Being Right Isn’t Enough

I used to think being right was the most important thing.

You know, that pleasure in the precision of resolving a complex problem into an elegant and correct answer  Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 18.29.51 (Maths was my favourite subject at school:-)

But I soon learned at work that being right is almost of no consequence – unless you can convince others to believe in your great idea, and then persuade them to help make it a reality. And that is much harder than you’d think.

A Business Development Director colleague of mine is currently trying to come to terms with the fact that, after a year of number crunching, market research and business planning, his great idea for a new, profitable, sports facility is not being taken up. Does this sound familiar?

“Why won’t they agree? it’s obvious! the proof is all there!”

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.43.52Well, there’s timing… and budget cycles… and vested interests… and personal preferences… and petty jealousies and disputes… and politics… and short-termism… and jumping to conclusions… and confirmation bias… and competition… and lethargy… and stupidity… and egos… and fear of the new… and… it’s a wonder any decisions get made at all!

So, if being right isn’t enough, what else can you do?

Find the decision-makers
Find out what their interests are, what is their angle, what aspects should you highlight to them, what information do they find persuasive? savings, or profits, or a deserving cause, or publicity? What other similar decisions have they taken, or turned down, recently?

Build support
Engage influential colleagues who can benefit from your proposal, or because they believe in similar principles. Talk through your proposal before decision-time, resolve any queries, get their input and their buy-in, and hopefully get them advocating for you.

Talk to the blockers
Sometimes the blockers are the best people to talk to early on, because they will be the first to find fault – thus giving you vital information about how to make your counter-arguments.

Sell it
What’s the best way of making the argument? Some people love weighty tomes packed with financial scenarios! others a punchy presentation; or a heart-tugging personal story from a potential beneficiary; or to be there and experience something for themselves. The big sell? or ‘drip-drip’ the idea until everyone believes in it.

Give it away
Maybe best person to make the case is not you! Who is well-connected, well-respected, and might win over the decision-makers more than you? Is your idea important enough to give to someone else to make a reality without you getting the credit?

Be patient.
And opportunistic. Wait for the right time to present your idea – when a business problem crops up that your idea can fix, or a new round of funding becomes available, or another initiative is on the skids and we need a quick win…

Be a bit wrong
Or at least allow others to be a bit right. Compromise. Incorporate other people’s ideas into your own. Aim for the win:win

Too cynical? How do you get your best ideas adopted at work?

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
Peter Drucker

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Back to Rachman ?

If anyone was in any doubt before 8th July, it is now crystal clear – the Tories just don’t like social housing.

The gradual erosion of building subsidies and piece-meal benefit changes of the last decade have been absorbed by social housing providers, in the belief that this couldn’t last and that we would adapt, get more efficient, use more private funding, but essentially carry on as before. Not any more….

The latest budget and policy directives send a clear message: the Government vision for a low tax, low wage, low public-spending economy means the end to grants to build affordable housing and limited benefits to make rents affordable (except for the most vulnerable). Coupled with the start of a negative media campaign, and hints about de-regulation and de-registration, I am in no doubt that the Tories would much rather Housing Associations dropped their pseudo-public personae and joined the ranks of big business – borrowing and building at scale for market and sub-market rent, with the sole objective of increasing supply, and ‘let the market take care of affordability’.

We are witnessing the start of a revolution as big as any of the last Century – the start of Council housing, the growth of home-ownership, and bigger than the right-to-buy of the ’80s. As much as I am fearful of the turmoil that will result, and resent the disregard for the poor people who will be hit by the changes, there’s a little bit of me that reluctantly thinks (dare I say it?) maybe it’s right….

I’ve long thought that subsidising home ownership simply drives up house prices, and that social housing has been wrongly obsessed with eligibility and access – forgetting that whereas you might need affordable housing at some stage in your life, this may change, and why should you hang onto this scarce and valuable social resource to the detriment of the thousands of others who are homeless or on waiting lists?

At it’s peak in the 80’s, social housing comprised almost 1/3 of the stock, and was a tenure of choice – unimaginable today and in a future where low-cost ‘safety-net’ housing might be available only for the minority of people most in need. Home ownership has started to decline and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future, as average house prices continue to outstrip average wages. Private renting has been on the increase since the early 90’s, with more than half the households in London now renting at exhorbitant market rents. Recent figures show the UK as having the highest housing costs in Europe with an average monthly rent over £900 compared to just £600 in Germany. We are building less and our scarce housing supply is being eroded by investors, rather than providing homes.

We’ve known for ages that the housing system in this country is broken – just blaming the Government and carrying on as before won’t fix it. Maybe the Tories will bring about the revolution we need to shock the system into a new paradigm: to rebalance supply and demand, to reset prices to meet affordability, and to have a healthy mix of home ownership and rented housing, with a social housing sector that is valued by all.

As well as stepping up and building more mores to rent, maybe Housing Associations have another role to play – no longer solely trying to maximise access to social housing, but to provide homes for people when they are most in need, and to protect the most vulnerable from the excesses of the market – otherwise who will prevent the exploitation and appalling conditions that prevailed when the private rented sector was last king?