Guest blog written by Ajani Solomon Oluwatimilehin, Jil Faith Bandele, Olusegun Michael Bandele, Victory Oluwafunmilayo Bandele.
This is a multidisciplinary team with different backgrounds living in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.
The common goal, the ideas shared, the meetings, the arguments, the agreements, the team work, the working deadline, the lessons learned indeed it has been 15 wonderful weeks of the PDIA journey. We are delighted to be sharing our journey blog as we have crossed all weekly hurdles and successfully reached the apex of this 15 weeks course.
When the opportunity to enroll for this course came up, the first challenge was setting up the team, when that problem was solved, most of us in the team where clueless about the course……what is PDIA? What does it entail? 15 whole weeks…..?
Fortunately for us, one member of the team had prior knowledge of PDIA and its application and he encouraged us. In his words he said “PDIA will open your mind’s eye individually and collectively as a team” he also said, “this is the future so grab a seat in the front row.” With these words, we were encouraged and eager to see what the next 15 weeks will bring. We are glad to say that this decision was worth it.
We enrolled in this “Practice of PDIA course with one topic in mind; we aimed to understand in which way PDIA (which stands for Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation) could help us to solve the budget crises in Nigeria which has over the years has become cyclic in nature as we have the same issue every year. Budget crisis in Nigeria is a reoccurring problem which over the years has tremendously slowed down the process of development of the country. Budget creation and approval has always been a tug of war, between the presidency, the executive and legislative arms of government which eventually has a ripple effect on the everyday Nigerian and the system in its entity as the budget has to be approved so that funds for fiscal projects can be released. It is a yearly occurrence and the crisis can last for the greater part of the year, with accusations and counter accusations arising on the budget documents and the budgeting process in its entity. That is why the team is embarking on a problem solving exercise through a data driven budget system based on facts and figures to eliminate areas of contention brought about by intuition, assumptions and gut feeling in the budgeting exercise. So with this in mind, we were more than eager to learn new ways so to break the cycle.
We have learned that many countries are facing a Big Stuck building administrative capabilities which means that despite many efforts and initiatives, they are making a very slow progress. We have also learned some important concepts such as what is an Administrative Fact Fiction, why form does not equal to function, Isomorphic Mimicry, and Premature Load bearing. In Nigeria these are key factors that affect the system which goes undetected, especially the issue of isomorphic mimicry as the larger number are ignorant to the fact that having the same structure (copy and paste) doesn’t mean functional ability, hence a slowdown in the development process. Every project will fail successfully if it lacks the necessary functionalities, for every project to be successful it must have the capability and must be void of isomorphic mimicry.
This course has helped us to understand building state capacity and the importance of the context and the relevance of people as a source of capability when using PDIA approach. We also realized on the importance of multi-agent leadership to successfully implement projects and programs in a complex context.
After the introductory lessons, we began the real work of deconstructing our problem statement which is the budgeting crises in Nigeria. The first step was using the 5 why technique. We started asking ourselves, why does it matter? Why solving the budgeting crises matter? To whom does it matter? Who needs to care more? And how do we get them to give it more attention? This enabled us to see the deep importance of our cause.
Moving forward we learnt about the “Fishbone diagram” when we saw the topic we were eager to know what it entails, it taught us to deconstruct the problem to the root cause. Just like an unwanted plant has to be uprooted so as to totally get rid of it, the fishbone diagram helped us to break down the complex problem statement of budgeting crises to the root cause. After deconstruction using the Fishbone diagram, we progressed further to learn about the AAA analysis. The AAA analysis is a key tool in problem solving. Authority, Ability, and Authorization are needed in carrying out any project. We went further to learn about authorization at different levels as without authority, we cannot move forward in solving our problem statement. AAA analysis allowed us to find potential entry points. With these entry points, we were ready to design and implement our first Iteration which is one of the key aspects of the PDIA course. Iteration is important in solving problems as it is the process of proper documentation of the problem, solution ideas and action points. We learned the importance of action, learning by crawling and the need to adapt iteration in order to get better results.
In conclusion, PDIA’s most important lesson is team work, individuals with diverse ideas having a common goal coming together to provide a solution to a problem … wonderful we must say it’s like merging of brain power to form a “mega brain force”. We are glad we took the course. 15 weeks of learning, team work, thinking outside the box and individual reflections. PDIA indeed is taking the classroom to the field and the field to the classroom. PDIA has been a challenging and interesting journey and we intend to apply our knowledge in all areas of life as PDIA is the future in problem solving.