Guest blog written by Thami El Maaroufi
This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.
By attending the IPP course with Harvard Kennedy School, my main objective was to learn how to improve our approach in designing, developing, and implementing a public policy efficiently, using high standards, the best practices, and innovations.
Attending this course with peers from all over the world was also for me a great opportunity to learn from them about their experiences, challenges, success stories and failures in implementing public policy. Learning from participants was an interesting part of this journey.
As the general coordinator of the national Committee for business environment in Morocco, and given my role and functions within this Committee, it is important for me to continuously develop my skills and knowledge; to be up to date on how to motivate and keep on board authorizers and stakeholders, to identify pain points and most importantly issues to address. It is also equally important for me to continuously learn how to effectively lead multidisciplinary teams, oversee the implementation of reforms, and ensure proper monitoring and performance evaluation. In this regard, the IPP course has been very useful for me and has enabled me to develop astute skills in addressing more effectively the design and implementation of public policies.
Our national Committee, chaired by the Head of Government, has ten years of experience in public-private dialogue to identify, on a regular basis, the main constraints faced by entrepreneurs and foreign investors in the country. The Committee is also seen as a delivery unit for the implementation of cross-department’s reforms.
Due to the successful implementation of multiple reforms, Morocco has improved its ranking in the Doing Business report published by the World Bank Group, moving from the 128th position in 2010 to the 53rd position in 2020.
But beyond this international ranking, the Kingdom needs to create a more conducive environment with less constraints and difficulties for firms to enter markets, create wealth, grow and export.
I was confident that this course would provide me with more skills, tools, and tactics to successfully contribute to one of the most important projects we are currently working on in our country, namely the design and implementation of the national strategy to improve the business environment.
The first session of this IPP course with Matt took place the same day we had our annual meeting, chaired by the Head of Government, which officially launched the project aiming to develop a proactive government policy and a multi-year strategy to improve the business environment. This calendars excellent coincidence has given me the opportunity to apply the IPP concepts, material and tools to my daily work related to this project, during the last six months.
The Coronavirus pandemic has also challenged us to find solutions to help businesses, and in particular, SMEs to overcome these difficult times. We have also had to adapt our working methods by making greater use of videoconferencing and virtual meetings to continue exchanging with our partners.
During the last period, I learned many key lessons from the IPP course that I have already started to implement:
How we considered the multi-dimension of policy success (legitimacy and functionality)
To cultivate a “legitimacy success”, the Committee tried to further develop the role of acceptance, support, promotion, and communication, both in terms of the strategic approach and the reforms to be carried out. The official launch of this project at the annual meeting of the Committee chaired by the Head of Government was an appropriate opportunity for me and my team to obtain the mandate we need so as to empower the relevant stakeholders’ representatives for this journey. All ministers and executive directors concerned with the country’s business climate issues were also present at this important meeting.
In order not to separate the process of formation and execution, we started this project by establishing, last July, a steering committee made up of officials from the major ministerial departments and representatives from the private sector. We, then, organized several meetings of this Committee to present the progress of the project and to get their reactions and feedbacks, with a view to enhance their involvement, as part of the process of engaging authorizers.
The reforms on the Committee’s agenda are generally cross-department involving several stakeholders. The first challenge we faced while working to ensure functional success, in the sense of delivering reforms on time, on budget and according to agreed specifications, was to develop common methods of managing reforms. To this end, we decided to set up an electronic collaborative platform for project implementation providing a coherent set of project management functionalities for and real-time dashboards for monitoring and steering reform projects.
How we have used PDIA approach?
Unknowns and uncertainties
With respect to the challenge of developing a national strategy for a better business environment we are facing a large number of unknowns and uncertainties. On the basis of the PDIA approach, we agreed within the steering committee to start by looking for solutions emerging from experimental iteration and put more emphasis on engaging the maximum of stakeholders by organizing several working sessions; like focus groups, interviews and hackathons, with representatives of ministerial departments, public institutions, the private sector, foreign investors and international institutions.
Those virtual meetings with different participants were great moments to discuss in greater depth the constraints and difficulties related to the business climate and to identify the priorities to be addressed within the national policy for a better business environment.
Those working sessions provided a psychological safety environment where the different participants felt comfortable to speak up, to contribute actively on discussing the common problems and suggest actions to put in place to address them.
Inquiry techniques allowed us to gather participants’ perspectives and gain a good understanding of their experiences and concerns.
Constructing and deconstructing the problems
Dealing with complex policy challenges requires from us to develop a multi-level learning process.
The first challenge we faced was to understand the problems to be addressed and to identify the most important constraints for the business climate. Our objective was to define a clear path for reform, based on priorities agreed on with the private sector representatives.
Technically, we have broken down each problem using a fishbone diagram. This technique has given us the opportunity to delve deeper into the causes during our various working sessions.
With its strong visual representation of the underlying causes, the fishbone diagram was very helpful in identifying many of the constraints related to the following six main issues:
- Administrative procedures and digitization
- Funding issues and payment deadlines
- The modernization of the legal framework for business
- Issues related to a non-collaborative and non-inclusive business climate
- Human capital issues
- Infrastructures issues
Entry points for action
We organized six hackathons with over 120 participants fully motivated to contribute to solve the problems and suggest ideas for reform for each of the main constraints.
At this stage, using the triple “A” approach (Authority, Ability and Acceptance) was an interesting way to start identifying some critical actions.
The result was the establishment of a prioritized, multi-year action plan (34 main reforms) with clear actions to be taken and projects to be carried out with all relevant stakeholders.
Multi-agent leadership and strategic leadership
During the working sessions, we tried to adopt an active listening approach, encouraging genuine inquiry from the different participants, which allowed us to gather their points of view by identifying the pain points and looking for ideas to solve these complex problems.
We learned by doing this kind of dialogue exercises how to get stakeholders and partners interested and more involved in the project we are working on, which will obviously support the implementation phase.
In this particular part of the process, we found that the 4 P model was an interesting tool to use for developing open-mindedness in the perception of the context, the definition of the overall vision, the capacities and skills, and the establishment of innovative and effective approaches and processes to organize the collaborative work
Using PDIA check tool to build team engagement and to have people motivated by progress has been really insightful.
We agree that we need to establish a learning team incorporating different types of expertizes working together with appropriate motivation and clear compelling direction to learn into the work with well-defined and identified importance and urgency for change.
Communicating and establishing a continuous action learning
Designing and implementing public policy that involves multiple stakeholders/ authorizers and deals with multiple issues/constraints, requires setting up an iterative process of learning by doing experiments to maintain a strong and ongoing commitment from all.
Establishing a feedback loops will allow the Committee’s members to discover things, to find out more about the platform’s development methodology and then to identify next steps based on the discoveries.
Our objective is also to manage the stakeholder’s relationships and to ensure continued motivation for those who are part of this process to remain interested in the implementation of this national policy.
Words of wisdom for fellow PDIA practitioners
To ensure a successful implementation of any public policy, it is important, in my opinion, to adopt an effective and collaborative approach to identify the real and important problems to be addressed and also to prospect potential paths for reforms. For this purpose, it is important to establish a frank and constructive dialogue with stakeholders in order to improve mutual trust and increase emotional intelligence ensuring greater sensitivity to the reciprocal concerns of stakeholders.
Some key words for the success of this hoped-for implementation are: iteration, experimentation, learning, adjusting and adapting. We need to take into account that no situation is permanent and that we need to constantly evaluate, develop and change. Thus, as problems and situations change, our approaches, methods, tools and mindsets need to evolve and adapt as well. It is a dynamic environment and the Corona virus pandemic provides a perfect illustration for that!.