Monthly Archives: July 2015

Can’t Reach Decision-Makers?

breakthrough-smlSometimes you can’t get to a Government decision-maker – Minister or senior public servant, say – and don’t know why*: often it’s their gatekeepers not appreciating the importance or priority of your issue, sometimes it’s unspoken opposition to what you’re asking, frequently it’s just time or workload**.

How do you break through?

You don’t always have to know exactly what causes the blockage***, in order to get past it – you just need to find someone who can go around the barriers, and persuade the decision-maker – your Champion.

Depending on the issue and circumstances, the kind of Champion you need might be a

  • Minister in another portfolio,
  • local Member of Parliament in the same jurisdiction (i.e. State or Federal – and it works for Local Government too),
  • policy expert in the relevant Department,
  • Chief Executive in another Department, or
  • policy expert working for an Industry Association or Non-Government Organisation.

It has to be someone with sufficient credibility and sufficient influence to raise the issue competently with the decision-maker.

There’s three things to bear in mind about this “Champions” approach:

  1. Unless you are difficult to deal with or bad at presenting**** then the goal of your Champion should be to get you a proper meeting with the decision-maker;
  2. Bearing in mind that first point, sometimes you aren’t the best person to persuade the Champion to get on board, either – if you are aiming for a local MP, for example, then someone in their electorate or who they already know may well be best; and
  3. You need, both, to persuade your Champion to help you, and get them to the point where they can persuade the decision-maker it’s worth their time.

You’ll therefore need to prepare even more thoroughly for your discussion with your potential Champion, than you will with the decision-maker.

Why not go to their boss instead?  Isn’t that quicker and easier?

Usually, no!

Unless as a last resort and in extremis, this is normally a really bad idea.  Going to the Premier/Prime Minister/Chief Executive over the head of a decision-maker is an investment in long-lasting resentment and poor relations with

  • the decision-maker you’ve thwarted,
  • every friend that decision-maker has, and
  • possibly the decision-maker’s boss who may resent your evading the chain of command.

If you’ve gone around a public servant by going to their Chief Executive or Minister, or a junior Minister by going to the First Minister, you may have killed all prospect of any future co-operation for as long as they are around.

 

* Sometimes you might understand – but reject as invalid – the reason you can’t get to speak with them.
** Let’s presume you’ve done your research and are chasing the right person.
*** Though, usually, you must find this out at some point.
**** You are never the best judge of this – you should always ask your Champion “Am I the best person to persuade Ms. Such-And-Such?  Is there someone better to send?”  If there is someone better to present, the goal is to get them to the decision-maker, instead of you.

 

The Story You Sell To Government

story_timeWhen you are asking something of Government – a decision, a non-decision, a policy change, that your bid win a tender process, whatever it might be – there’s a right way and a wrong way to ask it.  Earlier articles identified the things you need to say, how to say them, and the things you need to avoid saying.

All of those considerations needs to be packaged up into a neat, concise, persuasive Narrative.  Once you’ve got your Narrative, every single thing you say and do needs to be directed at persuading Government to accept the truth and necessity of your Narrative.  Nothing should stray from or undermine the Narrative.

Many, passionate fanatics in support of their own proposition to Government, find it really hard to understand how to develop a short and focussed Narrative, but when you’re communicating with Government, you have a very small opportunity to get your message across, so you can’t spend time on the things that make your heart burst with pride – unless you already know those things do the same for Government.

In this circumstance, a Narrative:

  • is never off the cuff – must be thoroughly prepared;
  • must be structured like a story;
  • encapsulates and summarises the main facts around the issue;
  • encapsulates and summarises your proposal;
  • persuades the audience your idea is the best solution to a pressing problem;
  • rebuts major alternatives by making clear their inferiority;
  • is focussed entirely on the audience’s needs and motivations, not yours;
  • resonates with the audience – usually emotionally;
  • contains an unambiguous and feasible request; and
  • is short – as short as is possible while meeting all of these criteria – you might have only 2 minutes or 250 words, to make your case – our target is usually six or seven two-line sentences*.

Try to write it so you can leave behind a copy of your Narrative when you meet a Government representative – it saves them taking notes, makes you look organised and competent, and reduces the chance of misunderstanding.

You can’t deliver all of that off the cuff; nor can you deliver it if you are clumsy with words, or can’t set aside your passions when drafting or speaking, or if you are mistaken about what motivates your audience.  You may need help.

 

* OK, we’re often enough off-target here, but never by more than 50%

 

Queensland State Budget 2015 Right Now

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt is delivering his first State budget right now, 2.30 pm on Bastille Day, 14 July, 2015.  It is a critical first budget for his political future, and the future of the new Labor Palaszczuk Government.

For tactical reasons, the Government embarked on a program, in the week before Budget delivery, of releasing important Budget announcements to the media. This meant that the Government dominated the good news component of media reports for most of the week and a half before Budget Day.

These announcements included significant information about major Budget strategy decisions such as

  • basing budget strategy on expectations of economic growth and economic recovery, with no increase in debt and a return to surplus in four years;
  • seeking private sector involvement in infrastructure development – a revised PPP approach;
  • using Government-Owned Corporation payments to shareholders to pay down general Government debt
  • the budget is to deliver a net operating surplus;
  • separating Government-Owned Corporation balance sheets from other parts of the Whole of Government balance sheets, and transferring GOC debt to GOC balance sheets (~ $4bn); and
  • focus on operating debt and surplus, vs. the LNP Government’s use of total debt and fiscal surplus.

They also included significant announcements about policy and program initiatives, and funding commitments such as

  • education, health and tourism will be key spending priorities;
  • releasing the Treasury analysis of the State finances;
  • Advance Queensland, a multifaceted program of sunrise industry facilitation (~ $50m);
  • vocational education and training package ($750m);
  • re-commitment to merging five energy Government Owned Corporations into two;
  • infrastructure assessment streamlining;
  • development of a Queensland Gas Action Plan to be commenced in 2016;
  • car registration increased of 3.5 per cent on July 1 confirmed;
  • pensioner concessions for electricity, water, gas and transport will be fully funded ($347 million) by the State Government, after the Federal Government withdrew funds;
  • Great Start Grant ($15,000) for first home builders to stay;
  • new Positive Parenting Program to be made available (estimated at 140,000 families, $6.6m);
  • a fund to help fight Banana disease Panama Tropical Race 4 ($9.8m);
  • a new netball centre at Nathan with eight indoor courts, player facilities and administration ($30m);
  • payroll tax holiday for new businesses;
  • no forced redundancies in energy Government-Owned Corporation mergings;
  • package of actions designed to reduce domestic violence (~ $31m);
  • setting minimum proportions of nurses to patients (~ $212m);
  • Social Benefit Bonds to fund social programs – pilot scheme (~ $3m).

Significant claims made by the Government, in support of major budget decisions included

  • Repudiation of austerity as an appropriate response to current economic circumstances;
  • Meeting election commitments;
  • $3bn collapse in royalty and other resource-sector related revenue;
  • A stabilising State economy;
  • Refusal of the Federal Government to fund State infrastructure development without asset sales;
  • Separation of Government-Owned Corporation balance sheets from Whole of Government balance sheets is warranted by virtue of their
    • commercialised nature;
    • (allegedly artificially) low gearing ratios;
    • borrowings being devoted to income-generating activity.

Budget papers, including the Treasurer’s speech, which will include many more details, will be available here later today – then we’ll get to see what else is in there, and how it all fits together.

 

 

 

Tiers Before Bad Time*

How tiers workMany business and community leaders come to regret sleeping through key social studies/civics classes as kids – they can’t tell which Governments can do what things, and sometimes have only a vague notion there are different levels of Governments*. A client, a couple of years ago, had a project requiring both State and Federal approvals.  He found the policies and people at Federal level really aggravating – they had potential to cause project failure.  Before he went to see the relevant State Minister, we worked with him to identify issues to be raised, and what he needed to get from the meeting.  Instead of those, he complained exclusively about his Federal Government difficulties.  At the end, this busy Minister threw his hands in the air and said “There’s nothing I can do to help – these are all Federal issues – good bye!” who_bossThe self-indulgence of wasting everyone’s time was one thing, but his refusal to understand and work within the different roles of different levels of Government contributed to that project’s demise. Here are three graphics to help you get the difference – in Australia, at least. If you would like copies of these three graphics as PowerPoint slides, please get in touch.cascading_tiers       * www.metrolyrics.com/tears-before-bedtime-lyrics-elvis-costello.html ** Political tragics like me struggle to understand this lack of enthusiasm for facts Governmental.

Make Your “Ask” Feasible

When you want something from Government, it has to be something they can deliver.

Tough DecisionsSometimes, it is pretty clear whether something can be delivered, or not – you can’t have a State or Local Government do something where the power to do it is exclusively vested in the Federal Government, for example.

Mostly, though, feasibility is a “maybe” rather than a clear “yes” or “no”, in which case you need to work out whether what you want is too hard to get, and whether you must

  • seek something else right now, maybe part of what you originally have wanted, which has a greater prospect of being acceptable, or a different way to get your outcome delivered,
  • look for it later (say, when the Government has changed, or after a Ministerial reshuffle), or
  • abandon your plans altogether.

How can you make such an important business or organisational decision?

travel_as_strategy_smallFirst, treat achieving your objective like a journey:

  • identify where you want to get to (say, the Eiffel Tower)
  • list everything that has to come together for you to get there (money, flights, bookings, luggage, time, and so on)
  • list everything that might stop you (mechanical problems, rejection of visas, theft, illness, lost luggage, Vladimir Putin’s expansionism, etc)
  • identify how you secure every single one of those things that are necessary to get there (use a reputable airline, apply early for visas, buy a suitcase with roller wheels, or whatever it might be)
  • identify how/if you can overcome each of the things that will stop you (don’t travel via unstable countries, get vaccinated, have your criminal convictions expunged so your visa application isn’t rejected, for example)
  • if there are some you simply can’t overcome, consider whether there’s an alternative destination that might suit you (Adelaide is pretty – the Paris of the Antipodes).

Now you’ve got your plan for getting to the Eiffel Tower!

In the context of your policy feasibility journey,

  • the Eiffel Tower is your best case and most ambitious policy outcome – full, speedy and enthusiastic adoption of your idea of product;
  • things that have to come together will include taking your idea to the right person, couching it in ways they will find appealing, presenting it credibly, and so on;
  • things that might stop your proposal travelling anywhere could include budgetary inflexibility, incompatible Government or Party policy, intransigent stakeholders, electoral unpopularity, opposing factions in the bureaucracy or Party, the Minister’s Chief of Staff doesn’t like you, etc – many of the hurdles to be identified in this research are critically important and all too often are glossed over by enthusiastic proponents of the project;
  • securing the necessities for your journey will include having a thoroughly well-developed proposal, an understanding of the structure and priorities of the portfolio, carefully crafted presentation that speaks to your audience, for example;
  • overcoming obstacles might include creative* financing, finding ways to secure policy change before advancing your proposal, finding a Champion for your proposal within Government, identifying clear community benefits, and many, many, more.

Assessing feasibility for a significant proposal usually require clear-headed research, and external evaluation and testing – your enthusiasm for your own proposal is guaranteed to blind you to some of the opposition, difficulties and hurdles.

 

* By which I definitely don’t mean dodgy!