Views of public policy implementation success and failure: Sharing my thoughts

written by Matt Andrews

There are many views on what constitutes success and failure in public policy implementation. I have been chewing on these a lot over the last couple of years as I try to make sense of the challenges of implementation and of knowing when implementation is going well or not.

Here are some approaches I find useful in this work.

First, a large literature on project success is relevant in this discussionbecause many public policies are implemented through project-like processes (with some studies even referring to the ‘projectization‘ of various policy domains, especially in international development). The project management literature tends to emphasize different types of ‘success’ in the implementation process (if you want to read more detail,  I advise this article on the topic by Paul Bannerman):

(i) Process or project management success: the immediate performance of a project against its main design parameters—schedule (time), budget (cost), scope, and quality.

(ii) Product success: the extent to which a project delivered promised ‘products’, and if those products were used and considered useful by intended users (or beneficiaries).

(iii) Business or Strategy (or impact) success:  whether a project solved the particular problem that warranted it in the first place, and—even more expansively—if the project better positions the community  affected to address future problems or take future opportunities and benefits.

Another large literature on policy implementation offers related but also different ideas about ‘success’. A key article in this literature (by Bovens, ’t Hart and Peters 2001, which I cite below for those with interest) refers to two key dimensions of success: Continue reading Views of public policy implementation success and failure: Sharing my thoughts

PDIA Course Journey: Solving the Problem of Blood Transfusion in India

Guest blog written by S. Subash, Vimala Devi Vidya and J. Ravishankar

This is a team of physicians working as District Blood Transfusion Officers for Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society (TANSACS) living in India. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

We enrolled into the PDIA course without knowing what it was and what we needed to do. But the Project Director of TANSACS encouraged us, gave us objectives that we were struggling with and directed us to engage with this new tool/approach. So one fine day, we joined the ride on “Practice of  PDIA 2018F” with our objective to solve – How do we address the problems faced by Government blood banks, in acquiring 20% of blood units collected by private blood banks in Tamil Nadu, India.

Government blood banks in Tamil Nadu are facing a shortage of blood units and acquiring 20% of blood units from private blood banks was a strategy to increase the blood stocks. But private blood banks were not willing to part with blood units as it was money for them. They either did not report their blood donation camps or under-reported their collection in camps. Either way, the Government blood banks were suffering from increasing demand and a reducing donor pool.

We started with a 6 member team and early on, we learnt about the big stuck faced by countries aiming for development. The book “Building State Capability” became the bible for the next 15 weeks. We learned new terms like Implementation gap, Isomorphic Mimicry, Premature load bearing and Transplantation. Some of our team members could not spare the time and energy needed for PDIA and bowed out. And this was the ‘first lesson learnt’ for us and we rallied and reinforced ourselves that we will fight to the finish, like plotting the map of 1804!

We found that the problem we were facing belonged to the typology ‘Implementation intensive service delivery’ which was not wicked hard category. We came to know that success of a leadership is not for the face of the leader but through multi-agent leadership. We formed the team norms and started our group activity of engaging our problem. As we constructed and deconstructed our problem and formed our first fishbone diagram, we found that there were many sub-causes that led to our problem. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Solving the Problem of Blood Transfusion in India

PDIA Course Journey: Budget Crisis in Nigeria

Guest blog written by Ajani Solomon Oluwatimilehin, Jil Faith Bandele, Olusegun Michael Bandele, Victory Oluwafunmilayo Bandele.

This is a multidisciplinary team with different backgrounds living in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

The common goal, the ideas shared, the meetings, the arguments, the agreements, the team work, the working deadline, the lessons learned indeed it has been 15 wonderful weeks of the PDIA journey. We are delighted to be sharing our journey blog as we have crossed all weekly hurdles and successfully reached the apex of this 15 weeks course.

When the opportunity to enroll for this course came up, the first challenge was setting up the team, when that problem was solved, most of us in the team where clueless about the course……what is PDIA? What does it entail? 15 whole weeks…..?

Fortunately for us, one member of the team had prior knowledge of PDIA and its application and he encouraged us. In his words he said “PDIA will open your mind’s eye individually and collectively as a team” he also said, “this is the future so grab a seat in the front row.” With these words, we were encouraged and eager to see what the next 15 weeks will bring. We are glad to say that this decision was worth it.

We enrolled in this “Practice of PDIA course with one topic in mind; we aimed to understand in which way PDIA (which stands for Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation) could help us to solve the budget crises in Nigeria which has over the years has become cyclic in nature as we have the same issue every year. Budget crisis in Nigeria is a reoccurring problem which over the years has tremendously slowed down the process of development of the country. Budget creation and approval has always been a tug of war, between the presidency, the executive and legislative arms of government which eventually has a ripple effect on the everyday Nigerian and the system in its entity as the budget has to be approved so that funds for fiscal projects can be released. It is a yearly occurrence and the crisis can last for the greater part of the year, with accusations and counter accusations arising on the budget documents and the budgeting process in its entity. That is why the team is embarking on a problem solving exercise through a data driven budget system based on facts and figures to eliminate areas of contention brought about by intuition, assumptions and gut feeling in the budgeting exercise. So with this in mind, we were more than eager to learn new ways so to break the cycle. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Budget Crisis in Nigeria

Empowered to address the power problems in Honduras: A PDIA journey in progress

written by: Matt Andrews

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The energy sector in Honduras has a history of inefficiency. Financial and energy losses have festered for decades. Various reforms and interventions (often supported by external agents, like this World Bank project) have not solved the problem.

In November 2018 a new unit in the President’s Office helped to mobilize a team of officials to take a fresh look at the problem and address it using the PDIA method—where the focus is on working relentlessly to understand the problem in new ways and to then tackle the problem in a pragmatic, step-by-step manner.

The team initially identified that their problem was to come up with a rapid strategy to liberalize the nation’s energy company. This was largely because an externally inspired law had set the country on a path towards liberalization years ago and officials were wanting to make progress on this path. They believed that the liberalization solution in other countries would solve the problems in Honduras.

Continue reading Empowered to address the power problems in Honduras: A PDIA journey in progress

PDIA Course Journey: Bringing PDIA to GTAC

Guest blog written by Lindiwe Ndlela, Subethri Naidoo, Xavier MacMaster

This team works for the Government of South Africa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Our PDIA journey started quite innocently with us seeing it as an escape from the routine of the everyday run of the mill challenges of public service.  We thought we had a chance to engage with something theoretical, relevant, but ultimately which would remain an intellectual exercise.  We are now PDIA converts, for the first time excited about the potential for practical change in our bureaucracy!

During the individual submissions, we were ecstatic about what we were learning. Reality crept in when we received our first group assignment. By assignment 7, frustration set in as we faced the challenge of deconstructing our problem.  We learnt that our initial problem construction was inadequate and weak. The reality was hard, particularly in drilling down to answer analytical questions of why it mattered, to whom; and who needed to care more.

We learnt that we could not fast forward to a solution, which is a typical, default behavior. This was new to us. For the first time we had to think deeply, about the need to unpack the problem, using the tools to which were being exposed.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Bringing PDIA to GTAC

PDIA Course Journey: Littering in Bangalore City

Guest blog written by Sridhar Pabbisetty, Deepthi MR, Manivannan Ponniah, Salma Fahim.

This team is made up of a Public Policy and Sustainable Urbanisation expert, a Public Relations Officer, Bangalore Electricity Supply company, and two civil servants. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka is dubbed as the IT city and Garden city alike. Residents of the city have called it retired-persons’ paradise. Over the last 15 years, the city has become a booming hub for IT companies which have not only brought in infrastructural development, but also has expanded leaps and bounds in terms of income. While the city saw rapid development on one side, it also began seeing heaps of garbage being generated and hit a roadblock when it came to managing its solid waste.

The city’s municipal corporation is called Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike  is responsible for managing the city’s waste. BBMP decided to set up a solid waste management wing. This would help in managing solid waste of the city. Here are a few numbers to take into consideration:

1.         Bangalore generated 57,00 MT of waste every day
2.         Almost 1200 MT is unaccounted for
3.         This comes to about 22% of the total waste!
4.         Even though the BBMP has 30,000 cleaning workers, this is the state of affairs.

As we began understanding our problem, we got deeper insights about the demon we were dealing with. Littering is a cultural problem in India. People lack basic civic sense, irrespective of class. This leads to heaps of garbage strewn around on streets and street corners. Besides there are not adequate number of dustbins placed by the Municipality nor is the system of collecting the garbage from these public bins very effectively monitored. It is a problem with immense political and economic dimensions, we as a team decided to focus on one crucial sub component of ‘littering’ to work on.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Littering in Bangalore City

Strengthening Capabilities in City Government

We work alongside other exciting initiatives at Harvard that also support state capability. One of these is the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership initiative. The following is a description of their work.

Funded by a four-year $32 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a collaboration between HKS, HBS, and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation team to advance leadership, management and innovation in cities. Now in its second full year, the initiative equips mayors and senior city officials with the skills, tools, and techniques to tackle the leadership and management challenges they face in their cities. The initiative also aims to identify and fill gaps in research on city leadership, and to generate new and customized curriculum. This approach is designed to help unlock the full potential of cities and optimize their performance. If mayors and their organizations thrive, cities can adapt, endure and thrive as well.

Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative Theory of Change:

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Flagship Program. Each year, the initiative supports 40 cities around the world, anchored by the participation of a mayor and two senior officials crucial to affecting organizational change. Since its inception in 2017, 80 mayors and 160 senior officials have participated in the flagship program. Continue reading Strengthening Capabilities in City Government