Katharine Manning / Managing Director / Manning Consulting  / 
Hit the Ground Running

story / Interview / October 11, 2021

My journey has not been a straight course, there has been lots of zigzagging. If I could have pictured myself 30 years ago, I would never have imagined this. When I was at school, I was passionate about music – I played the piano, flute, percussion and was in every band and orchestra. Though, I also always had a passion for health and wellbeing. My best friend’s mother, who was a charge nurse at a hospital, had a significant influence on me. She suggested, that I become an Occupational Therapist, so I could be part of the hospital environment and use my music with the patients. So I started my career as an Occupational Therapist.

I always loved travelling; I packed my backpack and traveled and worked overseas for four years in acute hospitals and rehabilitation centres. When I returned to Australia, I worked through a series of clinical, management and Department of Health roles. I was attracted to the capital planning jobs in health. I really loved having an influence on creating a positive environment for patients and clinicians.
I ended up working in the clinical and capital planning space.

It was nine years ago, I was sitting on hospital executive, working long hours, juggling my young daughter and work – and thought to myself, there must be a better way? After reflecting on my values and the lifestyle I wanted to create, I went out on my own and honestly, the phone started ringing, my feet hit the ground running, and here I am, nine years later running a company, consulting nationally and just loving what I do. We work on a range of clinical services planning, strategic planning and health facility planning projects for acute hospitals, government, community health and aged care sectors.

I studied business leadership. Managing high performing teams, running a company, dealing with financial and legal issues and tendering for work in a competitive environment is its own specialty- so I had to get my head around this. I started small and the company has grown at comfortable pace. I’ve enjoyed it and it has been a natural evolution.

I love to support my team. I really love working with my consulting team and learning what they are good at. Every time we win a new project, I select the team based on their expertise and I work with a strengths-based approach.

One thing that was important for me was to have flexibility as a mum, I wanted to still do school drop off and pick-ups for my daughter. I’m working on a number big complex projects and I can still do the drop off and pick-ups most days. Many women who work for me want flexibility. I don’t need to know where my consultants are or what they are doing, I just need them to deliver high quality work on time. They manage their own time and this works well.

There are lots of elements to health planning. First thing is to understand the client and the project brief, then I bring together the right team for the job. We develop a robust methodology, collate and analyse a lot of data, review best practice and make recommendations for the client. Sometimes we’re delivering large reports, other times we’re reviewing architectural plans of hospitals – our work is diverse. Something we always try to do is to work in partnership with the client.

With the Covid crisis, there will be many impacts to health services and changes in the way care is delivered, but these are still unfolding. Health facility designs are likely to change with increasing uptake of Telehealth, and more outreach services into people’s homes and the community. Infection control measures in hospital design are increasingly being reviewed with changes to the way we design certain areas such as waiting rooms, ICUs, wards, emergency departments, etc. There will be increased numbers of negative pressure rooms, more single patient rooms, ability to pod off areas…it will continually change. There is also an increasing focus on promoting an individual’s health, with designs that influence healing and recovery. This is what I am most interested in and passionate about.

We have shortages in the health workforce across many professions. There are so many wonderful opportunities in the health sector. I work in teams with clinicians, architects, engineers, project managers, and quantity surveyors, who all bring something different to the planning and design of new services. One thing I would really love to see is an increasing focus on preventative health, wellness and salutogenic design that optimises the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. We often don’t think about our health until something happens and it hits a crisis point. I hope we will now think differently about our health. We need to be designing health services, workplaces and communities to promote good physical and mental health.

We have been talking about decentralising cities and moving to ‘20-minute cities’ for a long time now, instead of continuing to build big sprawling cities focused around the CBD. Covid will be the natural disruptor for this to change. There are now increasing opportunities for people to work remotely, to move out of the city and live in coastal and regional areas. Our lifestyles are changing and this will impact on how and where we access services.

My father always said to me ‘if you love what you do, then you do what you love, and you’ll never work a day again in your life!’ …and that’s always been my sentiment. The second thing he said to me is ‘you might not be the head of astrophysics at NASA, but you can pretty much do whatever you set your mind to.’ He taught me to believe in myself and that’s stood me in good stead in business.

Most of my clients are senior leaders or executives of health services, the Department of Health or architect firms; the gender mix is roughly 50/50 or slightly more men. In the construction industry, it is more male dominated. As a female we can have different perspectives and approaches. We pick up on different things to what men pick up, and this is what a high performing team is all about – people with different skills, talents and abilities all coming together to achieve the best result for the client and ultimately the consumer –diversity is important.

I love supporting other women in the construction industry. The last project I was consulting on was the $1.5B Footscray Hospital PPP; I was a part of the bid team of 10 and was the only female. I certainly felt like an equal and it was a wonderful experience to be part of such a high performing, hardworking and focused team. To win that project was such a thrill. I know some women don’t always have the same experience, so I want to encourage other women to believe in themselves, connect to your feminine energy and stay true to your authentic self.

 

Katharine lives and works in inner city Melbourne, surviving lockdown between Melbourne and Anglesea, caring for her elderly father and consulting remotely. Katharine relishes her roles as a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and business woman. While Katharine doesn’t get to practice her music as much as she would like, she  loves the arts and spending time outdoors, connecting with nature, swimming and bush walking. We thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Katharine. She is such a wealth of knowledge on the health sector and it is inspiring to hear her success running her own consultancy. We wish Katharine all the best for the end of 2021! N, J & D x

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