Max Hardy Consultancy

"The Max Factor" (e-newsletter no. 3)

November 2015
Max Hardy Consulting

It’s been hectic, hence the delay getting this latest e-newsletter out to you. It will no doubt be my last for the year, and what a year it has been!

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It has been such fun working with some amazing clients and some new partners. Almost too many opportunities to pursue! 2016 will present some different challenges, but I need to get through 2015 first.

This e-newsletter is a bit shorter than others, but that means you should be able to get to the end of it more easily, right?

The gorgeous Collingwood Town Hall, one of the locations where Advisory Groups contributed to Liveable Yarra.


Latest blog – in full.

It takes courage to build trust

You may recall from the British series ‘Yes, Minister’, Sir Humphrey would use the term ‘couragous’ as code for ‘politically stupid’ – usually having the effect of dissuading the Minister to follow his stated intentions. It provided great comedy as well as demonstrating a powerful technique to influence someone who is risk averse. However, I think it’s time to reclaim the term couragous. We need it in bucket-loads. Without it, it might be impossible to build trust when we need it most.

One example of couragous leadership has been Sharon Starick. Sharon is the chair of the Board for Natural Resources, South Australia Murray Darling Basin. Faced with some unprecedented financial pressures, the Board decided to invite the community into their dilemma. They wanted to work out a solution with the community, not for the community. To explore how to best generate the revenue needed for the services the community most values. Sharon’s role during the deliberative process was outstanding.

Sharon and her Board could have chosen a much less couragous path. Faced with a major financial challenge, imposed upon the Board, she could have been forgiven for taking an easier path. She could have resigned in protest. Or she could have easily mobilised their community to protest and complain. Instead Sharon, along with her Board, decided on a more couragous and ultimately wiser path. She was able to articulate what the Board did have control over. At times Sharon even challenged some rather angry community members to think through the likely consequences of taking any other approach.

For me the most memorable moment arrived when one participant issued quite an accusation toward the end of Day 1. He stated, ‘If I presented this kind of business case to my bank manager I would be shown the door, and very quickly!’ It was met with an enthusiastic round of applause, along with some laughter. It was evident, in that very moment, many participants had not quite understood the challenge they had signed up for. I reminded participants the Board had not brought them together to sell them anything.  (Communities have been accustomed to consultation being just that – an attempt to sell a solution. Not this time!)

By contrast this Board was inviting a diverse range of citizens to deliberate over a serious dilemma. They were inviting people to explore possible solutions only after spending time appreciating the challenges they collectively faced. The Board chose to work out this out with the community, not for the community.

It was heartening for the Board to receive an email after day 2 of the deliberative process. It came from the same participant who issued his challenge the previous day. It read,

‘Thanks for the opportunity on the weekend to participate in such a well run event. Your staff and the board are to be commended for the way you became more receptive and open on the Sunday. Obviously a lot of people put in a pile of work between days to have answers produced of that standard.’

Trust was built. The challenge was better understood. More was being asked of participants this time around. The Board was letting go and inviting their community in. The participants had to step up, and make the most of this opportunity. And they did!

The results of the process were impressive and I was thrilled to design and facilitate it, along with Danielle Annells. Although consensus wasn’t reached on all matters there were clear directions and insights for the Board. Importantly the members of the community appreciated this new approach taken by the Board, and also appreciated the complexity of the situation.

I reflected on other processes I have facilitated over the past 25 years or so. How easy it is for leaders to resort to their default position when a new or novel approach is taken. How many times have I heard from them, ‘Well if they are going to behave like this we won’t bother evening talking to them in future’?  Sadly, many leaders have never witnessed what it is like for the community to step up. Usually this is a result of lazy process and a poor remit or question. Regardless, it was what many leaders witness, and what they dread.


Day 3 of the Deliberative Panel in Mount Barker, South Australia - a mini participatory budgeting process activity.

Sharon Starick demonstrated great courage, but also great wisdom in this situation. I believe it’s time we distinguish wise or genuine courage, from couragous stupidity. I reckon there would be a terrific business case for genuine courage. Especially if building trust is important!


What I’ve been up to

IAP2 ‘flash in the pan’ debate

It was great fun to participate in this very dubious debate in Melbourne. Somehow I ended up on the team arguing that deliberative democratic processes are just a fad. Somehow we won!

Spectrum on Trial

I was thrilled to co-design (with Amanda Newbery and Joel Levin) and participate in a ‘court case’ about the IAP2 Spectrum at the Perth Conference in October. It generated plenty of interest, with an ultimate verdict being ‘The Spectrum needs to be rehabilitated’. Amidst the theatre there was some terrific discussion and many constructive suggestions.

A memorable event and a wise jury finding – sentencing the IAP2 Spectrum to rehabilitation! Afterwards, several asked me what my real view about the IAP2 Spectrum was. I told them to read this.

IAP2 Awards

Winning an IAP2 Award is never the goal, but to be part of the team winning three of them was quite amazing. The NDIS Scorecard Citizens’ Jury project won:

• Health Project of the Year

• National Project of the Year

• International Project of the Year.

Saying just a few words when we won the really big one!


Congratulations to all concerned; especially Alex Madsen (NDIA), Craig Wallace (Chair of People with Disability Australia, PWDA), Mathew Bowden (co CEO of PWDA), Sonya Price-Kelly (PWDA), Danielle Annells, (collaboration whisperer), and of course the jurors and evidence givers. To check out what went on behind scenes check this short film, brilliantly produced by Lara Damiani.

City of Yarra – Liveable Yarra Deliberative Panel

The Deliberative Panel for the City of Yarra, to recommend directions for Council to re-write their planning scheme in response to the challenges of rapid urban consolidation. It was a very satisfying process. Loved working with Andrew Howard and Elly Gardner of Capire, as well as the very capable City of Yarra officers. Yet more proof of the ability of citizens to step up, appreciative complex challenges, and to offer wise recommendations.

Participants working incredibly hard on day 2 of the deliberative panel, City of Yarra

After a number of workshops and focus groups, meetings with advisory groups, and four deliberative sessions, culminated in a report presented to Council. It was unanimously accepted by Council in mid November.

Other work

Developing community engagement resources and strategy for the Metro Waste Resource and Recovery Group with the wonderful Amanda Newbery of Articulous.

Supporting residential development with a real difference, working with Micaela Drieberg, 3 Hills Consulting, and Jason Twill, Lend Lease.

Delivery Review, DEWNR, South Australia

Supporting an organisation to innovate and reinvent their focus, structure and engagement strategy.

Facilitation, capacity building or research work with:

• Department Environment, Water and Natural Resources (Marine and Coastal)

• VicRoads

• Cube Group

• Peer Academy

• Metro South Health and Hospital Service

• Melbourne Water

• Lachlan Health




Training collaborations are underway, actively being co-developed with:

• Micaela Drieberg (Community Engagement for Local Government Councillors and other elected representatives)

• Danielle Annells (Deliberative community engagement processes; facilitating large events – 100+ people, consumer engagement for health sector)

• Adam Beck (Collaborative Governance for Urban Planning)

• Dale Renner (Sustainable organisational and system innovation)

• Gilbert Rochecouste (Place activation and community engagement)

• Diana Renner (adaptive leadership for complex challenges)

I am also thoroughly enjoying building collegial working relationships with Adam Beck (Centre for Urban Innovation), Nation Partners, Articulous, Village Well, Nick Fleming of Innergise, Cube Group and others that I may have forgotten at this late hour!

Still learning lots by networking with ‘Slime Mould’ – Complexity Practitioners Network

Why is it called Slime Mould? Check this blog.

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Peer Academy

I have hosted more sessions with Peer Academy and soon to facilitate another on ‘The Art of Asking Powerful Questions’.

There are so many other interesting sessions on offer. Go to Peer Academy to check them all out.

Coaching - I continue offering coaching services for executives, project managers and collaboration/engagement practitioners. These can be provided for a set period of time (3 months - 24 months). 

Shadow consulting – Working behind the scenes for other consulting groups is on the increase. Really enjoying this as well!

Contact me if you'd like to discuss any of these offerings.


Keeping my promise

Last Max Factor e-newsletter I promised to give more information about a unique dining concierge service, FinerDiners. Of course I am totally biased because my Angela Hardy is introducing this in Melbourne, supported by Bruce Joy and myself. To find out more go to - we have lots to do on the website but you will get the idea!

See you or at least talk to you again in 2016!