Housing is a problem for any Government and has many threads.
Housing is clearly a complex, collaborative issue, but it has a large number of factors which are known, compared to other Government issues.
The cost of building is largely stable, the cost of borrowing is partly within the control of Government though the control stick moves other things as well. The availability of land is largely calculable and the house buyer numbers and profiles known quite well in any one medium-term period.
Housing is a progressive slow changing issue, with, in the UK at least, few catalytic aspects, the main risk being a flooding of London.
So as Advice to The President, or Prime Minister, housing has the context of being a complex and collaborative issue, with progressive risk and change and with most things known.
With that mix a good balance between the amount of focused thinking and holistic thinking should be easy. The holistic thinking provides the general direction and how needs and desires should be weighed in the overall vision of the future.
The focused thinking deals with the evidence, with the detail, with the delivery.
So it should be easy, create a clear vision of the future and then project manage it with on-target thinking. For the first we would use creative exploration tools like Synectics and for the second closure and planning tools like TRIZ and Six Sigma.
So why is it so often a big problem?
One of the mental issues with the kinds of problems that ‘should be easy’ to solve is that insufficient effort and resources is given to them. We all do this. We slave away trying to tackle the impossible and ignore what is possible.
The brain problem here is that some things seem to give insufficient rewards mentally, so we tire easily, we get bored, we seek more exciting things to do.
The way round this is to change those projects which might be a touch on the dull side and hit them with enough creative thinking to make them more difficult and exciting, but only more difficult in that more is to be achieved.
If you want to train to run a marathon then you need to build up slowly, but you also need to be creative in the steps on how to do this, you need to build in rewards for the journey to success.
So with targets for housing, they need to be made tougher, so tough that only the best efforts will prevail. Then, if you don’t quite make it, you have still got further than if you had tried and succeeded in meeting a lower target.
In a company, for example, if the aim is to cut costs by 10%, a pretty boring challenge, you should aim to cut them by 30%, or 50%, or 90%, or even 100%! Getting a 10% cut while aiming for 100% is much easier than just aiming and getting a 10% cut.
So the Advice to the President should be:
1. Work out what kind of housing plan you want, and make it double.
2. Double the number of houses and halve the money available to do it.
3. Challenge the builders to make the country the no 1 in housing design and quality and green status, and put big penalties in place for failure.
4. Challenge the housing support services, from local councils to the homeless charities, to work together to eliminate homelessness.
But, these challenges are only acceptable if you are going to show yourself a true partner in the aim and the pain, the Marathon Training coach who suggests carrying bags of potatoes while running has got to join in and carry them too.
The Advice to The President is to set tough a vision of the future and be there all the way to delivery.
Some things in life are challenging enough and we have to take care that our thinking is not distorted by fear and anxiety. Some things are not challenging enough for the energy to leap into action.