#Ozwater is not just a gathering of minds of Australia water sector, but due to the size of the industry and collaboration, caused by the utilities remaining as monopolies, brings together a broad Australian supply chain.

It also offers a time to reflect on the #culture of both the water and broader industry. The suppliers, innovators, consultants, constructors and service providers continue to walk away with comments on how slow industry is to change and how risk adverse it is. This is despite a lot of noise by some progressive utilities on how far they have moved.

I was involved in sessions both as chair and participant where serious work had been put into #strategic planning and #scenario development. All world class organisations should go through scenario planning every five years and strategic planning on an annual basis, so hats off to them.

But, when asked about addressing #disruptive forces, a room full of smart people said it was too hard, the regulators didn’t want to give scope to move, the leaders didn’t want to expose themselves and the staff were change resistance. It was easier to have disruption forced on them and they would respond as they always had.

I had several conversations with attendees from the private world in regard to the drive on #safety and some of the innovations being put up as leading. Most Utilities have a poor WHS culture and very much address it as an add on. I often talk about a previous employee who lived safety, where to walk upstairs without three points of connection, to walk across a road not using the green lights or failing to shut down a site with a near miss were all show cause events.

The water industry may be safer that oil & gas and other high-risk industries, but we are definitely not low risk and need to live safety, it’s too important not too.

The water industry amongst others is promoting culture and diversity, but we need to remember why we are doing it. #Diversity brings better decisions making. We have all worked for a manager who surrounded themselves by “yes” people and continually made bad decisions. We improve our decision making by involving diverse stakeholders.

While socially we might wish to be more #diverse and create #equality, but it also makes business sense. Our businesses are changing, driven by societal, growth & technology and we will need a different workforce in the future. Less accountants, lawyers and designers, more data scientists, sociologists and innovators.

One of the key reasons we resist diversity is we have never learnt how to disagree. We are taught to promote our point of view and to win. We are used to experiencing group think, where listening to others and negotiating, this brings the group to the lowest common level.

We need to develop high performance teams, where diversity improves the decision making. It will only be when we can achieve this will we be truly successful in the diverse workplaces we need to be.