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How (not) to sell infrastructure projects

What do we mean by Infrastructure?

Infrastructure – roads, rail, sewerage, airports are often big projects which offer benefits for future generations.  But infrastructure projects also often have big implications – including big disruption for the residents who have to contend with the traffic diversions, noise and change.

OK, give me some examples…

Red Potato have been involved in the project specification for minor road changes which will offer business benefits to those most disrupted.  The projects will help make it easier for businesses to get to, and from a business park.  Why is this important?  Because it directly effects business performance.  For instance, the ability to attract high quality employees.  If potential employees are faced with choosing to sit in traffic for upwards of an hour to travel a couple of miles or take a job somewhere else; it is an easy choice. Most employees want quality of life, to be home in time to go the gym or read the bedtime story.  Not be sitting in a traffic jam.   So infrastructure projects are important and can deliver real benefits.

So what needs to change?

If infrastructure is so important, why are we so bad at demonstrating the benefits?  Too often projects are into the mechanics of delivery and they loose focus on what problems they are seeking to solve.  So here is the plea…keep the focus on the what drives the project.  Without this focus we loose sight of the project objectives and ultimately that infrastructure, roads, rail, airports must be able to show clear benefits.  And those benefits should include how communities improve not just some Treasury statistics.

 

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Some nice workshop feedback…thanks!

Education workshop feedback

Since our intervention, Red Potato staff have received this great workshop feedback.

Many thanks to @welhatcouncil for these kind comments:

“We would like to thank the The Director of Red Potato, Jay Wheeler, who led the Education Workshop on Apprenticeships, Skills & Training at the Welwyn Hatfield Annual Alliance Conference on the 12th of November 2015. Delivering this key workshop played a valuable part in contributing to the overall success of the Conference which saw the launch of the Welwyn Hatfield Economic Development Strategy 2015/2016.”

At the conference it was great to hear from local schools, colleges and business leaders.  Most noteworthy was the way everyone committed to improving the prospects for young people in Hertfordshire.

So, as a consequence of the conference, it seems business and schools will work together more effectively.  If as a result of our intervention at the conference, we make this happen more quickly, so much the better!

http://www.welhat.gov.uk/article/6178/13112015-Alliance-convenes-for-launch-of-Economic-Development-Strategy
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Rearranging the deckchairs – keeps the local economy ticking over

We’ve all heard the phrase “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titantic”.  The definition on Wiktionary is

“To do something pointless or insignificant that will soon be overtaken by events, or that contributes nothing to the solution of a current problem”

Many local councils are faced with an office estate which was designed in the last century, if not before and now frankly doesn’t really meet the needs of the business.  However the buildings are often local icons – and if councils don’t occupy them, not many businesses would want them either.   So we are left with a situation of reconfiguring a building when the inevitable staff and structure changes are made.

Once staff know whether they are keeping their job and where they fit in the new organisation chart, the next most important thing is where they will sit.   At a time of great uncertainty knowing where we spend our working time is some comfort.   Now you’ll remember that the stated reason for these changes is often the need to save money, but that didn’t take account of the building work, nor costs of redundancy, nor most importantly the changes in front line operations.     So now we have a situation where untold staff time is spent worrying about their future (including worrying about the distance to the kitchen and who will maintain the tea fund), costs for putting up new partitions, costs for moving and testing kit, costs for building more “pods” for managers who “need” privacy and lots and lots of meetings.

Someone, somewhere should check whether all those savings really do materialise.  A job for Audit Commission – hmm, maybe, but that’s been abolished! The only option left is the “Armchair Auditors” armed with their FOI requests!

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Change is tricky

OK so you’ve got this great idea – it hits the “green” button, it will reduce costs to your organisation and provide greater insight into how the organisation works. Simples, all you need to do is tell your boss what you plan to do and then wait for the plaudits from the Chief Executive.

How wrong can you be?

Thing is that what you may see as a change for the better, will have unintended consequences across the organisation.   Those vested interests will do their best to frustrate the changes, hence the importance of taking the time to build a strong coalition of people who see change in their interest.  Also having a clear vision and sticking with it.    And finally keeping the common touch, while inspiring all to greater things.   Easy really!