Understanding Implementing Challenges: PDIA to address inconsistent regulation in UAE telecom and digital authority

5 mins read

Guest blog by Dr. Naser Salmeen

I am currently working as a Policy Enforcement Manager in the telecommunication and digital regulatory authority (TDRA) in the UAE. My role with (TRDA) specifically focuses on developing related enforcement policies and processes, and assessing the compliance of concerned departments within TDRA’s issued regulatory enforcement framework. Additionally, according to my role I am required to develop, maintain and execute regular internal policy audits to ensure the implementation of the regulatory instruments. This position will liaise internally and externally with relevant departments and authorities as needed. I have been in this role for more than 7 years now! I believe that one of the most significant challenges in TDRA is the development of a “Regulatory Enforcement Framework” that can be implemented and maintained on regular basis organizational wide and across various internal departments. Although the framework of policy enforcement is already developed and in use, it still needs some improvements in order to cope with the rapidly changing environment and address emerging environmental challenges such as Covid19 pandemic. Key questions like how to design and implement a “Sustainable Policy Enforcement Framework” that is agile and robust to implement any newly introduced regulation effortlessly, cost effectively and with agility. When I joined the program for IPP, I thought that it can help TDRA explore several options to solve many managerial and operational challenges related to strategic regulation and enforcement e.g. compliance management and risk control challenges in uncertain time e.g. Covid19. Furthermore, the program can help me defining key success factors of strategic policy enforcement and regulations according to best practices, the TDRA will be able to define the appropriate regulatory enforcement KPIs in a regulatory or risk-control setting. TDRA may need to implement a “risk-based approach” to regulation and learn how to deal with novel, emerging, or invisible risks. Moreover, the TDRA may benefit from the defining strategy to distribute risks between the regulatory authority versus telecom operators and other interest groups in the sector such as NGOs and third parties. I also presumed that the program would help TDRA address the challenge of deciding on the right regulation approach form the widely defined regulation models such as: prescriptive regulation, performance-based regulation, responsive-regulation, and self-regulation. Furthermore, new assessment methodologies can be developed to assess preventive measurement taken by the TDRA to address emerging regulation requirements. Finally, the TDRA may address the challenge in regards to the diverse stakeholders’ partnership strategy when it comes to sharing regulation responsibility and what strategy it can use to address the “de-regulation” pressure from interested stakeholders and public.  

However, when I joined the IPP, all my thoughts have been changed because our professor Matt Andrews has taken us on a very amazing, interesting and informative learning journey, where we learned new approaches to public implementation. Previously I was under the impression that all public policy implementation follow a detective approach for development e.g. you would typically have some initial policy implementation framework and then you will simply modify your framework according to collected data to suite your context. Instead, I have learned the different methods for public policy implementation such as plan and control approach and what are the advantages and the disadvantages of this approach. Another key takeaway that resonated very well with me is the different types of challenges in public policy implementation e.g. complicated vs complex problems. I learned that complicated implementation may suit well with the type of implementation that is from plan and control process however there are certain types of challenges which cannot be implemented or executed with this approach and need a method beyond the plan and control. Such a method is longer and more complicated e.g. Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA). For me the (PDIA) was a revolutionary method, which provided a complete solution for those of us who are looking to navigate systematically though public policy implementation challenge. Another key takeaway from the program is that I learned that there is no single solution for my problem and my predefined approach may not be the only solution out there! Therefore, I have to learn more and more though reparative “iteration” what model is the best one for my context. Moreover, I learned that there is no single-man show in the process of public policy implementation. Most successful implementations are delivered from a group of leaders working together towards a common goal! Those leaders may play different roles within the context such as authorizers, motivators, connectors, problem identifiers, idea people, operational, implementers and/or resource providers.

I believe that my implementation challenge has progressed very well during the course of this executive   program because I have gone through a paradigm shift, in which I was able to better define my problem though a well constructed narrative of the problem. In addition, by deconstructing my problem into a more manageable pieces using fishbone diagram as described in Figure 1.0.

I was also able to define my entry points and ideas for action more precisely using the Authority, Acceptance and Ability model (AAA); it is really worth trying it to define your entry point in your organization or work domain using this approach! At the end you need few small steps to keep you going and build your “iterations”, these small entry areas are very important for your larger achievements. I would also like to explain another important concept, which is necessary from your leadership point of view, this concept helped me review my leadership approach therefore, I was able to adapt and be more flexible to my implementation challenge using the four P’s of strategic leadership see Figure [2.0].

  • Perception: it is the way how we as individuals understand/perceive information and challenges around us as compared to other people around us understand the same issue/challenge, often there huge difference in people opinion about the same topic that can cause paradigm shift in our opinion when we explore their views.
  • Projection: it is about understanding the surrounding environment thoroughly and exploring the venue of possible future scenarios based on your current action, and relating to your own story in order to create a more completing story of the future and remove possible negative consequences or increase the chances for positive outcome.
  • People: it is about human and the emotional impact they may encounter during the implementation process, it is currently known as emotional intelligence in the literature, it is about recognizing people’s emotions and feeling in the process of your implementation. It is been discovered that emotions effect all our interactions in the workplace therefore it is not something that can be easily overlooked, basically if you don’t pay attentions to the people feeling they will not follow you and you may end up increasing your implementation challenges. 
  • Process: it is the process of thinking and establishing the group dynamic and how they will work together in order to achieve the desired outcome, it is really important to structure things and create the right environment for the people and process to operate

Some of the concepts that are very important and you need to pay attention to when thinking about the process management is:

  • Group think : the peer pressure to reach an agreement for a decision
  • The hidden profile : people don’t want to voice their experience or participate
  • Herd behavior : is following what others are doing

For example, in some cases, people really have some good expertise, knowledge, and experience and if we do not explicitly tap into that, we really risk missing some of the important ideas and concepts. As with ‘people’, ‘process’ influences how we tackle a challenge, how we relate to others involved in tackling a challenge, and the kinds of behavior we promote or support or expect as we tackle challenges, in this regard for example promote the following :  

  • Self-silencing
  • Role assignment: explicitly assignment of roles and responsibilities which show your seriousness about people participation
  • Priming: is about setting the stage for the kind of environment for the group discussion
  • Red teaming

Finally, it is important to think about internal process management, which is your views on how things should operate versus the external process management of how other should view process and operation.

At the end, I would like to say that this course has changed my way of thinking where now I will be able to better define problems (completed/complex), plan my iteration, look for change space, and take actions. Change will never happen without actions and things will never happen without starting with yourself first! Master your domain and then tell the whole world about it!

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 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

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