Solutioneering


A pervasive pathology of government policy and planning

In a discussion of the policy blunder of connecting intermittent energy providers to the grid, I was alerted to an IPA study of 20 state and federal policies. The study used ten criteria including establishing need, setting objectives, identifying options, designing implementation pathways and consultation with stakeholders.

The policies including emergency Covid measures in several states, Jobkeeper and Funding . The results, based on boxes ticked, are very mixed and too many demonstrate the phenomenon that Roger James called solutioneering, based on his observation of the Labor government in Britain after WW2. This is in his introduction to the philosophy of Karl Popper Return to Reason , focussed on departures from reason in the conduct of public affairs and the danger of certain wrong ideas and unquestioned assumptions.

This is not a criticism of the very labour-intensive effort in the IPA study but some of the worst examples of the pathology were not included, like Pink Batts, the NBN and the worst of all, connecting subsidised and mandated intermittent energy to the grid.

Solutioneering means::

Jumping to a solution before clearly formulating what the problem is (or indeed if there is one at all) or how success or failure are to be judged. Achievement of the solution then becomes the goal; and, when opposition develops, the problem becomes how to get the solution accepted, while the question of how best to solve the original problem, if there was one, never gets discussed at all.

Think of a project, estimate (or, rather, underestimate) its cost; estimate (or, rather, overestimate) the revenue it will generate and other benefits. Don’t consult the people who will be most impacted, consult “stakeholders” by all means but these will usually be vested interests that stand to gain from the project. Among them will be bureaucrats with expanded empires, regulators with more power and money movers who get a percentage of the expenditure.

Stress the urgency, it will cost more later if action is delayed, and if all else fails describe all the expense as an investment in the future.

Does that sound familiar?


16 responses to “Solutioneering”

  1. Bruce Avatar
    Bruce

    I think you may be WAY too charitable in your assessment.

    These types ALWAYS have “a SOLUTION in search of a problem”. There is a clearly-defined (to them) set of objectives that are set in stone. Deviation from these objectives is NOT an option. Mass deaths and personal disasters among the peasantry and the permanent ransacking of the national “wealth” are of NO consequence.

    Think back to the mid-to-late Twentieth Century for applied examples. Pick a body-count, any body-count.

  2. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    If government has the solution the question isn’t being put properly.

  3. OldOzzie Avatar
    OldOzzie

    Rafe,

    as someone who both sold to Federal & State Govt entities. and also worked on the inside of those same Govt entities, The Golden Rule was never “Buy Australian” – you always selected Overseas Suppliers, since both you and the Minister would have to go to great Overseas Locations to evaluate, and after selecting the Overseas Supplier as the winner, you would have ongoing Overseas trips during construction phase, then continuing during the problem stages after implememtation.

    Just One Case in point

    ‘Always going to be problems’: Premier defends flaws in trams, ferries

    The Herald on Wednesday revealed that the NSW government had known for more than three weeks that cracking was evident in the inner west light rail trams.

    A series of documents and emails tendered to NSW Parliament under an upper house order also showed there were concerns within the transport agency that the cracks could have been in the trams for more than a year.

    Mr Perrottet said he had not known that Transport for NSW had received the earlier advice.

    “I have received no information, my understanding is nor has the transport minister, in respect of whether action should have been taken earlier in regard to that matter,” he said.

    “It would not be safe in circumstances where we left those trams running in circumstances where there was advice to the government that those cracks made those trams unsafe.”

    Meanwhile, private ferry operator Transdev confirmed one of the Emerald-class ferries that services the Manly route was taken to a floating dock at Glebe Island for “minor improvements” to its propellers this week.

    “The modification works will focus on reducing noise and offer an improved customer experience,” a Transdev spokeswoman said, adding the ferry is expected to be operational for passenger service by next week.

    The Herald revealed on Tuesday that cracking had been discovered in another Emerald-class vessel.

    With the cracked trams made in Spain and the problem-plagued Sydney Harbour ferries manufactured in China and Indonesia, Opposition Leader Chris Minns said the government could no longer justify building transport assets overseas.

    “We’re not getting the services that the community requires. We’re not getting value for money for the rate – for the taxpayers of NSW and we’re not getting the jobs,” Mr Minns said.

    “The government’s transport policy is literally falling through the cracks. Cracks in ferries, cracks on the light rails; and damaged transport pieces of infrastructure right across NSW.”

    PS Labor Govts do it as Well – Minns is a Hypocrite

    Applies to Software, Computers, Military Equipment etc – Everything

  4. OldOzzie Avatar
    OldOzzie

    Re – In a discussion of the policy blunder of connecting intermittent energy providers to the grid

    Wind power production in Saskatchewan went into negative territory
    January 19, 2023

    According to SaskPower, “The turbines were iced up and unable to produce. The -1 megawatt was load to service the facilities.”

    Saskatchewan has 617 megawatts of installed grid-scale wind power generation.

    Also, SaskPower is now paying people extra just to stay in Coronach instead of walking away early from the doomed coal plant.

  5. OldOzzie Avatar
    OldOzzie

    Re The Golden Rule was never “Buy Australian”

    – you always selected Overseas Suppliers, since both you and the Minister would have to go to great Overseas Locations to evaluate, and after selecting the Overseas Supplier as the winner, you would have ongoing Overseas trips during construction phase, then continuing during the problem stages after implememtation.

    You always formed numerous Committees and employed External Advisers to make the decision, so you could never br balmed for making “The Wrong Decision”

  6. OldOzzie Avatar
    OldOzzie

    Reichsfuehrers of the Climate Con Job

    NSW’s Premier Domenic Perrottet, 40, is in trouble for having worn a Nazi uniform to his 21st birthday costume party in 2001. Tasmanian green-minded Independent Andrew Wilkie suffered even worse exposure in 2011 when it came out that as a senior Duntroon cadet in 1983, he allegedly forced his juniors to salute the 50th anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power.

    Foolish as those youthful episodes were, a team of climate scientists with strong University of Queensland connections only nine years ago indulged in equivalent Third Reich foolishness. They not only got clean away with it but have trailed clouds of academic glory ever since.

    This team maybe created and certainly stored online photoshopped portraits of themselves as top Nazis.

    They even converted a 1936 Nuremberg rally of helmeted troops into a gathering of their own climate faithful (reproduced atop this page).

    The team comprised a dozen or so members of the Skeptical Science blog, founded and led by John Cook, who was Climate Communication Fellow for Queensland University’s Global Change Institute.[1] He is now postdoctoral research fellow at the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, and is or was Assistant Professor in the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University in Virginia, US. He continues as leader of Skeptical Science. Far from being “sceptical” of catastrophic global warming, it exists to smite and denigrate anyone questioning the orthodoxy. In 2011 Skeptical Science won the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for the Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge and in 2016, it scooped up the Friend of the Planet Award from the US National Center for Science Education. (Note Joanne Nova’s take on that via the link).

    Cook became “Dr Cook” after his 2016 UWA thesis on the ludicrous topic of “the cognitive psychology of climate science denial.”[2] He is author of the infamous 2013 paper supposedly proving a 97 per cent consensus of 12,000 science papers’ abstracts about human-caused warming. This study, despite a peer-reviewed critique of its overwhelming flaws in logic and design, has been downloaded 1,376,048 times, cited 754 times and extolled in the media more than 200 times. In 2013 it was rated globally the year’s 11th most influential research paper.[3] The paper’s characterisation of the consensus (namely that humans are causing some warming) is so nebulous that almost every climate sceptic would agree with it. Cook’s follow-up submission of a co-authored paper[4] to Earth System Dynamics copped a stinging rejection from editor Matthew Huber.

  7. Roger W Avatar
    Roger W

    Interestingly, you can find examples of this everywhere. The constant changes in the rules of Rugby Union over the last 50 years are an example. It is a sort of intellectual cancer that continues to spread.
    A version is where an acknowledged problem provides the excuse for an ideologically driven “solution”. So common today – but I would suggest, for example, also an explanation of the failure of the New Deal policies implemented by FDR in the USA in the 1930s?
    Other historical examples might include the French Revolution?

  8. Bar Beach Swimmer Avatar
    Bar Beach Swimmer

    Jumping to a solution before clearly formulating what the problem is (or indeed if there is one at all) or how success or failure are to be judged. Achievement of the solution then becomes the goal; and, when opposition develops, the problem becomes how to get the solution accepted, while the question of how best to solve the original problem, if there was one, never gets discussed at all.

    Rafe, when I read that quote I instantly thought of Anthony Albanese and da Voice. The last few days have shown up the lack of understanding and detail that the PM has on what the constitutional and administrative changes are likely to be if the referendum gets passed. Seemingly committing the govt to a legislative change if the referendum fails also points in the same direction.

  9. Rafe Champion Avatar
    Rafe Champion

    The more you look the more you see.
    Roger James drew his cases from the 1950s and since then the process he called “solutioneering” has become the standard operating procedure.
    Can we find exceptions? Perhaps stopping the boats. HECS?

  10. billie Avatar
    billie

    I knew a Defence Dept purchaser who had parents in the UK, he used to only buy from UK companies.. so he got trips to the UK regularly

    It was common knowledge in his area, all his superiors were also aware of it and just laughed it off

    Clearly, it didn’t matter because there is always more taxpayer’s money available

    *on big programs, there is never enough money to do it properly the first time (so low bids won and performed poorly) but there was always enough money to do it twice

  11. John Brumble Avatar
    John Brumble

    One of the “definitions” of the term on urban dictionary is an amazing example of the oroblem in action. Claiming that “solutioneering” is just a buzz-word used to demean the method, the poster claims that to disagree with an approach, you mist gave an alternative – completely ignoring that the proposed approach may not work either. To that person (and 16 other) It’s enough to have come up with a solution. It needn’t work, deliver a net positive or be viable
    in any way.

  12. Katzenjammer Avatar
    Katzenjammer

    Solutioneering means::
    Jumping to a solution before clearly formulating what the problem is (or indeed if there is one at all) or how success or failure are to be judged. Achievement of the solution then becomes the goal; and, when opposition develops, the problem becomes how to get the solution accepted, while the question of how best to solve the original problem, if there was one, never gets discussed at all.

    An example that actually uses the term “solution” is The Two State Solution. A century has passed since that proposed solution was utilised to define a problem, with any attempt since then to analyse what the real problem is being discarded if it can’t be resolved exclusively by that solution.

  13. will Avatar
    will

    These types ALWAYS have “a SOLUTION in search of a problem”.

    more like an extortion in search of a racket

  14. mem Avatar
    mem

    Another way of measuring the value of government activity is to review the impacts/results of its policies and actions to date.
    Let’s take government’s Climate Change policies and activities;
    Results:
    No change detected to normal seasonal temperature variations
    Huge negative impact on power bills for businesses and households
    Huge negative impact on reliability of power grid
    Huge negative impact on natural environment and rural surrounds by solar farms and windmills
    Huge negative impact on business activity due power bills, penalties and red tape.
    Huge costs on production causing inequities in international trade affecting all sectors
    Huge negative impact on native birds
    Degradation of rural roads and infrastructure costing rate payers
    Noise pollution in local communities negative impact on living standards
    Huge recycling problem created to deal with panels, windmills and batteries
    Uncertainty for the vehicle industry re electric vehicles and ICE vehicles leading to sales losses
    An incredible amount of taxpayer funds redirected from public requirements such as hospitals, education, infrastructure, national security and trade arrangements
    Each of the above could be quantified.
    The people of Australia deserve a full audit before it devastates so many aspects of our economy, environment and social progress as a nation.

  15. Kneel Avatar
    Kneel

    “Let’s take government’s Climate Change policies and activities;
    Results:
    …”

    They’re all features, not bugs.

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