Posts Tagged ‘christmas trees’

Shortcut to delay

Monday, November 14th, 2011

By Jerry Brown, APR

Christmas ornament with GrinchDoes the Grinch who wants to steal Christmas live at the White House?

No. But the administration announced and then rescinded in a single day last week plans to impose a 15-cent promotion fee on fresh-cut Christmas trees.

Some political conservatives immediately denounced the plan as a “tax” on Christmas trees and one Republican congressman called the President a Grinch.

Ironically, the proposed fee was requested by tree growers and the money was to have been used to promote the sale of fresh Christmas trees.

The episode’s worth mentioning here because the administration made a mistake often committed by organizations in a hurry to implement controversial policies without going through the time-consuming process of getting input from stakeholders who have competing interests — skipping the time needed to listen to people with different views and address their concerns.

Although the proposed fee was requested by tree owners, the industry wasn’t unified. Larger growers generally supported the fee, smaller ones were less enthusiastic. By announcing the proposed fee on the day it was supposed to have gone into effect, the administration appeared to be taking preemptive action in an effort to avoid public debate. There isn’t much time before Christmas trees go on sale, after all.

Building consensus would have taken time, perhaps too much time for the program to work this year. But if the tree growers had been more unified, the White House probably wouldn’t have had to back down. The politicians criticizing the “tax” aren’t exactly known for saying nice things about the guy currently in the White House. As it stands now, the “shortcut” derailed the proposal entirely, at least for now.

If supporters want to try again, they should spend time working with opponents to find common ground. The time it takes to give competing interests an opportunity to air their concerns — and, with luck, reach a compromise that satisfies most of them — is usually time well spent. Skipping that step is like taking a shortcut that adds time and miles to your trip.

So proceed carefully when you find yourself tempted to take preemptive action to prevent your opponents from delaying your project by voicing their concerns. You may be taking a shortcut to even further delays.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?