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For the Greater Good

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Culture change can be a complex process. Yet with the right data and support a pragmatic, cultural roadmap can be developed.

The TAFE industry nationally has been going through a significant transition for some time. Previously driven by a focus on education in a comparatively uncompetitive market, the industry is now customer-driven, hyper-competitive and full of funding ambiguity. Institutions whose focus might, for decades, have centered on learning outcomes, now need to shift entire employee populations to a commercially oriented way of thinking, and this without compromising the focus on student experience and learning outcomes.


Since its inception in the 1800s, South West TAFE has grown to become one of the largest and most highly regarded providers of skills training in South-West Victoria. The TAFE provides a critical function by actively developing training programs to help address regional skills shortages. Like other Victorian TAFEs, South West TAFE needed to respond to changes in government funding, deregulation of the sector and increased compliance requirements. Additionally, the evolving vocational education market required educators to think and act in ways that reflected increased business acumen and commercial orientation, as well as continue to develop the strong subject matter expertise that their reputation was built on.


This effectively required the organisation to develop and execute an entirely new strategy, as well as create a culture that would support and drive it. Having developed their strategy, South West TAFE sought to partner with Dattner Group to create a cultural roadmap. This roadmap would provide the foundations for creating a culture to align to and support strategy, rather than being resistant or sluggish to change.


Over the two years Dattner Group was commissed to support South West TAFE, they administered the following:


  • Comprehensive executive interview processes and interdepartmental focus groups to gain a detailed, multi-layer picture of the organisation’s current cultural state
  • A three-year culture change roadmap based on the data compiled in the research process
  • A leadership capability development program for the Executive and senior management teams. Content covered skill areas such as:
    • Leadership thinking and style
    • Leader as Teacher: communicating with impact and influence
    • Business acumen
    • Emotional intelligence
    • Hard Talks: advanced strategies for difficult, high-stakes conversations
    • Individual 360-degree assessment and leadership coaching, as well as the creation of individual action plans based off the data
  • Adoption of the Victorian Public Sector Commission ‘People Matters Survey’ as an engagement process to enable leaders to develop skills and practice in managing cultural development at the frontline.


Moving forward, the leadership of South West TAFE is now better positioned to survive and succeed in the still-volatile education market. Their leaders have a greater sense of their own capability and impact, as well as their influence on culture. The culture of the business is engaged to, and proactively driving, strategy implementation rather than being resistant to change. A customer focus continues to drive business decision-making, yet leaders operate with a greater sense of the commercial impact of their activities and their own ability to create tangible, commercial results. Lastly, having been through such a comprehensive program and already belonging to a high-performing leadership team, the leaders of the TAFE are trusting, collaborative and accountable to each other and the business.

Author, Marshall Cowley, Senior Consultant, Dattner Group