A Consultation is Not a Notice
The title of this post really says it all. Too many times I have encountered a situation where a public policy or regulatory change warrants a full consultation exercise and yet there is no such allowance offered. Perhaps even worse than zero engagement, is the faux "consultation with stakeholders" which is actually a hollow gesture where no real attempt is made to understand perspectives and (gasp) even incorporate them into the new structure. Why bother asking for input if there is no hope of this input affecting change?
This is not the question we want stakeholders asking! What tends to happen is that stakeholders disengage. Yet they do not stay this way forever, and when they do re-emerge there is a likelihood that the engagement is confrontational and counter-productive. The only people with a sense of contentment at this stage are the lawyers.
Instead, our advice is to be clear and upfront with the engagement that is being undertaken. If it is a notice or decision or advisory, then it is beneficial to state that this what is occurring and what can be expected. And there are many occasions where this course of action is appropriate and advantageous. However, if the name of the game is consultation, then a proper course must be set out and followed where expectations are managed, transparency is provided and true leadership is exercised.