A review of the capabilities of the National Disability Insurance Agency

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A review of the capabilities of the National Disability Insurance Agency

January 2014plane flying while being built

Mr Jeff Whalan AO

Dr Peter Acton

Dr Jeff Harmer AO


Introduction 3

What is capability? 3

Scope of the Review 3

The Review Team 3

Executive Summary 5

Remarkable start 5

All effort on getting to the launch, but at a cost 5

The next stage of the rollout is fast approaching 6

The biggest challenge of all is over the horizon 6

Reviews 6

‘Building the plane while flying’ 7

Capability will drop before it increases 7

Observations 7

Strengths 7

Weaknesses 7

HR capability 8

Internal communications 9

Role clarity and approach 10

Critical Concepts 10

Plan and build 11

Learn 11

Recommendations 12

Some early wins 12

Conclusion 15

Next steps 15

Ratings 16

Leadership 16

Strategy 16

Delivery 16

Background 17

New timeframe and key milestones 17

Critical milestones up to 1 July 2014 19

Critical milestones for 2014-15 19

Summary of capability against framework 21

Leadership 21

Set direction 21

Motivate people 21

Develop people 21

Strategy 22

Outcome focussed strategy 22

Evidence-based choices 22

Collaborate and build common purpose 22

Delivery 22

Innovative delivery 22

Plan, resource and prioritise 23

Shared commitment and sound delivery models 23

Manage performance 23

Detailed assessment of agency capability 24

Leadership 24

Set direction 24

Motivate people 24

Develop people 26

Strategy 26

Outcome focused strategy 26

Evidence-based choices 28

Collaborate and build common purpose 28

Innovative delivery 29

Plan, resource and prioritise 30

Shared commitment and sound delivery models 30

Manage performance 31

Abbreviations and acronyms 33

List of Interviewees 34

NDIA Board Members 34

Sector Representatives 34

Department of Social Services 34

Other Commonwealth Officials 34

Ministerial Offices 34

State Officials 34

National Disability Insurance Agency Staff 35

Chief Executive Officer 35

Scheme Actuary 35

Senior Executive Service – Band 2 35

Senior Executive Service – Band 1 35

Other – Executive Level 2 35

Agency Workshops 36

Review Team Members 37

Mr Jeff Whalan AO 37

Dr Peter Acton 37

Dr Jeff Harmer AO 37

Current and Forecast Reviews 38

Attachment E 43

Leadership 43

Set Direction 43

Motivate People 43

Develop People 43

Strategy 44

Outcome focused strategy 44

Evidence-based choices 44

Collaborate and build common purpose 44

Delivery 45

Innovative Delivery 45

Plan, resource and prioritise 45

Shared commitment and sound delivery models 45

Manage performance 45


A review of the capabilities of an organisation is a forward-looking review that assesses an agency's ability to meet future objectives and challenges. Such reviews consider how an organisation aligns processes, systems and the expertise of its people to deliver on objectives. Reviews of capabilities focus on strengths and development areas in the context of the anticipated future operating environment.

This review uses the methodology adopted by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), which undertakes regular and systemic reviews of Commonwealth agencies. The methodology used by the APSC draws heavily from the United Kingdom Capability Review Programme.

This review focuses on leadership, strategy and delivery capabilities in the National Disability Insurance Agency (the Agency; NDIA). It highlights the Agency's internal management strengths and weaknesses using the model set out in Figure 1. Ratings are assigned to each of the ten elements of the model as part of this report.

chart: the relationships between the elements of capability - leadership, strategy and delivery

Figure : Model of capability

What is capability?

Organisational capability can be defined as: ‘the sum of the expertise of people and the capacity of the organisation to apply this expertise’.

Scope of the Review

As part of the Review, 46 one-on-one interviews were conducted with the senior leadership, middle management and external stakeholders including relevant ministers’ offices, representatives from the disability sector, State officials, Commonwealth officials and Central Agencies. A list of those interviewed is at Attachment A. Five workshops were also conducted in Canberra and Geelong, with a total of 27 Executive Level (EL) and APS level staff participating face-to-face or via the Agency’s videoconferencing facilities.

The Review Team

The Review Team comprised of:

  • Mr Jeff Whalan AO (Chair)

  • Dr Peter Acton

  • Dr Jeff Harmer AO

Further details on each on the Review Team members is at Attachment B. The Review Team was assisted by Ms Helen Hambling, Consultant, and Ms Alexandra Madsen, NDIA.

The Review Team extends its thanks to all of those who made themselves available for interview, particularly as many people gave up their time while on annual leave.

Executive Summary

Remarkable start

It has been truly remarkable that the Agency, with the assistance of the Department of Social Services (DSS) Taskforce, was able to commence operating the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS; Scheme) on 1 July 2013 in trial sites located in Barwon, the Hunter, Tasmania and South Australia (SA).

It is easy now to forget how great was the achievement of successfully opening the doors on 1 July 2013. Many people considered that the task was impossible.

The Scheme has a very high level of support from the Australian public. There is recognition that this is a long overdue reform, that it is a huge task and that it should be done well. In the eyes of the public, the Scheme is going well. Although expectations are high, the media has been very responsive to the idea of the Scheme and there has been little negative coverage.

The Agency has achieved these successes against the odds. Implementation of the Scheme was brought forward by one year from the already demanding timetable proposed by the Productivity Commission. Furthermore, a decision was made in June 2013, one month before launch, to shift the headquarters (the National Office) of the Agency to Geelong. This has made recruitment and retention a particular challenge.

Bipartisan support in the lead up to the 2013 Federal Election, the ongoing support of States and Territories, and the continued support of the current Federal Government have been critical to the successful launch of the Scheme.

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