The Formality Threshold – Process implications and expectations are such that it’s important to recognise when a consultation is formal and when it is not
The telephone rings.
“Hello; this is John. Can I pick your brains for a few minutes …..?”
Is this consultation?
The answer, of course is Yes. This type of informal dialogue forms an integral part of most people’s jobs. Every Manager, every service provider, every policy-maker at some point feels the need to ask advice of those who are impacted by their actions. It is one of the natural lubricants of decision-making, with few rules, no real expectations and pretty idiosyncratic.
So when does informal consultation become formal? Is there a definable threshold, crossing which renders the process different in character if not substance? There are four potential answers. One is obvious – when there is a statutory requirement. But the other three call for some head-scratching.