Guest blog by Daniela Espinosa Alarcón, Gabriela Suarez Buitron, Luis Fernando Ochoa, Verónica Villavicencio Pérez
This is a team working at the National Secretariat of Higher Education and Technology in Ecuador. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.
Developing strategies based on identifying the core complex problem that we have to solve has contributed to a change of collective mind-set. In the public sector in Ecuador we tend to work according to political agendas instead of working towards a long term project. Working towards the solution of a problem gives us a clear path to plan better strategies and better public policies.
Being together as a team in this course has been one of the most important elements to take away. Accomplishing great things alone can be hard. Thus, surrounding ourselves with great colleagues and professionals improved our capacity to build strategies to solve our problem, being more effective and strengthening our professional bonds. Setting clear norms and supporting each other has been key for success.
Finally, we have learned that projects do not have to be perfect from the beginning. In the way many things can go wrong, the important thing is to identify the mistakes and correct them in time. PDIA is a great tool to have this constant exercise of reflection and correction of our plans towards the solution of complex problems.
One of the most insights we learned of our problem was the lack of analysis we had about the higher education data that institutions have. It was very interesting to use the data, analyse it and find there some of the causes and solutions.
As part of the application of the PDIA focus on structuring problems, we have determined that it is a main necessity inside our own institution related to the creation, processing and management of data and information relevant for our iterations and possible solutions. We already know that were some difficulties on having updated information, and access to that, but we have faced permanent difficulties because information is generated over and over again by request, but there is not an appropriate mechanism inside our institution to access and a recall or repository of previous information already created.
According to that, we should try to work with the responsible areas in the elements of PDIA approach: identifying causes for the limited updating capacity, actors involved in that process, capacity and authority of those areas to established a medium and long term mechanism to guarantee quality, pertinence, and access of information.
On the other hand, we have some assumptions about our problem that is a very complex one, and strongly related to the competences and responsibilities of our institution, as part of the national government. The assumptions we are making in order to structure our iteration are based on the fact that we thought that having the responsibility of higher education public policies, can give us enough authority to reduce the problem. However, we don’t have control over some fundamental components related to the problem as: population growing rates or social value of accessing higher education, and we must rethink the real impact of our actions, activities, and solutions having these elements permanently pushing over us, as institution.
The developed skill of problem – cause disaggregating it will be very useful in this process of thinking and rethinking the problem and the causes, specifically about the involvement required of all areas inside the Secretary.
Some of our moments during the course
We had a very good personal and group experience during this course. We were people and friends and we became a team during PDIA. We had fun, difficult times trying to fix up our agendas or finding the time to work on the assignments. We also had to balance this with all our daily work that has being a lot in the last months. We found the motivation within ourselves and within our team and now were are finishing the course with lesson learned, new perspectives and tools! Thanks PDIA!