How I became a believer in the PDIA process

Guest blog by Linda Chasey

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.

I thought that I would learn some new tools that would refine what I was currently doing with solving problems and implementing policy when I first started the IPP course. Perhaps learn the best practices or would be told what to do in different situations. I am known for getting things done and have never been afraid to tackle complex challenges nor learn as I go. I am not afraid of change and I’m constantly looking for ways to improve process and procedures so I did not think that I would struggle with trying to solve problems using this new PDIA concept, boy was I wrong.

I was a few months into the course and had built my fishbone, developed a workgroup, and started talking about what we were going to do. One of the homework sessions I had submitted a new fishbone and stated I was changing my problem statement and was now going to do this more focused problem. The staff responded to my homework and was very nice but really told me that I needed to trust in the PDIA process and try it again.

I started struggling with realizing how spending all this time talking about the problem and not working on the solution was going to get us anywhere. Then one day I was at a meeting at work where another group discussed the progress of a project they were working on. A bunch of us started asking questions and it quickly became apparent that their project didn’t solve anything, they didn’t understand the real problem, so they just succeeded in adding another layer of review. It was at that moment it hit me, this is the exact reason we need to spend all this time upfront constructing and destructing our problem. That is the moment I became a believer.

Some other key learning that I’m taking away from this course is perception and projection. When others don’t react or respond how I expected, I take the time to reflect what their perception was and then have a conversation with them to make sure that we were on the same page. I’m practicing using projection to help set the stage for how a conversation will go.

I’ve recommended this course to others. I explain that this is a lot of work and they need to go into it committed to sticking with it. I am so grateful for being able to participate and be part of this course. I find that I continually look back over past lessens to remind myself about what we learned, it is a lot of information to absorb at once. I am thankful for my group where we were able to talk through our problems and support each other. I’ve taken many courses but none that have impacted me as much as this one, thank you all for this wonderful experience!

Learn more about the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) Community of Practice and visit the course website to apply.

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