Organisational Change Management Volume 1

Differences - Australia and Other Countries

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Limitations of frameworks/models developed overseas revolve around Australia's differences from other countries like USA, Europe and Japan. Some of these differences:

Australia's Distinguishing Element Examples

Indigenous (over 250 different tribal groups) lived in Australia for an estimated 50,000+ years before it became an English colony, ie early history as a convict settlement and later on as an exporter of raw materials from rural areas, ie commodities (agricultural and mining)

A history of small-scale farming and monopoly co-operative/government-owned marketing bodies

Lucky country (discovery & development of one new commodity after another)

Limited wars to defend homeland

Use of ideas from overseas as little R & D in Australia plus availability of Internet

Since 1970, industry deregulation (banking, labour, etc), corporatisation/commercialisation (airlines, etc) and privatisation (banking, telecommunications, etc)

Until the mid 1980's the domestic markets, especially manufacturing, were protected: thus small market size was not an issue

Since 1990, greater exposure to international market forces, such as the growth of Asian markets and Asian competition (low cost goods)

Future is in finding overseas markets, international niches & competing on differentiation, not cost, ie need to look out & be externally-focussed

Continuing decline of "blue collar" manufacturing sector, eg car industry, air line maintenance, steel making, etc; increasing expansion of service industries like education, professional services, etc


Natural barrier to overseas competition and access to overseas markets created incentive to be inventive and, paradoxically, also a 'she'll be right, mate' attitude

Immaturity of organisations' exposure to international competition

Tyranny of distance and empty-island syndrome

Concept of a big empty island isolated from the rest of the world

"Populate or perish" epithet that is linked with the "White Australia" and "domino theories" of the past

Importance of growth

Reliance on major powers for "protection", such as UK in the past and now the USA


Traditionally Anglo-Celtic followed by eastern European and Latin migrants after World War 2; more recently an increasing Asian intake so that approximately 140 different ethnical/ racial/religious/cultural, etc groups now live in Australia

Importance of Government (including public sector) as a stakeholder

Legislator (anti-monopoly legislation)

Competitor (telecommunications)

Regulator (almost all industries)

Buyer (computers/cars, etc)

Supplier (pulp & paper)

Agent with multiple roles (transport)

Developer (banking, transport, construction, etc)

Supporter (agriculture, medicine, film & media, etc)

Role of public sector


Importance of Industrial Relations

History of centralised wage fixing and unions has resulted in

- standardising of working conditions

- allowed little incentive to perform well

- limited ability to pay for better performance

Small local (state) market size & spread

Owing to small market size and spread there is a limited chance to develop economies of scale to minimise cost of production, such as R & D, production runs, etc

Does not have a major market on its physical doorstep

Industrial structure

Limited players (2 or 3 firms compete on a national basis with some local, regional and niche competitors)

Three levels of Government and short term of office

Limits development of long-term strategies and encourages a short-term focus

Quality of management / leadership

Karpin Report (1995) claims of Australian managers' mediocrity

Leadership style necessary for leading a successful organisation in Australia is captain/coach (leadership with the troops rather than leadership from on high)

Attitudes as reflected by

"can do it" (little Aussie battler & can change the rules)

patriotism (doing it for Australia)

Individual / national values

Egalitarian expectations & individualism promoted, ie "fair go"

Australians are motivated by working and identifying with a cause, such as patriotism

Determined and tenacious, ie overcoming many obstacles

Team approach, ie "mateship"

'tall poppy syndrome', ie if one rises above the "pack", there is an attempt to pull that person back to the "pack"

Analysis / paralysis

Many governmental inquiries but little follow-up action, eg Royal Commissions and inquiries into competitiveness in Australia, reports and books by

- Aust. Council of Trade Unions (1987)

- Hughes (1989)

- Garnaut (1989)

- Pappas Carter Evans/Aust. Manu. Council (1990)

- Dept. of Foreign Affairs (1992)

- Marsh (1988)

- Costa & Easson (1991), etc

(sources: Graham Hubbard et al, 1996 & 2002; Bernard Salt, 2003; Dierdre Macken, 2006; Edgar Schein, 2004)


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