. However, trying to articulate a strategy in this VUCA – a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous sector and environment; that manages the immediate future and the vastly different near future, presents a challenge for anyone.

We all agree that employees in this sector deserve the wage increase however, we have seen how these wage increases and fee caps have negatively impacted our cost structures, and this presents a challenge for any Executive and Board when assessing risk for the business. To ensure we remain a sustainable business, our financial viability is paramount to any strategic vision and direction within the aged and community care sector. And as we know this isn’t necessarily an easy message to sell when some customer perceptions can be that providers are only there to make money!

“It is incumbent on me as a leader to ask the tough questions, which are often the unpopular ones”

Yvonne Timson, CEO, Community Vision

Getting back to the importance of communication, I must be able to communicate these responses and our plans to both customers and employees, so they can understand and support the journey that benefits all. It was Patrick Lencioni who said that leaders often must become Chief Reminding Officers rather than Chief Executive Officers.

This has largely been my priority at Community Vision – communication, communication, and communication! This has been implemented with the objective of making the organisation lean and empowering at all levels, to do more so that we can remove some of the hierarchy. This has had the benefit of increased engagement across all levels of employees, as they see the direct results of their invested decisions, notwithstanding the appropriate checks and balances required for quality and compliance.

The concept of self-managed teams, when done well, serves the customer and promotes customer centricity which is something we strive for. It recognises the special relationships of our customers which is often with their Support Workers and Seniors, rather than Managers. With the right support, training, efficient systems, and the use of enabling technology, we devolve a lot of the structure and matrix management that comes into play, ultimately improving the customer experience as there is always someone on hand to respond or serve.

We know as providers that the reform will not result in an endless pot of money, despite the task force reviewing the curly questions of user pays or increased tax. We also have a duty to assess efficiencies in every aspect of our business, whether it’s service models, product and service offerings, procedures, workforce or structures, and sustainable growth.

We must do more with less, but still keep the customer and their needs at the centre of everything we do. I believe with our structure, empowered self-managed teams and constant communication, we are achieving this. But it’s not set and forget, we can never get complacent. We must constantly keep evolving and requirements must be reviewed with one eye on the now and the other on the future.

That’s why at Community Vision we will continue to follow through on our values, continue to be bold and do everything we can to empower our teams.

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