Tag Archives: Stakeholders

Setting expectations

In a recent PMI ‘Voices’ post, Communicating Change  I briefly touched on the way expectations affect experience.  A wonderful New Year’s Eve party in one of our preferred training venues (the Bayview Eden Hotel) really brought this home!

When we turn up at the hotel for our next PMP and CAPM courses starting on the 20th January,  our previous experience and expectations of a friendly and efficient business environment with comfortable training rooms and great catering are likely to be fulfilled as normal.

However, take a peaceful PMP training room, add some bling, invite a group of old rockers from the 60s and 70s to listen to Brian Cadd an Australian songwriter-legend from that time (I know that’s before many of you were born) and watch one of the best NYE parties develop. Our expectations were dramatically reframed as we walked into the room!

Setting expectations

Fast forward 20 days and I’m sure we will be back to the calm, professional, well lit environment we are used to.

There are valuable business lessons to be learned from the way hotels quickly reconfigure the atmosphere within their public rooms. The artefacts you have on display, ambient lighting and temperature, the venue itself and the way you dress and behave starting with the invitation to a meeting all contribute to the perceptions of the person you are communicating with and their perceptions will influence the way any discussion or negotiation starts. Once started, it is very difficult to reframe the process if it is ‘on the wrong track’.

So next time you are preparing for an important communication decide if you want the ambiance to be friendly, casual, professional, intimidating or something else and then think through the list above to decide how you will present to the person.

You cannot change the basics any more than a hotel can change its physical building, but you can change the way it is perceived and the ambiance you create and use that as the foundation for an effective communication.

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2014 – our year certainly started with a bang.

Papa Elf, the man behind the man, on stakeholder management

The-PenguinDoes Santa use the SRMM® maturity model to enhance his organisations stakeholder management practices?

This interview published in the ‘the penguin’ would suggest Papa Elf, the man behind the man, is at least acquainted with the Stakeholder® Circle methodology and his grotto organisation has achieved a high level of ‘Stakeholder Relationship Maturity’ – we will know for sure in a few days time……

To read the full interview with Papa Elf see: http://projectpenguindotorg.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/papa-elf-on-stakeholder-management/

The Art of Networking

Networking is a special form of communication aimed at developing a network of people with a stake in your life and career. Having a strong network is critical to your professional development but you cannot approach this in a selfish way – as with every stakeholder relationship, there needs to be a two way advantage, the only difference is rather then seeking mutually advantageous business or project outcomes, you are looking to your network to help you become more successful. This is achieved by developing a well-rounded network.

Some of the important people to have in a well rounded network include:

Your Mentor: This is the person who has reached the level of success you aspire to have. You can learn from their success as well as their mistakes. Heed their wisdom and experience. Mentors help you discover your solutions to your challenges.

Your Coach: The coach is someone who sets you goals, targets and challenges (think ‘sports coach’). They help with critical decisions and transitions and offer an objective perspective with no strings attached.

Your Industry Insider: This is someone in your chosen field who has expert-level information and who keeps you informed of what’s happening.

A Trendsetter: This is someone outside of your chosen industry who always has the latest buzz on any topic that you find interesting. The goal in having this person in your network is to look for those connections that spark innovation via the unconventional. It will also help you keep your conversations interesting.

Your Connector: This is a person who has access to a vast array of people, resources and information. As soon as they come across something related to you, they send you an e-mail or picking up the phone. Connectors are great at uncovering unique ways to make connections, find opportunities that otherwise would be overlooked.

An Idealist: This is the person in your network you can dream with and brainstorm ways to make the dream come true. Without judgment, they are focused on helping you achieve the impossible.

A Realist: On the flip side, you still need the person who will help you keep it real and challenge you to actually make your dream happen.

The Visionary: Visionary people inspire you by their journey. One personal encounter with this type of person can powerfully change the direction of your thinking and life.

Your Partner: You need to have someone who is in a similar place and on a similar path to share with. This is a person you can share the wins and losses with. Partners will also share resources, opportunities and information.

Your mentee: This is someone you can serve as mentor to. Someone you can help shape and guide based on your experiences.

Building a diverse network that includes people from different industries, backgrounds, age groups, ethnic groups, etc. … that fit into the roles listed above is far more empowering than building a deep network that only includes people from your current profession, limiting potential opportunities.

Achieving a dynamic network requires you to find the right people connect with and through the connections develop a robust relationship.  The balance of this rather long post will look at these two aspects in turn.

Meeting people, or at least being in a room with a lot of other people is fairly easy to achieve, there are professional associations, conferences and a range of other events you can attend, the only real challenge is creating time and picking up the courage to go out and meet people face-to-face.

Unfortunately, virtual networking is only a pale substitute; certainly networking tools such as LinkedIn and others have users that number in the millions, allow professionals to expand their networks to numbers never before possible, and help you connect with colleagues past, present and future from around the world these are largely ‘shallow’ connections. In-person networking, where connections are more personal, builds relationships that are stronger and creates impressions longer lasting. Virtual networking can certainly help feed into personal networking but then you need to make those connections and impressions that count.

The next time you attend a networking event and start a conversation with a stranger (or a virtual contact) you need to be an effective communicator and develop rapport.  These ideas will help:

Never pass up an opportunity to connect. Sometimes even a seemingly random relationship leads to a big payoff.

Make connections from the executive suite on down. Seek contacts are at all levels in a hierarchy and take the time to talk about their hobbies and interests, even at work!

Be prepared. Have a standard set of questions that you can use to begin a discussion; not only will you be ready to approach someone; you won’t do all the talking. The fastest way to build new relationships is to inquire about the other person’s work, and then ask about their biggest challenges or successes. For more on questions see: Active Listening.

Focus on each connection. When you are networking with someone at an event give them your undivided attention. Networking is about building lasting relationships, not about pushing unwanted business cards at strangers. Concentrate on what the person is saying and try to pick up nuances you can leverage later. But don’t ignore the cards – people are impressed when you meet again and you recall their name along with details of your last meeting and most of us need a prop to help remember this key information.

Build rapport. Build rapport by applying these simple steps:

  1. Find common ground. When you talk to people try to find out what you have in common with them by asking different questions and listen closely for commonalities. Try to find professional and personal commonalities, just make sure it doesn’t feel like an interrogation!
  2. Maintain eye contact. When you’re speaking to someone your eye contact will let them know you are interested and listening. This is a key part of ‘Active Listening’.
  3. Use open body language. Face your body toward them and at times even lean in when they are talking, this will show them you’re engaged. Avoid leaning back, facing away from them or crossing your arms, as this can indicate you don’t agree or that you’re uninterested.
  4. Be aware of your facial expressions. Be conscious of your facial expressions when people are talking to you. If frowning they may think that you disagree with them and if you’re smiling and nodding they will think you agree or are telling them to go on, but your expression needs to be authentic.
  5. Mirror the person you are speaking with.  Mirroring means matching the body language, speech and tone of the person you are talking with, and is a great way to build rapport quickly.
  6. Be confident and friendly.  People are naturally attracted to warm, happy and friendly people so make sure you are. Not only will it make you more likeable, you will also help those who are nervous to feel more relaxed around you.
  7. Make them feel good about themselves. When the opportunity arises, pay the person you are talking with a genuine compliment. When we make others feel good about themselves, they naturally warm to us and remember us more positively.

Then Follow up right away. Connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn or friend them on Facebook if you use your account for professional purposes. This is where in-person networking and online networking converge, and don’t overlook the potential of e-mails and phone calls to people you know and with whom you’d like to stay in touch.

Effective networking is both fun and valuable all it takes is practice.

Communicating Success

As reported by PMI’s 2013 Pulse of the Profession™, an organisation’s ability to meet project timelines, budgets and especially goals significantly impacts its ability to survive. The Pulse study also demonstrated that the most crucial success factor in project management is effective stakeholder communication. PMI’s findings show that high performing organisations are more effective communicators and that organisations assessed as highly-effective communicators are five times more likely to be high performers than minimally-effective communicators. To read more download the report: The High Cost of Low Performance – The Essential Role of Communication.

There are probably several reasons for this strong correlation between effective communication and project success. From the broader stakeholder management perspective, projects and programs are only really successful once their outputs have been adopted by the stakeholders within the end user community and are being used to generate value. This means changing the way the stakeholders and the organisation work, which requires change!  Creating the desire for change within the affected stakeholder community requires highly effective communication and interestingly, if the communication is believed, the way people react and feel changes in response to the messages.

Research in Australia, New Zealand and the USA has consistently demonstrated physical changes in people based on what they have been told. Scientific studies ‘down under’ have shown people who are told wind turbines cause health problems experience health problems. The symptoms of ‘wind farm syndrome’ are only found in English speaking communities that have been exposed to anti-wind farm propaganda.  For more on this see: Wind farm:  https://theconversation.com/how-the-power-of-suggestion-generates-wind-farm-symptoms-12833 and https://theconversation.com/new-study-wind-turbine-syndrome-is-spread-by-scaremongers-12834

Positive effects can also be communicated, in a 2007 study, Harvard researchers told one group of female hotel attendants that their usual duties met the surgeon-general’s recommendations for an exercise regimen. Four weeks later, the researchers found improvements in blood pressure, body mass index, and other health indices among the informed group, relative to a control group of attendants that had not been so informed.

These effects appear to be real, Hilke Plassmann, Assistant Professor of Marketing at INSEAD reports that a study she co-conducted in 2008 measuring neural responses to drinking wine showed different responses to ‘cheap’ and ‘expensive’ wines. But, the researchers deliberately misled participants about the prices of the wines, claiming one cost US$45 when it actually cost US$5 and presenting another as costing US$10 when it really retailed for US$90.

Participants were instructed to sample various wines through a straw from inside an MRI machine which allowed their brain activity to be observed while they were consuming the wine. What was found were changes in the neural activity in an area called the medial orbitofrontal cortex, which is an area that encodes our experience of pleasure.

The findings highlighted the speed with which humans form lasting impressions that synthesise all types of data. The bias kicks in at a very early stage, and for the wine tasters, it really changed their taste perception.

From sportswear to cars, expectations of a product or service can actually create a resulting experience. Consumers are constantly told that the latest Nike running shoes or Mercedes-Benz can offer higher performance. Consumers believe it, they make a purchase and they experience it. What this implies in the realm of project stakeholder management is the conversations around your project will have a direct effect on how people experience the change!  Negative gossip and scaremongering will cause bad reactions, positive news creates positive experiences.

The expectations created by communication (or lack thereof) will tend to become self fulfilling prophecies – to make this work for you, you need to communicate to your stakeholders the expectation that the change your project is creating will be beneficial and good for the majority of the stakeholders.  If this message is both true and believed (the two elements are not automatically connected), the experience of the stakeholders is more likely to be positive.

Achieving this level of communication requires a combination of strategic thinking backed up by effective implementation, with a clear thread of responsibility running throughout.  The best strategists believe:

  • If I can’t articulate how we’re actually going to make this project work, it probably won’t work. They know that there are a lot of gaps, holes, and challenges in their strategies. They tirelessly keep a critical eye on the viability of their plans and stay curious — continuously asking themselves and others, how will this really work? When they find issues, they team up with others and fix it.
  • While it’s painful to integrate execution planning into strategising, it’s even more painful to watch the strategies fail. Good strategists understand that effective planning leads to effective execution and outcomes.
  • Sounding smart is overrated. Doing smart is where the real value lies. Ideas are just that — ideas. They know that if they’re not executed well, their strategies are nothing more than daydreams.

The best executors believe:

  • They need to be involved in the strategy process early and contribute practical insights to the overall development of the objectives.

  • They need to know the “whys” behind the strategy. They want to know the intent and the thinking behind the strategy.

Communicating for success means making a significant proportion of your stakeholders into ‘executors’ who believe in the benefits of the project/program and use their beliefs to influence others. Authenticity is crucial but so is passion and communication.

It’s OK not to know!

You do not need to know everything! Unfortunately, to maintain their authority many project managers and other leaders feel they need to be the expert that has the answer to every question.  They think is a sign of weakness to ask for help or information or simply admit they ‘don’t know’. Rather than asking for input from their team, they burn energy trying to work out the answer themselves, even when it’s clear that this is not possible. Rather than being upfront with their team and managers, they either hide and don’t tell anyone they’re wrestling with a problem; or simply hope the issue goes away.

The simple fact is that if you don’t know something and waste your time trying to find the answer, or worse still make an expensive mistake based on incomplete of false knowledge, no-one benefits least of all you; particularly if you have pretended to be the source of ‘all knowledge’! Once your bluff has been exposed your credibility is destroyed and with it your ability to lead effectively (see more on effective leadership).

Strangely, most people are happy to offer help when someone else asks for it, but are shy or embarrassed to ask for help themselves. Strong leaders, managers and team members have the ability to overcome this ‘shyness’, take the time to clearly understand what they don’t know and then proactively seek help to build their knowledge and capability.

Everyone wins by asking for information or help when needed, rather than wasting time and energy trying to solve the problem themselves. The key is asking the ‘right questions’ in the ‘right way’ (seem more on the art of effective questioning) – the combination of engaging with team members through effective questions and making them feel important through active listening makes you a better leader and will also show your team that it is OK for them to ask for help as well. Then as a bonus, all of the energy that was being wasted wondering, researching and struggling to solve the problem can be used for positive purposes and the team moves forward.

The power of ‘not knowing’ will generate all sorts of efficiencies and open up two way communication within the team. A couple of examples include:

  • You can use your lack of knowledge to delegate (see more on the art of delegation). There are some tasks that are simply better delegated to an expert who knows precisely how to do the job quickly.  I’m sure everyone could learn to use pivot tables in Excel – but is it worth several hours of struggle when a knowledgeable expert can solve the issue in a few minutes – even if the expert is the most junior member of the team?
  • You can use your lack of knowledge is to engage team members. Go to a team member and get them to talk you through the challenge they have been working on. Tell them you haven’t really been across it and would like a briefing. You’ll get the lowdown on the task they are attacking and some good insights into how they work.

Finally, by actively demonstrating to your team that you ask for help when needed will encourage them to do the same, and as a consequence reduce errors, free up communication and enhance the flow of information in a positive way. This may seem obvious, but it won’t happen without a push in the right direction.

Things you can do as a leader:

  1. First, stop talking to yourself and decide that you are going to talk to someone else.
  2. Decide who that person will be.
  3. Craft the conversation. Write down what you are going to ask them and how you hope they will respond.
  4. Schedule a meeting with the person and promise you will ask them for help and be open to their suggestions.
  5. Tell someone of your intentions; someone who will hold you to account for having the meeting and asking for help.

Then be pleasantly surprised; most people are honored to be asked to assist their friends and colleagues and by asking for help you are showing them you respect their knowledge and abilities. This approach will even work with your boss and other stakeholders provided you ask intelligent questions in the right way, at the right time.

So in summary, it really is OK to know what you don’t know and seek help! The skill is being able to ask effective questions that get the right answers and then having the knowledge needed to appreciate and use the information once you have received your answer.  Remember, as a leader and a manager, in the end you are measured by what you actually achieve, not what you claim to know!

Stakeholder Relationship Management a top 20 best seller

SRMM_BookThe 2nd Edition of my book, Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation is one of Gower’s Top 20 selling e-Books in the period Jan – June 2013.  For the other books in the ‘Gower top 20’ download the PDF.

The take-up of the book and our software, the Stakeholder Circle® by universities over the least few months has been really encouraging.  Now all we need is the commercial world to follow.

Stakeholder Management Maturity

Recognition of the importance of stakeholder management has taken a huge leap forward since the release of the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition.   The next challenge, addressed in this blog, is for organisations to be able to map their maturity with a view to improving their stakeholder management capabilities.

The PMBOK® Guide lays out the fundamental framework for effective stakeholder management and aligns fairly closely with the structure of the Stakeholder Circle® methodology we have been developing for the last decade. Within the PMBOK:

  • Process 13.1 deals with the identification of stakeholders and the creation of a stakeholder register.   This is directly supported by the Identify and Prioritise steps in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology. The key difference is the PMBOK tends to classify stakeholders based on simple 2×2 matrices, the Stakeholder Circle uses a more sophisticated analysis that prioritises stakeholders based on their importance to the project rather than just their attitude (positive or negative).
  • Process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management, links the stakeholder management section of the PMBOK to the Communication  section and focuses on defining the current  attitude of each stakeholder, the realistically desirable attitude we would like the stakeholder to have, and the communication strategy needed to maintain satisfactory attitudes and beneficially change  attitudes that need improving.  These concepts directly align with the Visualise and Engage stages in the Stakeholder Circle methodology.
  • Then the hard work of effectively engaging and communicating with the important stakeholders begins (without ignoring the less important ones).  The planning, managing and controlling of communications (from Chapter 10) link to process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement. Issues identification and management is a key element in this process and a core element in our Stakeholder Circle database tool.  The next upgrade of the Stakeholder Circle database tool will add a contact management module to facilitate the rest of this process.
  • The final process in the PMBOK® Guide, 13.4 is the standard PMBOK controlling process that actively encourages the regular review of the overall stakeholder management process and aligns exactly with Stage 5, Monitor changes in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology.  As with effective risk management, the environment needs to be continually scanned for emerging stakeholders, and if the current engagement strategies are not working with identified stakeholders, new ones need to be tried.

The good news is the framework we developed in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology nearly 10 years ago and the framework adopted by PMI in the PMBOK® Guide and most other competent stakeholder management methodologies all lay out the same basic steps.  And, as PMI claims for the PMBOK in general, these processes have become generally accepted good practice.

The challenge now is to build these good practices into the culture of organisations so they become simply ‘the way we do business’.  Maturity models such as P3M3, CMMI and OPM3 look at the stages of developing and implementing good practices in organisations.  The SRMM® Maturity Model has been designed to provide a similar framework for organisations seeking to develop an enhanced stakeholder management capability.

The five levels of the Stakeholder Relationship Management Maturity (SRMM®) Model are:

  1. Ad hoc:  some use of processes
  2. Procedural:  focus on processes and tools
  3. Relational:  focus on the Stakeholders and mutual benefits
  4. Integrated:  methodology is repeatable and integrated across all programs and projects
  5. Predictive:  used for health checks and predictive risk assessment and management.

And for each level of maturity, the SRMM Model defines the key features, the good practice components, and the expected tools and reporting process expected at that level of maturity, together with some general guidance.

SRMM is designed to be an open system that would support any effective stakeholder management methodology (not just the Stakeholder Circle), which means SRMM is a useful tool for implementing a stakeholder management methodology based on the PMBOK’s processes as effectively as one using the more sophisticated capabilities of the  Stakeholder Circle.

The SRMM® Model is available for downloading and use by any organisation planning to implement effective stakeholder management under a free Creative Commons licence. Download you copy of the SRMM® Model.

Communicating in a Rapidly Changing World

The challenge faced by everyone is the ever increasing rate of change, driven by new knowledge, new ideas, new management fads and of course new technologies.

As individuals and organisations we need to continually accelerate our rate of learning, and according to Eddie Obeng in his TED presentation Smart failure for a fast-changing world  the world is now changing at a rate faster than we can assimilate the new information, making errors and mistakes inevitable.

In the old world, a competent person could keep up with ‘all’ of the relevant changes in their area of expertise and be expected to get the ‘right answers’ – in the new world we simply cannot. What was ‘right’ based on the old paradigms is unlikely to be the best answer now or in the future and there’s no way of knowing if your innovative solution to a problem is right or wrong until later. Timely decisions based on assumptions and partial information are essential (see more on decision making). And adaptation and rapid learning from your mistakes is the new normal.

Obviously this is helped by access to useful information. The challenge is sorting ‘useful’ information from the ever expanding ‘noise’ in every aspect of life, within the ever shortening timeframes needed for effective decisions.

One of the clearest depictions of this problem is the ever increasing number of business fads sweeping management:

Rate of change

This ‘fad-o-gram’ is from ‘The Ebbs, Flows and Residual Impact of Business Fads 1950 – 1995’ by R. Pascale. The chart was developed from a statistical analysis of the indexes of the influence of business ideas, calculated by Richard Pascale, using an importance-weighted citation count, admittedly with a significant subjective component.

Looking at an updated version of the chart from 2000 in more detail is interesting:

management-iFads2

The first surprise is the number of ‘defunct’ management theories that are still included in the PMP course requirements such as ‘decision trees’, ‘theory x – theory y’, ‘brainstorming’ and ‘management by objectives’. I have a feeling this is more likely to be a factor of the interest in the concept by author’s looking for a new idea to have their academic papers published, or sell their books, than the actual usefulness of the concepts but equally there are literally dozens of fads and fashions that have arrived, been championed as the solution to all known problems and then died.

The second surprise is the omission of ‘project management’ including ‘program management’ and ‘project portfolio management’. Presumably projects were seen by Pascale as planning processes rather then management theory.

From the perspective of management theories and fads, the most telling insight can be ascribed to Peter Drucker who, in 1993 said ‘The most probable assumption is that no currently working ‘business theory’ will be valid ten years hence — at least not without major modifications’.

So where does this leave us as working managers trying to make good decisions in a rapidly changing world? I would suggest decisions based on common sense and pragmatism, founded on experience, are likely to be far more effective than leaping onto the latest management fad both at the project level and higher management levels. Not worrying too much about the latest fad also helps reduce the learning load. And whilst not included in the diagram, there are plenty of project management fads and ‘silver bullet’ techniques being touted on a regular basis.

But we all need access to useful, relevant and current information to develop our knowledge and ground our experience – competency is founded on knowledge!!

One of our overriding considerations in developing these blogs, our published papers and our White Papers is to take new concepts and make the ideas both practical and usable. The other which is still a work-in-progress is to develop an indexed structure that makes the information easily accessible and findable (see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PM-Knowledge_Index.html).

See also our article: Reducing complexity in management communication

PMIAUS13

PMI-13

The inaugural PMI Australia 2013 conference is over. To create the event, the PMI Australian Chapters collaborated to develop a platform for professionals, academics and community representatives to share knowledge and experience. For a first time and a new committee it was a great start and we look forward to the 2014 event.

Our contribution was a presentation: Communication ≠ Engagement that included the world’s first ‘mass verbal tweet’! Certainly social media and web technologies have made broadcast communication in the 21st century easier then ever, but communication does not equal engagement and the ‘verbal tweet’ proved this!

Project success requires the key stakeholders, including senior executives and the sponsor to be actively engaged in support of the project objectives. And achieving engagement requires mutuality, a robust relationship built on empathy and trust, plus credibility and leadership to bring different stakeholder viewpoints into alignment to assist the work of the project.

Effective communication is the tool that facilitates the building of relationships and engagement but this type of communication is focused, personal and two-way. As a consequence, the project team need to invest significant time and effort in these key communication channels. The challenge is identifying the right stakeholders and the right messages to communicate ‘at this point in time’.

You can download the presentation from: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers_170.html

And read our blog on credibility at: http://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/credibility/

When our paper was originally submitted last year, I was expecting to be doing the presentation. However, in the interim I was accepted as a member of the International Faculty of the EAN University in Bogota, Colombia, presenting a Masters’ level course – Managing Project Teams. So I’m enjoying a few weeks in South America and the second author, Patrick Weaver enjoyed the hospitality of Sydney and presented the paper for us.

The BANANAs slip up

A UK Government Minster recently commented that the world was shifting from a bunch of NIMBYs to BANANAs!

HS2-banana

NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard (potentially selfish but understandable)

BANANA = Build Absolute Nothing Anywhere Now and Always

In the UK the journey from London to the Midlands is fraught – traffic is overcrowded for most of the 24 hours – one accident can cause hours of traffic chaos, conventional rail is overloaded and the distance is too short for effective air travel. The solution to this problem has been rolled out throughout the rest of Europe for several decades – high speed rail. Using the existing high speed rail you can get to Paris or Brussels easier than Birmingham or Leeds from the centre of London.

To fix the problem, the UK is planning its second high speed rail link from London to Birmingham and then on to Leeds and Manchester, called HS2. Since its announcement the BANANAs have been out in force – apparently it is better from the BANANA viewpoint to have highly inefficient, high pollution traffic jambs and build nothing rather than a clean and efficient alternative. The fact that the North of England is significantly disadvantaged compared to the better connected South is irrelevant. The emotional arguments about ‘damage’ caused by the development are immediate and compelling, the benefits arising from the operation of HS2 are in the future and so BANANAs can ignore them.

HS2-Map

Fortunately the UK High Court operates in a more pragmatic space. In its judgement earlier this month, the government won nine out of 10 points being challenged, which effectively gave the “green light” to the high-speed rail project. The judge agreed it was lawful for the Government to choose to rule out upgrading the existing network as a credible alternative to HS2. He noted that a patch and mend approach failed to meet the Government’s objectives of providing a long term boost to capacity and economic growth. He also found that the Government’s approach to consultation on the HS2 Phase One route, environmental assessment and consideration of the impact on habitats and protected species, had all been carried out fairly and lawfully.

The one point the judge upheld was a challenge concerning the way the property compensation consultation had been carried out. The Government has decided that instead of appealing this decision it will re-run this consultation in line with the judge’s finding to fairly compensate the public who are impacted by the scheme.

Contrast the problems in the UK and the Republican Party blocking a similar initiative in the overcrowded NE of the USA with China where current plans are for 16,000km of high speed rail to be operating by 2020, including the 9676km already built, in a determined effort to overcome congestion and pollution.

To quote the Boston Consulting Group: ‘China’s big infrastructure networks are platforms upon which new industries are layered greatly multiplying the economic value of the projects themselves’.

Australia has its fare share of BANANAs – there are 100s of tones of radioactive medical waste stored in expensive hospital buildings as well as radioactive industrial waste scattered throughout metropolitan areas because no government has had the courage to develop a safe storage facility. Every time one is proposed the BANANAs start screaming, but they also do not want to let cancer patients die or fly in unchecked aircraft (radio isotopes are used in the non-destructive testing of welds).

What the BANANAs forget is living is a compromise – every decision not to do something has a consequence and every decision to do something has a consequence. Careful consideration of the options and a balanced decision is needed based on the overall good for the environment and society (with proper compensation to those disadvantaged).

Doing nothing simply condemns everyone to progressively lower standards of living that will eventually lead to mass degradation of the environment because there is no money to look after it!

The advent of BANANAs supported by social media opens up a whole new set of stakeholder management challenges. NIMBYs were identifiable and had reasonable ground to expect consultation. BANANAs are far more widespread and work on emotions rather than common sense – for more on the tools for stakeholder management see: http://www.stakeholdermapping.com/