IPP Program Journey: Changing the Way we do Business, through Data Sharing

Guest blog written by Rachel Cychosz

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

Sharing. It’s the concept of “using, occupying, or enjoying something jointly with others” or “giving a portion of something to others”. It’s a concept that I’m confident most people learned as young children. It’s a simple concept, that’s why we learn it as children, because it’s something that can be understood without substantial explanation or justification, and as children it just makes sense. Why then, does sharing seem to be such a complex challenge for adults?

Working in government is a unique and interesting journey, always navigating to find a balance between meeting the demands of a political machine that yearns for immediate change to prove the success of their regime (often without understanding, advocating for, or appropriating the resources necessary to adequately address the request) and being able to spend sufficient time thinking through a given problem to find the best solution. Over the past seven years, I’ve worked in both policy development and more direct program management. I’ve struggled with different challenges, but ultimately found that much of it comes down to the same issues – how we choose to approach a problem.  Too often, the programs and policies that I’ve worked with approach problems with a direct to solution approach. More often than not, without much if any, consideration for the root cause of the problem, a “solution” is identified and pursued. There are any number of shortfalls that come out of this approach, but the most obvious is that it often only scratches the surface of the problem, resulting in (often another) failed attempt at a novel idea, which discourages program staff and disincentivizes innovation.

Going into this course, I was seeking a fresh perspective and a different way to think about and approach the problems I was facing in my program. Thinking back over the time since starting the course, PDIA was so appealing to me because it offered a mechanism to address exactly what I had been so frustrated about, but hadn’t been able to articulate a solution to addressing. The concept of not looking at something as one single problem, but diving into it more deeply to get to the root cause, find entry points, and apply an iterative approach to problem solving, was enlightening. It offered a different way of thinking, that so effectively changed the way we could approach new projects and program development.

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Changing the Way we do Business, through Data Sharing

IPP Program Journey: PDIA is a Journey about How to Engage

Guest blog written by Eleanor Sarpong 

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

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My first reaction when I was introduced to the course on IPP via email was hesitation- “Really how different will this course be to others on implementing public policy?” I asked. I was particularly anxious to know how to navigate the political minefield that often hamper public policy implementation. So, I applied for this course with high hopes to understand what new ideas I could adopt to help me with delayed policy implementation in my role as an external advisor to governments on ICT policies and strategies.

What I received in this course however, was eye opening and surpassed my expectations.  From the outset of the course, I was challenged to think differently with the concept of the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach. The cherry on the cake was the wonderful classmates I met, all of whom are working on some remarkable but complex policies and projects such as establishing a Ministry of Peace in a country emerging from years of near autocracy and recent civil unrest, to fighting land grabbers in the Amazon, or getting politicians to understand the impact of Brexit on the financial industry in the UK to implementing an investor drive for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in a Middle Eastern country.

I joined this course with preconceived notions about how public policy implementation should be – following the plan and control approach commonly used in projects. What I left with however, was a new way of looking at implementing policy through a problem driven iterative approach that was agile in its format.  The entire PDIA process has been really insightful from looking at problem identification differently, and unearthing the underlying causes of a problem which are often multi faceted. In reality I’ve learnt that the policy implementation process is not a logical process. One can go back and forth on each stage but the learning or iterations is what makes this approach more engaging. An interesting part of this programme was applying the knowledge of the 5whys to the develop a fishbone diagram which gave me visual representation of the underlying causes of my chosen policy problem of poor and inadequate broadband in many parts Ghana. The next stage was searching for entry points based on the Triple A framework – Ability Authority and Acceptance. I’ve learnt to navigate the fine balance needed between legitimacy (measure of how the public perceives or accepts the policy and often judges the policy’s effectiveness) and functionality (the measure of the “what and why” a policy intervention is being pursued and to what extent that policy intervention resolves the problem or objective identified) and I know that it is not a linear process but zigzag in reality. Another powerful takeaway I took from this course is knowing the power of negotiation and having humility to confront difficult decisions and biases. I still remember vividly the day we were taught how to confront the problem of discrimination and inherent biases that rear up in some policies and how to tackle these through tactful negotiation and smart concessions.

This programme challenged me to redefine my policy problem and to focus. I discovered something new about my policy challenge during the problem construction and deconstruction phase of the process when two representatives from the regulator (who were directly linked to my challenge) pinpointed trust issues as an underlying cause that needed to be addressed. Subsequently I have been working with them to tackle this problem. Our review of the Everest Case Study amplified team roles and responsibilities in a way I had not considered. It forced me to evaluate the team I had assembled for my policy challenge and reassign roles. The process has however not been easy. One of the hardest part of my policy implementation journey has been managing the stakeholder relationships and ensuring continuous motivation for those who are part of this process, to stay on course. One complaint I continue to receive is that this process is too involving and time consuming.  While I’m self-motivated, getting my internal team to continue to support this new way of approaching policy was a challenge. When my internal team started losing momentum as the process moved slowly I knew I had to step in. The modules on motivation, follow up group conversations and Anisha’s blog on motivation helped me realise this turn of events was nothing new. I’ve tried to build a safe space by encouraging individual members of my team to candidly share what is working in our process and what is not. One common thread was the lack of time to pursue the iterative learning with our external stakeholders because we worked remotely. E.g. attempting to have calls with key stakeholders in poor bandwidth areas was frustrating. After we listed all the problems we collectively tried to find solutions or new ideas to address this challenge. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: PDIA is a Journey about How to Engage

Listen to our sixth virtual discussion on Leadership Through Crisis

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On May 1st, 2020, we hosted a sixth virtual discussion with Matt Andrews, who answered audience questions on his new Public Leadership Through Crisis blog series.

Thank you to ALL those who attended our sixth session and for engaging with us. If you missed the session, you can listen to it here or in the player below.

 

BSC’s new Public Leadership Through Crisis blog series offers ideas for leaders questioning how they can help and what kind of leadership is required in crises. Each blog offers a few ideas as well as questions for reflection, thus creating a space for learning and contextual reflection.

IPP Program Journey: PDIA Application in the Private Sector

Guest blog written by Mitchell Rusu

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

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What an incredible journey this has been!

Coming into this course, I really didn’t know what to expect.  I was excited about attending classes at Harvard Kennedy School, but did not realise the tremendous learning opportunity that was awaiting me.

I’ve been working in the private sector my entire career (over twenty years) across many different industries, different countries, and multiple continents, and always for the best companies within their respective industries.  Along the way, I have encountered various methods of problem-solving, challenge-resolution, and workflow-mapping.  You could say that I thought I’d seen every leadership and management approach there was.

Yet, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover how useful this course would be to my development as a leader. While conceding that some aspects of the course were not entirely unfamiliar, the way they were brought together and packaged in such a powerful problem-solving approach that could be applied to any type of complex situation came as a great surprise and as a learning opportunity – a fresh way of looking at the tools in my cupboard.

Although the initial aim of this course was to teach us how to raise awareness of social problems and implement public policies that would ensure a sustainable long-term response, in my opinion, this course has taught us much more practical, hands-on skills.  In this course we have learned a problem-solving methodology that can be applied in various fields, industries, or even our personal lives, whenever and wherever we face complex situations.

I have learned how powerful and engaging we can become by knowing how to appropriately construct a problem and present it in a way that engages multiple stakeholders, how to create powerful teams without formal authority over the members of the team, how to acquire authority from authorisers, how to progress in solving a complex problem in a non-linear way, and how to overcome roadblocks such as bureaucratic organisational structures that can affect your efficiency and ability to engage stakeholders.

Case Study: How I applied My HKS skills to a Banking Industry problem:

At the beginning of the course we were asked to think about a challenge or a project that we could work on over the following months by approaching it in a different way; the “Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation” (PDIA) way. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: PDIA Application in the Private Sector

Growth after the Coronavirus: Thoughts and Questions

written by Matt Andrews

A lot of  people ask me how governments should support economic growth in the period ‘After Coronavirus’. It is a vital question that I wrestle with daily in preparing  for the forthcoming Leading Economic Growth Online executive education program (which I teach with my amazing colleague, Ricardo  Hausmann). Here are some of my personal thoughts on the issue.

1.  I believe we must focus on future growth, even if it seems misplaced in the current crisis

At times in the last few weeks I  have found myself asking if I am a little tone deaf focusing on how governments should be supporting growth tomorrow when many people are dying, starving or falling into deep poverty today. Then I remember that economic growth is actually key to helping those who are suffering today have better lives in the future. As my colleague Dani Rodrik wrote in One Economics, Many Recipes,  ‘Historically nothing has worked better than economic growth in enabling societies to improve the life chances of their members, including those at the very bottom.’ Dani’s comments echo studies that find many connections between growth, jobs, prosperity and well-being. I can’t see why these connections will matter less tomorrow than they did in the past, so we need to keep focusing on growth as a key to getting lots of other stuff right. To keep motivated in this work, I recommend that everyone focused on growth scour the literature to identify how growth does connect to other improvements in their country, city, or region.

2.  We should focus on growth as a means, not an end

We who work on growth should consider growth as a means to various ends, not an end in itself. Growth matters because it helps us achieve other ends we really care about—like ensuring our people have high quality work or access to education or better health care or (building on Dani  Rodrik’s words)  ‘improved life chances for our members’. When we develop our growth strategies it should be with these ends in mind, such that we promote the kind of growth that our society needs. This is really important because governments can foster growth in ways that undermine their real objectives. For example, I worked in a country where officials told me their biggest problem was that twenty-something university graduates were emigrating because they  did not  have good quality jobs (where the implied policy ‘end’ would be ‘more jobs for recent university graduates’ so that ‘college educated twenty-somethings emigrate less’). A consulting firm encouraged the country to pursue growth in tourism and mining, which it did, and which led to growth. Very few jobs in the newly expanded tourism and mining sectors went to the target population, however. As a result, the country’s growth did not achieve the needed objective or end. To ensure we focus our growth strategies on ends we really care about, I  recommend developing an ends means growth chart that (i) lists the key problems we hope growth will help to solve; (ii) suggests a simple theory on how growth can help address each problem; and (iii) we use to guide our choice of which growth opportunities to pursue and which to pass on. Continue reading Growth after the Coronavirus: Thoughts and Questions

Listen to our fifth virtual discussion on Leadership Through Crisis

On April 24th, 2020, we hosted a fourth virtual discussion with Matt Andrews, who answered audience questions on his new Public Leadership Through Crisis blog series.

Here are some of the questions he answered:

    • Since the pandemic requires quick decision making at the national level, this might pose a threat for democracies and citizen inclusiveness, how can countries (especially Developing ones) improve the inclusive decision making process especially when we see more digitalization in many areas of our lives.. perhaps big investments will be required on digital government.
    • Interesting point about more junior people being hired at this point. As the economy is slated to open up in stages (those with immunity first), my suspicion is that the younger, less risk population (likely fewer pre-existing conditions…age is one of them) will be allowed out first. What will this do for economic equality for middle-aged, older people whose retirement savings are likely decimated at this point?

Thank you to ALL those who attended our third session and for engaging with us. If you missed the session, you can listen to it here. We are now holding these virtual sessions every Friday morning at 9am EST. Follow our blog to get registration information!

BSC’s new Public Leadership Through Crisis blog series offers ideas for leaders questioning how they can help and what kind of leadership is required in crises. Each blog offers a few ideas as well as questions for reflection, thus creating a space for learning and contextual reflection.

IPP Program Journey: Jumping the Wall

Guest blog written by Mohamed Hejres

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

I applied for this course as I was seeking clarity on best practice and innovation that would support my organization. The issue that I had identified was the methods that the Bahrain government adopted towards addressing, designing, advocating and implementing public policy initiatives. I was seeking ways that my organization, the Bahrain Economic Development Board (BEDB), could be an effective part of the government process.

The Bahrain Economic Development Board became an advisory body (exclusive to the government), to support policy advocacy and policy implementation. This came after a major restructuring of the government. However, I found that our role could be more efficient.

I felt that we, BEDB, require adding value, as I saw a standard approach towards any policy. This is done through a single project manager, where he/she would request for a benchmarking activity with issue in hand. No innovation nor engagement processes, which is commonly used internationally.

I saw an opportunity in this course. Little did I know that this was going to be a life changing experience. I felt excited once I was accepted into the program. The excitement had no limit, but I was concerned about whether this course would really benefit my hunger to bring some more effective methods to how we, in Bahrain government, deal with policy development and/or policy change.

The method of which the course started had enabled me to start with enthusiasm, especially the course material and videos which we had before the start of the course in Boston.

Also, it will be unfair to limit learnings of this course to few. I would start with the main word that attracted me to this experience, “iterative adaptation”. I have been practicing policy development and change, where I had understood some part of the Iterative Adaptation; however, this has enabled me to have a clear path towards employing it and involving teams in such an approach. My colleagues in this course were amazing, they shared all their views and many success, and many times, failures as well. This was an amazing experience and learning curve for me. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Jumping the Wall

COVID-19: Planning for Tomorrow’s Problems Today

Guest blog written by Peter Harrington

When he started his blog series on crisis leadership on these pages, Matt Andrews asked: can public leaders navigate high winds and big waves in little boats? We could add to that question: how do you build the boat when you are already at sea and the storm is raging?

For most governments, the mechanisms to deal with this crisis did not exist, and existing ones were not designed for it. As a result, much of the response is being improvised in the middle of a hurricane, and more recent blog posts on  Liberia and Bahrain have explored this.

This challenge gives rise to a very common pattern: crisis responders will focus on the problems that have to be solved right now. It is a natural way to go about the job; prioritise what is urgent and solve the problem, then move on to the next. But anyone will familiar with the so-called Eisenhower matrix (‘Urgent versus Important’ 2×2 shown below) will know that we ignore ‘important but not urgent’ issues at our peril.

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Source: Vinita Bansal’s excellent Techtello article on ‘How to  Prioritise and  Master Productivity’

The current crisis is no different, and this post is dedicated to the problems which will become critical in the next few weeks and months as the crisis evolves, and which must be planned for (those in quadrant 2 of the matrix and need to be scheduled for action through strategic thinking  NOW). Leaders need to make sure they put in place resources to tackle these ‘tomorrow problems’.

COVID-19 is impacting every sector. But for simplicity’s sake, I am going to focus on the two main, broad dimensions of the crisis: the medical (or public health) side in this blog post, and the economic side in the next post. These two dimensions are intimately connected – what happens in one, including the policies implemented, profoundly affects the other. It’s vital to consider how these interdependencies will play out as the crisis evolves, and some countries are doing that already. But forward planning will be especially important in developing and transitional countries which have yet to bear the full brunt of the pandemic. Continue reading COVID-19: Planning for Tomorrow’s Problems Today

Public Leadership Through Crisis 19: How do political leaders commonly structure their roles?

written by Matt Andrews

The Public Leadership Through Crisis blog series offers ideas for leaders questioning how they can help and what kind of leadership is required in the face of a crisis (like the COVID-19 pandemic).

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This is the second of four blogs addressing questions about political engagement in crisis response organization. The questions are: Who are political  leaders and what roles do they play in crises?  How do political leaders commonly structure their roles? How can political leaders structure their roles more effectively? I will offer some thoughts on the second of these questions here and, as usual, ask questions for you to reflect on.

How do political leaders commonly structure their roles in crisis?

Let’s start with recognizing that political leaders differ in a myriad of ways, and  political  leaders organize themselves quite differently in response to crises as well (as shown in studies like this one from Christensen et al). Different structures often  reflect different personalities, political cultures, available tools, and more.

Even with the differences, some fairly commonly observed ways politicians respond to crises. One of these ‘common responses’ pertains to how they organize their response: Many politicians centralize and try to move towards a command and control deciding and operating mode.

This is the core observation of Paul ‘t Hart, Uriel Rosenthal and Alexander Kouzmin in their 1993 classic: “One of the more enduring ideas about governmental response to crisis is the expectation that government decision making becomes highly centralized.” Continue reading Public Leadership Through Crisis 19: How do political leaders commonly structure their roles?

Public Leadership Through Crisis 18: Who are Political Leaders and What is their Role?

written by Matt Andrews

The Public Leadership Through Crisis blog series offers ideas for leaders questioning how they can help and what kind of leadership is required in the face of a crisis (like the COVID-19 pandemic).

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I have used a few blogs to discuss the need for governments to reorganize when facing crisis, adopting flat, fast and flexible structures. There are various versions of such structures but I propose a snowflake mechanism that allows one to have a central coordinating team (like a snowflake nucleus) that interact with organically emergent set of relating teams, all acting, learning and sharing with the full system.

I see this kind of mechanism operating in crisis responses like the 2014 Ebola experience in Liberia and the 2020 Covid-19 experience in Bahrain. These mechanisms allow for what Mark Moore calls the ‘decentralized mobilization of  energy’ where the entire governmental system works together to solve the crisis. Some might think this sounds like chaos, but it is the kind of mechanism needed when you face huge tasks fraught with unknowns and need rapid work and learning at scale.

A key question can be raised in designing such mechanism: “Where do political  leaders fit in?”

I will address four issues related to this question in the next set of blog posts:

  1. Who are political  leaders and what roles do they play in crises? 
  2. How do political leaders commonly structure their roles?
  3. How can political leaders structure their roles more effectively? And
  4. Is it ever appropriate to criticize political leaders during times of crisis?

In this blog I offer some thoughts on the first question and, as usual, ask questions for you to reflect on—thinking about the political leaders in your crisis situation and the roles they play.

Who are ‘political leaders’ and what roles do  they play  in crises?

There are many sets of political leaders in government. Perhaps the most obvious are the formal politicians who have been elected to run the executive operation of government (the President or Prime Minister, Governor or Mayor) and the formal politicians who have been elected to run the legislative branch of government (the Congress or Parliament or Town Council). Continue reading Public Leadership Through Crisis 18: Who are Political Leaders and What is their Role?