The Pandemic Cannot Stop Us!

Guest blog by Jean-Francois Roussy

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.

Here we are at the end of our journey, 22 weeks later! 

When I applied to this program, the lock-down was starting, we were wondering what was going on in the world, how long it would last and learning to telework.  I am now graduating and, while we are still teleworking, we are finally seeing the light end at the end of the tunnel and the vaccines are at our doorsteps (instead of our Doordash order)!

After close to 20 years in the development and implementation of Canadian public policies, I felt that I needed a little extra at this point of my career: to formally learn theories associated to the implementation of public policies and especially learn them from a different perspective than the traditional Canadian ones.  And to learn from others successes, challenges and experiences around the world.

Harvard was the best learning institution to fulfill these goals.  As I write the blog, I can conclude that I have hit the bull eye with Implementing Public Policy

Mission accomplished! 

The first take away from this course happened in the first weeks when Professor Andrews advised us to be humbled when assessing the unknowns associated to our problem and the level of our policy challenge (simple, complicated or complex).  Lessons learned and I have already passed the information to my colleagues and members of my team!

Of course, the theory behind the deconstruction of our policy challenge and the construction of a fishbone were a key takeaway.  This in addition to the 4Ps and the logic behind PDIA will certainly follow me in all my professional projects until I retire. 

How about my problem and implementation challenge?  Well, I thought I knew and controlled it inside and out.  This program provided me with new perspectives (humility to start with) and made me realized that I was only controlling part of it.  Other very smart people and effective teams, who I did not know and never involved, also owned important parts and knowledge associated with my problem and its implementation.  And they are central to the success. 

This program made me realize how important it can be to connect not only with the usual suspect that you know (what I was doing) but also with the unknows who will bring new experiences and will be able to challenge our preconceive ideas and conclusions.  

My project progressed fairly well and almost as planned with the December target that I had set.  But yes, there have been delays…  And there were frustrations, lot of frustrations….

Frustrations towards me (you cannot always blame the others!), my authorizers, my colleagues, the stakeholders and the outsiders! That is part of the game and we all learn from our frustrations. 

When will my project be fully implemented?  That is the big question.  Will it ever be?  With everything that we are experiencing these days, Governments and public administrations will have to prioritize based on their financial situation and challenges (the Canadian federal government just announced a 400B$ deficit for this year, notwithstanding the provinces’ deficits).  Where will be project be ranked in this jungle or priorities?  What financial and human resources be available?  My main advantage going forward is that my project’s backbone is technological.  Nobody at this point can predict what we can expect over the next months.

What I know is that Governments will look for ways to save money and be more effective in their public policies and service delivery.  And this is where I think I will be able to move forward with my project.  I plan to be ahead and the curve, innovative (“It’s the economy [technology] stupid”) and take calculated risks.

Moreover, by taking into account that the world we were living prior to March 2020 will never be the same and will unlikely be the benchmark for the future.

To my fellow virtual classmate, thank you for sharing your cultures, your experiences, your challenges and problems, your knowledge, for asking the right questions and challenging me.  If it were not of the current pandemic, we would all be together in Cambridge, MA, congratulating each other for our hard work and success, throwing our mortarboard and having drinks.  Let’s all do this from home, we deserve it!  Big time!

To Professor Andrews, Salimah, Amber, Alison and all the others at Harvard: I want to express all of my gratitude for your professionalism, advices and help in the last 22 weeks.  This course was the best investment of my career and for my career!

Stay safe everyone, the best is yet to come!

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

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