Three leaders from our Defence business were pleased to participate in an innovative training program championed by Defence's First Assistant Secretary Service Delivery Division Monique Hamilton recently. Known as CUSP (Collaboration, Skills, Understanding and Practice), the program was designed to bring together emerging leaders from Defence and Industry partners.

With 36 participants, including 24 from Prime contractors and 12 Defence representatives, the program ran across seven consecutive weeks. The weekly four-hour program consisted of facilitated sessions to offer learning opportunities, promote understanding between those involved and advance collaborative practices. 

At each session, senior leaders from industry partners of Defence presented on a topic designed to leverage their experience, and key themes were explored such as advanced communication, collaboration and commercial acumen. 

Getting to know fellow contractors

Regional Hospitality and Catering Manager in the South/East Zone Jenny Gigliotti has worked in the industry for over 30 years, across the private and public sector, front and back of house and in her own specialty chocolate business. She was able to bring that breadth of experience to these sessions and share her lessons learned when it comes to collaboration and leadership.

Jenny says one of the things she enjoyed most was the fact she could take the time to think about the opportunities for collaboration between Defence and industry.

Having the opportunity to reflect on how we operate as a business and share that with my leadership team was really valuable.

Jenny noted that the pre-work done with the group to which she was assigned was also key to getting the most out of the learnings. 

"Working on this activity gave us an opportunity to get to know other participants on equal terms, not as competitors or client and contractor," Jenny explains. "I met a couple of fabulous people who I have now connected with outside of this program."

Jenny says that she's already looking at innovations that can be implemented on the bases in her region. 

"I've been collaborating with Veolia on a waste sustainability initiative that they've done elsewhere, and I am hoping we can roll that out on eight different sites," she said.

Ventia employee Jenny Gigliotti pictured outside

Regional Hospitality and Catering Manager Jenny Gigliotti is already looking at possible innovations that can be implemented on the bases in her region.

From the kitchen to the boardroom

Operations Services Manager Richard Dyson started his career in the kitchens in the Northern Territory, moving into a supervisory role and then into management. He now manages a team of over 50 employees, who are responsible for things like hospitality, land management, cleaning and pest control. 

Richard's experience at CUSP is aligned with Jenny's, and he says connecting to different people, from both the public and private sectors, and getting an insight into how people work and the different challenges they face were what he enjoyed most about participating in the program. 

"Having an open forum to encourage discussion with key stakeholders in Defence was great," Richard says. "You could tell the speakers had put a lot of effort into their presentations and it gave good insight into what other organisations do within our sector."

Richard and his syndicate were asked to present on relationship building between the public service (in this case, Defence) and industry. He says that it opened his eyes to the accountability that the public service has to the taxpayer, and why it's so important that public money is spent wisely. 

"It really put things into context for me," Richard says.

I've been looking at the way projects are managed with a more critical eye in terms of ensuring on time, on budget delivery.

Ventia employee Richard Dyson pictured outside.

Operations Services Manager Richard Dyson enjoyed having an open forum for discussion with key stakeholders in Defence.

Sharing real life experiences

Regional Living Services Manager for the North East Zone Steve Greene agrees that sharing real life work experiences and hearing about others was beneficial. 

"Presentations from senior leaders across Defence and their contractors was a real highlight for me," Steve says. "There was certainly plenty of food for thought."

Like Richard, Steve also started his career as a chef, later transitioning to project management and then more senior management roles. Steve says his time as a chef actually prepared him perfectly for the work he does now.

A chef is the ultimate project manager. You take a heap of raw ingredients and time, quality and cost goes into every meal that ends up on the table in front of your customer.

Steve's syndicate included a manager from Aurecon and a team member from Defence, and they were tasked with presenting on collaboration.  

"After our first session we shared a brief bio, which helped us all understand how each person fit in to their organisation," he says. "I am keen to support a three up and three down connection with my senior Defence partners going forward."

Ventia employee Steve Greene pictured outside

Regional Living Services Manager Steve Greene enjoyed the presentations from senior leaders across Defence.

Senior leadership support

Group Executive Derek Osborn was invited along as a guest speaker to one of the sessions, talking to the team about the importance of not living your life through your email inbox. 

Executive General Manager Defence Gavin Campbell says Derek's presentation was well received, as was Ventia's overall participation. 

"I was very impressed by Monique's comment during the program on the importance of a 'team of teams' across the Defence portfolio," Gavin says. "I'm also very supportive of her message that collaboration is the best way to manage complexity and change, and that we are all responsible for making this happen within our organisations."

I am keen to see how Richard, Jenny and Steve take what they have learned from this experience and put that into practice so we can continue to redefine service excellence on our contracts for Defence.