June 25, 2019 by Avondale Business School

So here are some things that reflect the unprecedented degrees of uncertainty, ambiguity and change that organisations and leaders now operate within include: Changing shifts in world economic power bases, global markets without borders, generations working side by side and technology opening doors to big data possibilities.

The leader who can manage within this context will have a distinct competitive advantage, but will require capabilities that can accommodate and adapt to the complexity. A recent article by Harvard Business Publishing (download it here) draws on data they have collected to identify the eight particularly important capabilities need to be successful in the new complexity of business. A summary of these appears below, however reading the full article will provide a much deeper understanding of what is required.

  1. Manage complexity:
    Use systems thinking and continually scan the environment for change and disruptors.
  2. Manage Global Business:
    Identify the possibilities of global markets and what is happening with your customers, competitors and the markets in the global arena.
  3. Act Strategically:
    Being prepared to adjust strategies in response to rapidly changing circumstances.
  4. Foster Innovation:
    Being able to thinking not only in terms of incremental and disruptive innovation, but also breakthrough innovation.
  5. Leverage Networks:
    Capitalising on the networks of relationships the cross boundaries within and outside the organisation.
  6. Inspire Engagement:
    Fostering a culture that creates meaningful connections between employees’ aspirations and values those of the organisation.
  7. Develop Personal Adaptability:
    Remaining focussed and effective in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity, and being highly resilient.
  8. Cultivate Learning Agility:
    Not only seeing out opportunities to learn, but continuously experimenting with new approaches and reflecting on these so as to learn from successes and failures.

You may already have some of these capabilities, or be on your way to developing them. Either way, to survive in the ever-changing business context it is important to start. The Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you with your leadership development. To find out how, contact Dr Warrick Long via Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au

Strategic Planning: Change the way you think

June 25, 2019 by Avondale Business School

When the Chair of the Board starts to arrange for your annual Strategic planning workshop are you excited or frustrated? In the past, strategic planning was the old white board filled with ideas for growth or innovation, and a feeling of where did those 2 days go and why did I eat so much food?

These days it is a time that the Board can reflect in what we have achieved, what we didn’t achieve, what can we learn and what’s next on our agenda for the organisation? Being Treasurer and Vice-Chair of “Coastlink” a provider of disability services and aged care on the Central Coast, I recently underwent my annual 2 day strategic planning session. But….. for the first time in a few years, actually came away refreshed, enthusiastic and optimist!

Being a not-for-profit, Coastlink has seen many changes in the disability sector particularly with the roll out of the NDIS. We have moved from block funding, to marketing ourselves to clients and providing fees for service. The challenges in this sector is not only dealing with the government, but the ever growing needs of our clients within shrinking budgets. The object then for us at our strategic planning is firstly to review the year that was, and then review research done by the CEO for what the future will look like.

Bearing in mind our Vision of “Living a Life of Choice and Inclusion” and our Mission to “Provide quality supports and choice to empower individuals to achieve their life goals through independence and inclusion”, planning for the future can be a challenge, especially with the current Royal Commissions into both Aged Care Quality & Safety & the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (see links below):



So what was different this year? Honesty. We had spent the last 6 months working on a merger with a similar not-for-profit entity, providing transport for aged care and clients with a disability, but like the statistics show, 83% of mergers fail (study by KPMG 2012) and we fell headfirst into that category, even though we did all the right steps and in order. Having open and honest conversations by the board members on the failure meant that we had to reflect on each and every one of us in our performance particularly over the past year.

No one can provide professional development like that of a Board having lived through a failed merger. The impact on Board members, the CEO and senior staff is profound. But the learnings gained are invaluable. These learnings have made us reflect and challenge ourselves and the Board as a whole as to what we would do differently. We threw the white board away, and brought to the table only what we had researched and what we would do differently. We now have a clearer focus on where we see the future of the organisation, and how to better meet the needs of the organisation. Sometimes as a Board we need to take the time to understand the “why” in order to move forward. We now have a clearer vision for the organisation, and for the Board itself in terms of its skills set and that needed for the future. Strategic planning for us was taking the time to honestly reflect and to learn, now the fun part begins – the implementation!


Associate Professor Lisa Barnes, Head of Avondale Business School

Communication – Third Time’s A Charm

June 18, 2019 by Avondale Business School

We use communication all the time in a business context and are frequently reminded of its importance to organisational and personal success. Casting a vision for the organisation – communication, need to manage someone’s performance – communication, developing someone’s skills – communication. Okay, point taken, so we go ahead and ‘communicate’ the message by sending out a vision statement, holding a performance meeting or running a training seminar. Job done, right? Wrong. Communicating a message once is not enough to effect the change you seek, but why?

Considering we tend to only remember approximately 10% of what we read and 20% of what we hear[1], it is no surprise that a message needs to be communicated more than once to be effective. The only way our messages can actually be retained and start effecting change is if they are communicated again, again and again. According to the rule of three, a person only really hears something if it’s been said three times[2]. A mentor of mine once explained it to me by saying “first you tell them what you’re going to tell them, then you tell them, and then you tell them what you told them.”

Improving skills requires even more repetition, as a person needs to practice that skill seven times in order to master it. This being the case, one cannot expect employees to become proficient in skills they have recently been trained in unless they are provided with opportunities to practice those skills.

So while communication is important, what’s more important is the ongoing repetition of that communication. If you don’t keep communicating it, your message will simply get lost in amongst the white noise and nothing will ‘catch-on’ or improve. So say it, say it again, and then say it some more!

Guest Writer: Jolisa Rabo, HR Officer, Avondale College of Higher Education


[1] Rigg, cited in Kroehnert, G (1990) Basic Training for Trainers. McGraw-Hill, Sydney, p. 151.

[2] Berman, cited in Westover, J. (2009). Lifelong Learning: Effective Adult Learning Strategies and Implementation for Working Professionals. The International Journal of Learning, 16(1), 435-443.

What are the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence?

June 12, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Artificial intelligence (AI) is growing in use and importance. It is now widespread in the financial services, life sciences and healthcare, retail and media industries. But are there any ethical issues associated with AI? And if so, who is responsible for managing them? These issues were recently discussed in an excellent paper by Deloitte Insights called ‘Can AI be ethical? Why enterprises shouldn’t wait for AI regulation’ (read it here).

Uses for AI include automated weapons, social media interactions, credit and hiring decisions, facial recognition, and automated learning. You might be surprised how much you are already interacting with AI without realising it, including how much your organisation is making use of AI.

The article provides a good balance between the advantages of AI with the potential risks associated with the ethical judgements built into the AI infrastructure. Some of these risks are identified as the following:

  • Bias and discrimination
  • Lack of transparency
  • Erosion of privacy
  • Poor accountability
  • Workforce displacement and transitions.

As noted in the article, “technological progress tends to outpace regulatory changes, and this is certainly true in the field of AI”. So what can organisations do to protect their stakeholders and reputations while fulfilling their ethical commitments? The article proposes the following, which are summarised here, but well worth the time to read them in full:

  • Enlist the board, engage stakeholders
  • Leverage technology and process to avoid bias and other risks
  • Build trust through transparency
  • Help alleviate employee anxiety

AI is advancing across enterprises, and it behoves all leaders to ensure their ethical frameworks are keeping pace. The Avondale Business School (ABS) is available to work with you on this or any other aspect of your business. For more details contact Dr Warrick Long at warrick.long@avondale.edu.au.

ABS At the SDA Business Professionals Conference 2019

June 10, 2019 by Avondale Business School

The ABS team were at the SDA Business Professionals Conference 2019 at the Gold Coast, held June 4-6 2019. The ABS team of David Wilson, Peter Williams and Warrick Long hosted an information table promoting ABS courses and providing information about ABS and Avondale College. ABS were also asked to present three programs on Leadership, Effective Meetings, and Ethics in Business. It was a rewarding time for all present, and a privilege to be asked to be part of such an professionally run program. Well done to the organizers and the ABS Team.

Photo Credit: Linzi Aitken

Photo Credit: Linzi Aitken

Futures Day with Avondale Business School

June 10, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Avondale College hosted their annual open day, and Avondale Business School took a different approach to presenting to potential students. This year we asked a potential 2019 graduate Yannick Coutet to conduct our interactive student session. BS10 was filled with interested students, in fact it was standing room only! Yannick discussed with the students the benefits of a Bachelor of Business degree here at the Avondale Business School, and gave them insight into what it means to be a student here at Avondale. He answered the many questions ranging from what is the accommodation like to the important questions of what activities are there after classes finish for the day.

The use of a student to present on behalf of the Business School allowed potential students access to a real live case study for studying at Avondale. They could clearly see he was passionate about Avondale and about his Marketing major. Yannick discussed his personal journey at Avondale, and the advantages of small class sizes and lecturers who care.

Thank you Yannick on behalf of the business school for so openly sharing your Avondale experience with the high school students that attended our open day.


X-Factor Leadership

June 5, 2019 by Avondale Business School

More often than not, the tradition approach to senior leader assessment and development fall short. Such is the assertion of David Reimer, Adam Bryant and Harry Feuerstein in their excellent article ‘The Four X Factors of Exceptional Leaders’ (click here). The two main failure points raised in the article are an illusion of validity of the skills of exiting leaders, and a disproportionate focus on skills that should be prerequisites.

What does this mean? Simply that pace of change in business today means that the existing skills of leaders are generally out of date in a short period of time. When recruiting, organisations need to focus on the future, not the present in terms of what skills are needed. And secondly, too many organisations similarly emphasise the need for skills like having a strategic mindset, financial acumen and other typical skills. However, what organisations need are the ‘X factor’ skills that are going to take the organisation to the next level.

So what might it be that ‘X factor’ leaders do? The authors list four such skills, and while you really need to read the whole article to get the most about these, following is a quick summary for you:

  1. They simplify complexity and operationalize it. That is, they take ownership of complexity by creating simple, operational narratives around it that can be readily understood and embraced by those that work for them
  2. They drive ambition for the whole enterprise. Leaders with the X factor burn down silos and instead embrace the entire enterprise in their thinking and planning.
  3. They work well on team they don’t lead. Being a challenge for many leaders, this skill means the best of the best play well on other teams and don’t try and take over and instead nurture the teams.
  4. They build leaders. The measure of a true x factor leader is in the number of leaders they have developed, especially those whose perspectives differ from their own. They actively recruit and engage differing perspectives within their team, and promote non-traditional candidates.

The X factor – do you have it? The Avondale Business School can help you develop your leadership potential. To find out how, simply contact Dr Warrick long, Leadership postgraduate studies coordinator at Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au.

Great Ideas Die With Managers

June 1, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Employees good ideas are wasted on managers who are too threatened to implement them, right? Not really, according to new research and reported in an article in HBR by authors Elad Sherf, Subra Tangirala and Vijay Venklataramani (read it here). While employees’ do regularly get frustrated that it seems like their suggestions for improvement are ignored by their managers. Too often this is assumed to be because the managers are threatened by these ideas, but this new research indicates otherwise.

In fact the research has found two predominate reasons associated with the organisations putting the managers in impossible positions. These two hurdles are that managers are all too frequently not empowered to act on these good ideas, if they do act, they feel the pressure to deliver short term results rather than taking a longer term view.

Not having the autonomy to make change is just as frustrating for managers, who are often seen as “go betweens” who have to use clumsy and cumbersome centralised decision structures that show short term immediate results rather than looking for longer term sustainability.

Quoting from the article, “it is unreasonable to ask managers to solicit and encourage ideas and input from employees when they are not empowered themselves and are asked to focus on short-term outcomes.” Consequently it is important for senior management to instead give managers the required autonomy and allow time for great ideas to find their way from the front-line to the top management. Do your structures allow for nimble and innovative ideas, or are you more focused on bureaucracy and controls?

Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you with your organisational design, just contact Dr Warrick Long Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au to find out how.

ABS Students Engage in the Great Debate 2019

May 30, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Refer Ken to the Auditors or not? That was the dilemma the final year ABS students debated in the annual Great Debate to finish their semester. Each year the Professional Ethics class have to analyse a case study full of ethical dilemmas and report to a manager on what options they have, and what to choose and why.

This semester the students were faced with a pharmaceutical company that was donating soon to expire drugs to a developing nation, and their agent was requiring higher and more frequent ‘tea money’ payments in cash to get them off the wharves and into the hospitals that needed them. The senior finance person in the company head office knew this was a bit “off” and was considering whether to report the activity to the company auditors or not. Given the circumstances, the differing cultures of the countries, and the personal issues facing Ken, this was not a clear decision and required students to often consider competing values.

For the final class of the semester, the students were divided into two teams and assigned either the yes or no case to prosecute. A small audience of staff and community members watched the students deliver their arguments and had the difficult job of deciding which team won the day.

Dr Warrick Long, the lecturer for the unit had the even tougher job of marking each students efforts, which because of the high quality of their presentations, was not an easy task. The students were incredibly professional and made their cases passionately, clearly and with plenty of evidence to support their positions. One of the community members was so impressed she has spread the word of the event to her colleagues who are now wanting to come to the next Great Debate.

This particular unit caps the students experience and challenges them through extensive use of real-life case studies and often very animated discussion, to consider the why, values, moral framework and consequences of decisions they may face, with an emphasis on the SDA Christian foundations that form the basis of ABS.

ABS congratulates the students on their efforts, knowing that they are well prepared for the workplace, and will add value to where ever they choose to start their careers.

Book Review: Honorable in Business

May 28, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Is good ethics good business? This is a challenge my ethics students ponder for a whole semester. This new book on Christian ethics makes a welcome contribution into this space by looking at ethical issues in the workplace with a Christian perspective. The book is Honourable in Business: Business Ethics from a Christian Perspective by Annetta Gibson and Daniel Augsburger (2019, WIPF & Stock)

Drawing from the Bible as the ethical foundation, the authors make a strong case that God is interested in how we do business, and that He provides numerous principles and tips on how we should do business as Christians. Numerous case studies are explored, which brings the discussion from theory to practice with some very useful and interesting conclusions and recommendations.

This book has been written for use as a textbook, or for practitioners who want to dig into the ethical issues they may face in the workplace and find some tips. It is really well organised, and very easy to read.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in ethics, or ethical business practices.