Category Archives: Public service
- Government Ministers support union rights of protest www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/queensland-government-supports-unions-right-to-protest-after-they-bring-brisbane-cbs-to-a-standstill/news-story/fc5c067e186c207e9dcd106b6d7e7b45
- Regional economic policies to be the basis for opposing the rise of One Nation www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/queensland-labor-plots-economic-fightback-against-one-nation/news-story/7a91d3bcaadceb1c8f5bc7eb94ef615f
- Premier orders Ministers to perform http://au.news.yahoo.com/qld/a/32534369/palaszczuk-to-warn-cabinet/#page1 and www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/queensland-treasurer-curtis-pitt-says-he-has-support-of-palaszczuk-cabinet/news-story/2611893b88ce2eeb1fbfeae136f03b52
- Trad forced to defend Government against disunity allegations www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/jackie-trad-i-dont-want-annastacia-palaszczuks-job/news-story/dd85f31057d87ee211b50d1fcae1a189
- … amid rumours of division over internal and Government issues www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-labor-must-ditch-its-unwieldy-new-leadership-election-rules/news-story/7c6ca297f849c407ac7d7818bc8ebe06
- Public servants may be disciplined for role in centre closure www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/sep/09/two-queensland-bureaucrats-face-action-over-closure-of-mental-health-facility
- Government’s market-led framework needs tweaking www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/queensland-government-marketled-proposals-framework-needs-tweaking/news-story/6da9c22b79b04b42ac4277ea9976523f
- Policy confusion on Brisbane Metro project www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/government-changes-tune-on-brisbane-metro-20160906-gr9s7v.html
- Central Station upgrade www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/brisbanes-central-station-set-to-under-67m-facelift/news-story/e7b9d63d0bb6a776a14a5d0d1e010a27
- More asbestos delivered for Queensland building site www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-07/asbestos-found-second-batch-building-materials-qld-govt-tower/7822136
Economy and Infrastructure
- ABS figures show the State economy growing www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-08/annastacia-palaszczuk-queenslands-economy-is-surging-curtis-pitt/7825114
- Cairns might secure a further casino license http://news.worldcasinodirectory.com/queensland-treasurer-believes-cairns-has-opportunity-to-gain-forfeited-aquis-casino-license-34147
- Queensland is now Australia’s top cruise ship destination www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-becomes-nations-top-cruise-ship-destination-for-the-first-time/news-story/094308eae347e3dd5672b0888eb294f0
- Marketing Commonwealth Games interstate www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/peter-beattie-unrepentant-about-making-big-commonwealth-games-announcements-in-sydney/news-story/6cefe93e95758701955937f04d1624e4
- Sunshine Coast highway project to begin before Christmas www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/billiondollar-sunshine-coast-highway-project-begins-before-christmas-20160909-grcu0e.html
- Cross River Rail’s full impact on the economy and city www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/what-cross-river-rail-will-do-for-queensland-economy/news-story/f66b5b6e56ada64aae6890b082c324e6
- Six Queensland solar energy projects to get Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding www.couriermail.com.au/business/queensland-solar-energy-projects-get-funding-boost/news-story/78a49c602a97555123d8d16d4f5c6cd2
- M1 funding fight about whether Logan is a city? www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/brisbane-traffic-m1-upgrade-fight-over-whether-logan-is-a-city-20160908-grbg2f.html
- Government denies deal on Gold Coast casino www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/news/council/premier-keeps-her-cards-close-to-her-chest-on-main-beach-casino-and-resort/news-story/20b1b41844ee63dc7d4b6de89ac95182
- Queensland’s Parliament next sits this week, from Tuesday 13 September to Thursday 15 September
- The Queensland Parliament’s summary of what’s new, including newly-introduced and passed legislation, is here www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/whats-new
- Both Houses of Federal Parliament sit this week, from Monday 12 September to Thursday 15 September – see www.aph.gov.au
- CCC commences Gold Coast Council election probe www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/ccc-to-probe-gold-coast-2016-election-donors-20160905-gr9bjq.html
* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual. Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.
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.
Many 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!” The 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. * www.metrolyrics.com/tears-before-bedtime-lyrics-elvis-costello.html ** Political tragics like me struggle to understand this lack of enthusiasm for facts Governmental.
Posted in Australian Government, Change, Commonwealth Government, Democracy, Federal Government, Government decision-making, how to lobby, Lobbying, Local Government, Project facilitation, Public service, public service decision-making, State Government, Strategy
If you don’t have a good understanding of Government and Opposition, it is easy to put your foot wrong and wreck your chances of a successful discussion, when you’re pressing the Government to support your project or policy proposal.
Here’s a few thoughts about the wrong thing:
- Absolute Power – Not every Member of Parliament or public servant has the power to do everything (read more here) and if you ask for something they can’t do, then you look like a dill; for example, legislation may proscribe taking certain actions or making certain decisions – you need to know this before you ask;
- Power Without Glory – The Doctrine of the Separation of Powers is a special and high level constraint on powers saying, amongst other things, that Ministers must not usurp the powers of the Parliament or the Courts; in Australia the Doctrine is imposed by convention*, whilst in other countries it doesn’t exist or is imposed by laws or their constitution;
- Game of Thrones – Public servants and Members of Parliament always have limits on what they may do, imposed by where they are placed in their respective structures, will rarely be interested in interfering in something that is someone else’s role, and rarely have the capacity to do that easily;
- CodeBreaker – All members of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary have codes prescribing how they should work; only the most courageous** amongst them will contemplate stepping outside those codes, and only those prepared to risk prison will propose they should;
- You’re Awful, Muriel – You must start a discussion by presuming your audience knows what they are doing and why, even when you know they are entirely wrong: nothing kills your chance of a productive dialogue quicker than implying or saying directly that a Member of Parliament or public servant doesn’t know what they are talking about, or has been incompetent; you have to find a different way: you must structure the discussion so they see your alternative as better***;
- Lie To Me – Never tell a lie, never assert anything is a fact when there’s any doubt, and never leave out anything important; Telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is your only option, to ensure credibility; telling the truth means you must be very, very sure of your facts, and keep facts entirely separate from opinions;
- Sin Of Omission – it’s worth repeating: never leave out anything important; recognise, too, that you are not necessarily the best judge of what’s important – if there is any chance your audience might see something as important, you must at least mention it in passing;
- Rush To Judgement – Opinions from non-experts are pretty worthless, so don’t offer them unless they are considered, evidence-based expert judgements;
- Don’t Mention The War – Public servants usually operate impartially, and Members of Parliament are experts, so don’t talk about politics unless they invite it – and even then, exercise extreme caution that you tread on no toes;
- The Ant Bully – When you threaten or bully, explicitly or implicitly, you’re saying you lack the facts, lack a good argument, lack ethical standards and maturity, can’t be trusted to stick to a deal, and want to be on the front page of tomorrow’s paper;
- The Guru – keep your ego in check; if too much of what you say is about you, you’re not sufficiently focussed on how your proposal benefits the Government and the public, and you will be building resistance as you build perceptions of your ego;
- The Killing Season – don’t denigrate your opponents or competitors, because you’ll always look like a bully or slimy, egotistical or selfish, and more interested in your own advancement than in good policy.
* One of the biggest flaws in Australian democracy is that this doctrine is not strongly mandated by State and Federal constitutions, which allows authoritarian Governments to accrue too much power at the expense of liberty and democracy. But that discussion is for another time!
** Courageous in the “Yes, Prime Minister” sense: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_to_the_People_(Yes,_Prime_Minister)
*** Mike Smith is incredibly grateful to then-Northern Territory Labor Leader Maggie Hickey for teaching this valuable lesson!
Posted in Change, Communication, Culture, Democracy, Ethical, Ethics, Governance, Government decision-making, Government regulation, Government Relations, how to lobby, Lobbying, marketing, Opposition, Planning, Policy, Political tactics, Politics, Public service, public service decision-making, Stakeholder engagement, Strategy
Over the past year we’ve posted a series of articles about, inter alia, how lobbying works. Here’s a compilation of the How To Lobby articles so far*, broken up into rough topics.
Why Lobby? http://wp.me/p4xOhB-r
“Why Lobby?” Encore http://wp.me/p4xOhB-A
Who Does It
Who’s a Lobbyist? http://wp.me/p4xOhB-N
Who’s Your Best Lobbyist? http://wp.me/p4xOhB-23
Lobbying: The Dirty Truth https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/lobbying-the-dirty-truth/
Myths & Legends of Lobbying https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/myths-lobbying/
Regulating Lobbyists: Hardly https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/regulating-lobbyists-hardly/
Australian Lobbying: Credibility Fail https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/australian-lobbying-credibility-fail/
Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There! https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/dont-just-do-something/
Strategy & Delusion https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/strategy-delusion/
DON’T Increase Awareness https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/dont-increase-awareness/
Lobbying: 6 Things to Know https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/6-lobbying-things/
Lobbying is Marketing https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/lobbying-is-marketing/
“Get Me The Premier!” https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/get-me-the-premier/
Who’s the Decision-Maker? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/who-decision-maker/
Understanding Policy Processes
Mysterious & Mysteriouser https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/mysterious-mysteriouser/
“So When WILL They Decide???” https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/when-will-they-decide/
How’s Your Rat King? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/rat-king/
What IS A “Policy Instrument,” Anyway? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/what-is-policy-instrument/
Lobbying Labor’s Queensland Government: How? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/lobbying-labors-queensland-government-how/
How to Get That Meeting https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/how-to-get-that-meeting/
When you meet the Minister … https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/when-you-meet-the-minister/
What To Ask For
Persuading Government: What You Say https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/persuading-government-what-you-say/
What Makes A Policy Good? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/policy-good/
Connecting with Decision-Makers https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/connect-decision-makers/
Motivating & Persuading https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/motivating-persuading/
Persuading Government: How To Say It https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/persuading-government-how-to-say-it/
Crisis Management 101 https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/crisis-management-101/
What other topics would you like to see covered?
* There will be more!
Posted in Change, Communication, Crisis management, Culture, Governance, Government decision-making, Government Relations, how to lobby, Lobbying, Lobbyist, marketing, Policy, Political tactics, Politics, Public service, public service decision-making, Stakeholder engagement, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Values
If you roll up not-good policy to Government, there’s every chance they will tell you so: your time and theirs will have been wasted.
You need to know how to ensure what you construct to take to Government is good policy, but “good” is often in the eye of the beholder, and Governments of different styles (e.g. authoritarian/bullying, consultative, conservative, reforming, neo-liberal, or socialist) will see the same policy proposal through quite different prisms. So too will individual decision-makers who are unable or unwilling to consider policy proposals dispassionately and objectively, and who bring their particular passions to bear upon whatever is before them.
So, you need to know with whom you are speaking, in order to craft a proposal they will see as good:
- What are their politics, objectives, and priorities?
- What are those of the Party and of the Government they serve?
- How do you cast or modify your proposal in a way servicing those layers of priorities, politics, and objectives?
For example, if your proposal needs to pass through a Treasury Department, where the official religion is usually “Market Mechanisms Rule, OK?” your proposal will attract suspicion and opposition as a matter of course, if it interferes with a free market or market-based pricing mechanism. Benefits will be seen as, at best, secondary.
The text books tell us there are objective criteria any policy must satisfy, if it is to be considered good; for example, it must be all of these:
- Effective and efficient: so scarce resources aren’t wasted;
- Equitable: remedying social injustice, providing a “fair go”;
- Comprehensible: avoiding uncertainty, misapplication, compliance failure, evasion, avoidance;
- Accessible: avoiding inbuilt exclusions caused by false assumptions;
- Practicable: avoiding policies made just for show; and
- Stable: so the outcomes endure and frequent changes aren’t required – this might include consideration of community popularity and/or political sustainability (e.g., would the next Government reverse the policy?).
The Policy Analysis chapter** of The Australian Policy Handbook*** by Althaus, Bridgman, and Davis will give you a good understanding of what lies behind each of those terms.
However, in dealing with ideologically driven Governments of a neo-liberal bent, then you will find they treat some of those principles as subordinate to some or all of these principles**** below:
- Custom and practice: don’t lightly change what has gone before;
- Precaution: identifying thoroughly the true long-term impacts;
- Choice and freedom: don’t impose stagnation and uniformity unnecessarily;
- Personal responsibility and mutual obligation: ensuring individuals take responsibility for their own choices;
- Small Government and lower Government expenditure: the smaller the Government the greater the freedom of citizens, and you are entitled to the full fruits of your labour;
- Competition, market-based mechanisms and contestability: competition and free markets deliver efficiency, quality and lowest cost; and
- Mainstreaming: avoiding ongoing disadvantage by eliminating stigma and policy ghettos.
On the other side of the political fence in Australia, a leftish or centre-left Government tends to regard those text-book criteria above, together with consistency with their own policy manifesto, as the starting point for assessing policy quality. Governments closer to the centre will demonstrate affection for some of those neo-liberal policy principles listed above, while retaining a commitment to the text-book criteria. Individual members of centre and centre-left Governments might regard the impact on such things as, for example
- community empowerment,
- income redistribution,
- social safety net,
- jobs and working conditions,
- infrastructure investment, and
- environmental sustainability,
as additional key tests for the quality of policy.
But don’t be fooled by these apparent ideological categories and constraints: you have to do the research so that know your audience, because, to cite two examples, some centre-left politicians are concerned to ensure personal responsibility and mutual obligation, while some on the right have a commitment to community empowerment.
* No, not Phaedrus by Plato, but Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
** If we could find our copy (long story) we would provide the Chapter number. Sorry about that. I know you’ll forgive.
*** It’s pretty easy to get as it is the prescribed text for several courses at www.uq.edu.au and www.qut.edu.au, and across Australia
**** These words aren’t necessarily our words!
Posted in Australian Government, Culture, Democracy, Governance, Government decision-making, Government Relations, how to lobby, ideology, Lobbying, Lobbyist, marketing, Policy, Political tactics, Politics, Public service, public service decision-making, Queensland Government, Stakeholder engagement, Strategy, Values
Tags: accessible, business planning, comprehensible, effective, Election Policies, equitable, free market, good policy, government, Government policy, government relations, lobbying, making policy, motivation, personal responsibility, persuasion, practicable, precaution, public service, red tape, responsibility, stable
Presuming you already know just what you want to convey, there’s always a right way and a wrong way to say it – get it wrong, and you have blown the meeting and maybe your whole project.
We’ve stressed already the need to present your whole case in three minutes, but there’s many more things you need to do to maximise your chance of success.
Regardless of whether it is Ministers or public servants you’re dealing with, you need to be respectful of their personal and individual constraints:
- Time – in spite of belief to the contrary, most are very busy, and you need to minimise the demand you are making on their time: e.g. if you’re asking them to investigate something, can you provide a credible head start? And why are you giving the Water Minister a lecture on the facts of the water cycle?
- Timeframes – there are many reasons why public services decisions take time, and you need to understand what theirs are, get in early if you are on a deadline, and make their decision as easy as possible;
- Priorities – Ministers, Chief Executive Officers, senior public servants – everyone – have work priorities, hence time and resource constraints, imposed from above. You need to be sure that what you are asking of them can be accommodated;
- Policy – some of those constraints are things they are and aren’t allowed to agree with (perhaps on account of a prior or impending Cabinet decision they are not allowed to discuss with you), things that were committed by a more senior Minister, things promised in an election campaign, and so on. While this goes to content, it is also relevant to how you express and argue for your idea, and how flexible you are;
- Community – can your proposal be reshaped or pressed in a way that might minimise community opposition and maximise community support?
- Codes of conduct – make sure you know how what you are asking will pass the tests imposed by relevant codes (ministerial or public service) and any higher personal standards your decision-maker might apply.
Whatever you say needs to meet a few criteria, before it gets proper attention and the respect you are showing them is reciprocated:
- Truth – make sure you tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: if you are later found to have misled, directly or indirectly, even inadvertently, your credibility may never recover; inflating your claims is as bad as deliberately lying;
- Add value – you need to be sure that every single thing you say adds value to the Minister’s/public service’s priorities, as that’s the best way to get attention and support: things that don’t add value are ignored or undermine the other things you say;
- Respect – you might feel the person with whom you are dealing is an incompetent, evil, wastrel, but if you show anything but respect then there’s every chance your proposals will die there and then; it’s also the case that very few Ministers or public servants are as bad as some in business paint them, so you need to take on board that while you may not think so currently, it’s possible they deserve respect; if you think women should stay at home and mind kids, for example, you’re the wrong person to wheel in an important proposal to a woman CEO – you can all too easily let your feelings show;
- Aggression or excessive emotion – is nearly always disrespectful, and suggests your approach to policy is selfish, emotional, or irrational;
- Demeaning – don’t demean anyone; you never know how they might be connected to the person on the other side of the table, and it demonstrates an unprofessional approach – it makes decision-makers suspect your genuineness, motives, and credibility; it’s usually fatal to your cause to deliberately or accidentally demean the person you’re talking with;
- Objectivity – it’s best to avoid partisan superlatives and try to couch your case in reasonably empirical and objective terms: while you need to convince the person you’re talking with, don’t forget that they in turn have to convince others, so your argument needs to appeal to cool heads remote from the debate. In particular, how does it service Government priorities?
- Non-partisan and non-political – whatever you propose might well advantage one side of politics or the other, but rest assured you are dealing with someone smart enough to work that out without the point being laboured – and political professionals often hate being lectured by amateurs, lust like most other professions;
- The front page test – would your proposal survive, if your discussion with a decision-maker was plastered across the front page of the local Murdoch rag? If not, your approach is wrong and you’ve failed one of the earlier tests.
- Jargon – you have to find that happy spot between presuming your audience are entirely ignorant, and presuming they know everything already. Good luck with that!
Finally, tell a story. Stories are memorable, and help others intuitively understand what you are saying. If you haven’t read and applied Winning the Story Wars, or something similar, to your presentation, then you should read it and recast what you are saying.
Posted in Change, Communication, Culture, Culture change, Democracy, Government decision-making, Government Relations, how to lobby, Lobbying, Lobbyist, marketing, Political tactics, Politics, Public service, public service decision-making, Stakeholder engagement, Strategy
What you’re asking for has to have passed a few tests before you are ready to be its advocate: it must
- be legal,
- be feasible,
- remedy a problem or grasp an opportunity*
or you’re wasting your time.
When you present – in your first three minutes, first three slides or first 400 words – what you say must demonstrate
- why your idea,
- why not the alternative idea, and
- why now.
Why your idea?
This isn’t about why you like it – it’s why Government should like it, and that’s entirely different – you have to understand Government priorities, processes and people. We’ve seen many clients destroy their project by listing the virtues enthusing them, not the virtues that might attract Government support.
What compels adoption of your idea? Which of the social and economic environment, public and political pressures, current policy failures, and so on, drive the need for it? What will happen if your idea isn’t adopted? How does it deliver on Government promises and values? How does it satisfy the principles** of good policy? What are the benefits, the State interests? How are the community’s interests served? How can it be afforded? What can be done to improve prospects of success and minimise opposition? Which credible scientists, academics, public servants, stakeholders, or economists support what you say and will be advocates?
Why not the alternative?
Don’t forget that one competing alternative is making no change, so you must be clear why things can’t stay as they are: unanticipated opportunities or problems, gaps or failings in current policy or programmes, impending doom, changes in circumstances that undermine current policy settings, political risk, and so on.
More generally, you’ll need to show that alternatives fail to satisfy or offend principles of good policy, deliver poor results, are more likely to fail, will agitate key stakeholders and cause them to campaign against the Government, are politically dangerous, offend Government values, are impractical, are too expensive … as many as possible of that sort of problem. Again, don’t talk about your needs here, but the Government’s and community’s needs – why Government priorities and values should drive them to reject the alternatives.
What negatives arise if action is delayed? What advantages accrue from timely action? What timeline gives the community and Government the best outcomes, and why? What’s happening next year that wastes money if this idea isn’t adopted now?
Be mindful of the timing of major events, Parliamentary sittings, the election cycle, the Government’s budget, the grand final, school holidays, commencement of major policy initiatives, release dates of economic and unemployment statistics … and everything else.
Shape and Tone
Your presentation needs to tell a concise story addressing all of those things, with your idea as the heroine saving the day. (If you haven’t read Winning the Story Wars or something similar, you should.)
The tone of your presentation is important too: make a strong factual argument, with language that is empirical and not emotive or aggressive, nor demeaning of others.
Don’t forget that you’ve got to make your case in the first three minutes, three slides or 400 words – there’s rarely a second chance, so preparation is critical.
Finally, and Always: 2 Things
Include a clear and thought-out “ask” that furthers your objective: a future meeting, someone in the Department to talk with about the issue, delegation to someone, decision-maker to investigate and respond, and so on. Make sure you secure the opportunity to respond to future criticism of your idea by internal and external stakeholders, if that’s at all possible.
… and leave behind a one page summary, a more detailed summary, sources of more information, and contact details for credible supporters and referees for your idea, where appropriate.
* Never just go there with a problem – always have a well-developed solution, or a way to find the solution.
** Principles of good policy can vary from Government to Government: we’re preparing that article right now, and it will probably be next in this blog.
Posted in Change, Communication, Democracy, Government decision-making, Government Relations, how to lobby, Lobbying, marketing, Planning, Political tactics, Politics, Public service, public service decision-making, Stakeholder engagement, Strategy, Values
If they’ve had advance notice of the meeting* they will be prepared, in most cases with a Briefing Note about your issues, and recommendations from subject-matter experts in the Department.
Have you previously connected with those Departmental experts and already got them on board with your proposal?
If not, you’re going to struggle to get past whatever is in that Briefing Note. Do you know what’s in it, what hurdles you have to jump, why they might be recommending something different, in advance? Are you ready to prove, concisely, that you’ve got a point and the Briefing Note is inadequate?
Most senior-level meetings are perhaps 30 minutes long – many Ministers and Departmental Chief Executives have meetings stacked up 45 minutes apart, which gives them a chance to make notes and read Briefing Notes between visitors.
But: depending on who you are meeting, you may well get less than three minutes** to make your case, before the first question sends you off at a tangent or puts you on the defensive.
Are you ready to prove your case in two minutes? That’s 320 words if you speak briskly, and perhaps 250 at conversational speed.
Have you worked out what will persuade your particular audience, in 250 words? That is, what they need to hear, not what you want to talk about? How do you know you are inside their head?
Only if you have prepared, planned and researched, thoroughly!
* If they haven’t had advance notice of your issues, very few will agree, on the spot, to do more than get back to you.
** A three-minute interruption is good news: it means they are listening, thinking and engaged!
Never ask for Cymbals when a Sax will sound sweeter!
Businesses and community groups who talk with Government always want something, but often ask for the wrong thing:
- the wrong policy instrument and/or
- the wrong outcome.
Talking about wrong instruments:
It’s also vital you can answer this question: “Which policy instruments are the minimum necessary to deliver my outcome, as opposed to the most desirable?” You need to be able to make do without the cherry, on the cream, on the icing, on your cake.
Your prospects are increased if you are asking for something easier to deliver. If you’re asking for something hard, you are frightening away potential support, and increasing the prospect of rejection. Or embedding delay: it’s almost always slower to deliver harder outcomes.
If you are asking for an instrument that can’t actually deliver what you are after – e.g. asking for a policy change when you actually need a change to legislation – here’s a few things that might happen:
- Your proposal is rejected on the grounds it can’t do what you say it can;
- Assessment of your proposal takes way longer than expected while public servants try to work out what you really want, how to deliver it, and whether to support that;
- You look like you don’t know what you are talking about, which depletes the credibility of everything else you say; and/or
- The debate within the public service and political spheres is not focussed solely on the issue you’ve raised: it can easily become broader, slower and more complicated, and deliver quite a different result from that you were seeking.
So before you go to Government asking for something, make sure you have carefully researched and considered which policy instruments are best and most feasible, in your circumstances.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking a decision (e.g. a Cabinet or Ministerial decision) is a policy instrument – all too often decisions have been ineffective, because it wasn’t implemented through an appropriate instrument that delivers change. Decisions must activate a policy instrument if they are to be effective.
Regarding the attached table of policy instrument options: a letter from a Minister isn’t included because that might sit anywhere at all on the scale depending on the issue; and often enough to make it worth noting, it is easier to get a directive or determination than it is to get a policy or program change. These are all a bit generic – in some cases you could treat a media release or an election promise as policy instruments, but they are each probably directives of a sort.