Can’t Reach Decision-Makers?
Posted by Mike Smith
Sometimes 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:
- 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;
- 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
- 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?
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.
About Mike SmithPartner in Ethical Consulting Services: www.ethicalconsulting.com; sometime University lecturer; previously Government Relations consultant; before that Labor Party State Secretary in Northern Territory; union advocate with LHMU/United Voice in NT and NSW; hobby – election campaigns!
Posted on July 28, 2015, in Change, Communication, Culture, Democracy, Governance, Government decision-making, Government Relations, how to lobby, Lobbying, Lobbyist, Political tactics, Project facilitation, Public service, public service decision-making, Stakeholder engagement, Strategy and tagged problem-solving. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.