So it’s almost official the Post Office Closure Consultation was a sham. Well according to Consumer Focus this is the case http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/7197784/Post-Office-consultation-was-a-sham.html. According to this report the Post Office “failed” to effectively engage consumers in the consultation and “missed opportunities” to obtain valuable knowledge of how cutbacks would affect communities.
So what is it that makes consultation a sham? Well normally it is a mixture of the following…
- Not being genuine – so organisations don’t really intent to change anything as a result of the feedback they get
- Limited publicity and poorly targeted engagement – few people know it’s happening and not enough is done to engage different groups using the right methods
- A tick box excercise – the consultation is something that needs to be done and people are ” forced” to go through the “pain of it” to get to the decision that has already been made
- A lack of disclosure – stakeholders are not given all the information they need or want so they can’t take part properly
- No detailed analysis or feedback – the responses are not analysed properly and participants don’t get any feedback on how contributions have influenced decisions
You can decide for yourself if the Post Office Closure Consultation was a sham, but either way doing consultation this way will lead to all sorts of problems. Organisations that consult like this, by accident or design, ultimately damage their reputation. People will not engage with them again. People will not support their plans in the future or will certainly mistrust them. In some sectors a judge may step in and reverse decisions on the basis that the consultation is a sham. By contrast well executed consultation achieves the opposite.
Whether you love or hate consultation it is here to stay as a way of making decisions. Organisations that get it right will benefit from it. Those that don’t will hurt their reputation and damage the value that customers and citizens place in their brand and in their values. So for goodness sakes don’t fall into the consultation trap, make it meaningful and get it right!
If you want to learn more about doing consultation well then I recommend that you get in touch with The Consultation Institute www.consultationinstitute.org.uk