Top 20 Insights from the April Unconvention on Strategy and Design

About me!

  • Penelope Wakefield
  • Graduated from the program in 2016
  • Currently Governance Manager and Company Secretary at Therapy Focus, studying a post-graduate diploma in applied Corporate Governance, championing age diversity as a President of a local Soroptimist club, and a member of the Emerging Leaders in Governance Alumni Committee. Passionate about governance, diversity, and social justice.

What’s an Unconvention?

An Unconvention is a cross-sector, intergenerational forum for Board and Community Leaders to meet, exchange information, discuss, network, and collaborate on topical issues relating to Board governance, leadership, and age diversity on Boards.

As a graduate of the 2016 Emerging Leaders in Governance program, I recently had the pleasure of attending the first Unconvention for 2018 on Strategy and Design. Here is a collection of my top 20 insights from the day.

Jennifer Lawrence, CEO of Brightwater

  • Involve the Board in setting strategy. Pose a key strategic question, tell the story by giving relevant facts and information, and then discuss collectively. A good question to ask right now is “are we in this business for the long-term?”
  • Clear and regular reporting to the Board is necessary, but it is normal for there to be some slippage. Use a dashboard with traffic lights for reporting and when everything is green; be curious.

Andrew Edwards, Chair of Activ

  • To get the strategy right, focus on four things.
  • Management buy in is essential; if they don’t believe passionately in the strategy they won’t be able to sell the strategy to the organisation.
  • Set sensible stretch in what you are trying to achieve; run hard or go backwards quickly.
  • Smaller is better; set a small list of key priorities to focus on.
  • Finally, execution is everything in strategy; having a plan is great but it needs to be executed to be achievable and it needs to be monitored to keep people accountable.

Elizabeth Tylich, Partner at Jackson McDonald

  • Take a partnership approach to setting strategy. If Board members have limited experience and knowledge of the industry or organisation, they may feel they cannot contribute meaningfully. By combining the resources and skillsets of both the Board and Management team, you can achieve collaboration, a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, and ownership by management. Never assume that everyone is on the same page; check understanding of the people involved before moving on to the next stage of implementing.
  • If you happen to reset the strategy, it is important to assess if the current Board has the right mix of skills to realise it. The Board may need to replace current members with those who can better help the organisation to achieve its new strategic direction.

Pictured left to right: Elizabeth Tylich, Partner at Jackson McDonald, Jennifer Lawrence, CEO of Brightwater, Andrew Edwards, Chair of Activ

Cettina Raccuia, Innovation Capability Manager, RAC WA

  • Build, Measure and Learn. Embrace ambiguity, acknowledge the change, build the capabilities, and just start trying to solve problems and learning from this process. If the strategy you have designed is not working, change it.
  • Use a variety of tools to support innovation – there are many available in the market such as Bloom, or the Founder Institute , or create innovation hubs such as Seed Spark to support entrepreneurial skills, thinking, and action in the community.

Cettina Raccuia, Innovation Capability Manager, RAC WA

Professor Peter Klinken AC, Chief Scientist of Western Australia 

Professor Klinken also gave us an amazing insight into his key leadership learnings over the past 20 years. He said although it was difficult to choose, here are a few of his favourites…

  • Care for yourself; it’s lonely at the top. You need to ensure that you are stable and balanced, as a lot of people are relying on you.
  • Seek out diverse views. This is essential. Don’t be afraid of them and get comfortable with being challenged.
  • Challenge yourself, your dogma, the what-ifs, and seek bold alternatives.
  • Check strategic decisions against your mission, capacity, and support. If the decision aligns with your mission, and you have the capacity and support – then do it! If it is unaligned with your mission, then this may be a case of mission creep.

Professor Peter Klinken AC, Chief Scientist of Western Australia

From the Panel – Dr Sue van Leeuwen, Chair of The Patricia Giles Centre, Craig Heatley, National Chair of Red Nose, Director Fathering Project, and Dylan Smith, CEO of Fremantle Foundation

  • Innovation belongs to everyone; the board and management. Fundamentally the board should both drive innovation and support management, by pushing them to keep innovating.
  • To achieve diversity of thought at the board table, the culture must support a diverse group of individuals to contribute.
  • To be human centric in creating strategy, needs a futures approach, an exploration of what the client experience might look like in the future, the ability to move beyond your own perspectives and worldview, and to have the courage to go beyond the mould and look at the creation of strategy in another way.
  • Moving beyond your own perspective and worldview can be a constant struggle. The more experienced you become, the more that decisiveness is rewarded. It is important to challenge your way of thinking and create space to reflect before and after meetings to create intention and to gauge your effectiveness.
  • To create strategies that really last, look to other regions across the world who are 10-20 years ahead of where you are now. Find a mentor who will show you how the future can be; time travel there and learn from their journey. They may help give you the guidance and tools to step forward, ask the right questions, and think strategically.

Pictured left to right: Alicia Curtis, Program Facilitator, Dylan Smith, CEO of Fremantle Foundation, Craig Heatley, National Chair of Red Nose, Director Fathering Project and Dr Sue van Leeuwen, Chair of The Patricia Giles Centre

Finally, some advice for my fellow alumni who are seeking a Director Position

  • You need some experience in knowing how to deal with tough situations. The community sector is a tough gig at the moment. Start small and build experience. For example, join a local service club to get a feel for what it is like to manage personalities; you’ll need this at the Board table.
  • Choose the Boards you join wisely. Unlike an Executive, a director’s reputation is linked to the performance of the Board as a whole, and not as an individual. The performance of others may compromise your reputation.
  • Be passionate about the Board you join as it takes up your time, and it denies someone else the opportunity to contribute.
  • Finally, young people are sometimes their own worst enemies. You need to ensure you can articulate how your attitude, skills and experience will add value to the boards you are applying to. Once this value is known, put yourself forward for the opportunities you want. Back yourself and make your value known.

For further information about the Engaging Young Leaders on Aged Care and Community Boards go to or contact Dr Nicky Howe on 94506233 or email at


Dr Nicky Howe, Southcare CEO and Professor Peter Klinken AC, Chief Scientist of Western Australia


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