IPP Program Journey: Finding Family through Process Improvement

Guest blog written by Maggie Jones

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.

Trey’s words hung in the air. Would you like to go to Harvard? A million thoughts ran through my head as I watched the unsuspecting traffic pass outside my office. Of course I wanted to go. I had to go. As soon as “yes” stumbled out of my mouth and I hung up the phone, my hand gripped the handset for a moment before I stared blankly at my computer screen. 

How am I going to do this?

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There’s something magical that happens when you walk into an HKS classroom with 48 students and staff from around the world with challenges and backgrounds as diverse as the names on the tent cards. We may have not known it then, but we would become more than HKS’ first Implementing Public Policy cohort, staff included; we would become family. Family with similar struggles in authorization, acceptance, and ability, but also filled with passion, strength, and determination that only comes with a love and respect for this work and for each other.

Over the past seven months, I’ve learned more than I have in a decade of public service; it feels like someone opened a window, fresh air pouring in. Although all of the learnings would certainly take up more than these words, there are a few key takeaways:

  • Failure is always an option. While the private sector may embrace failure, we are rarely given the grace to fall in government. The stakes are framed too high; however, what we seem to have forgotten is what the consequences will be if we continue our current course. If we are failing to meet the needs of those we’ve committed to serve, then we have only lost. We owe it to them – and to ourselves – to be better. We simply must be better.
  • Projects have completion dates; problems evolve. It is important to think about who owns the problem on a constant, iterative basis. As the problem changes, your toolbox needs to change, too.
  • You do not have to go at this alone; you need to find people to share it with. Period.

In my particular challenge (i.e. addressing performance of a federally-funded home repair program), we have finally begun to see a little bit of movement: Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Finding Family through Process Improvement

IPP Program Journey: Solving Complex Problems in Albany

Guest blog written by David Galin

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.

Coming into this course, I was under the impression it was going to help me better understand the nuances of implementing policy from a roadmap that was created for every situation.  I was a bit nervous we would be taught a rigid set of procedures on how to implement policy – something that was made for every situation but really only worked for maybe one out of every ten, if we were all lucky.  Thankfully I was very wrong.  I learned about a theory that works for those situations that aren’t rigid and need meaningful analytical evaluation.  Situations where you need to think outside the box, need support from your authorizers, but also need to continually build a team.  Situations where you are not only implementing policy but in fact problem solving.  Read: messy, confusing, complex situations.

I learned there truly are a variety of issues – complex and complicated and everything in-between.  I think this is a principle that sometimes you think about in the back of your head but start to say to yourself you’ve overcomplicating the issue and that can’t be.  Turns out, it is.  I learned that you need to see things for what they are but also be willing to look past the first layer of the issue.  You need to unpack the problem.  People are very quick to hear what they think the issue is, and immediately try to come up with solutions.  Sometimes the issue isn’t complicated and that type of problem solving can work.  But sometimes the issue is so complex that you need to spend a significant amount of time unpacking the problem.  Taking the time to understand the hurdles in front of you and the hurdles that may be hidden beneath the surface, before developing a game plan. 

The other thing I learned is that PDIA is as much about relationships as it is about process.  Building relationships – before, during, and after iteration and implementation – is very important.  Having established relationships can cut down on the time needed to build them when trying to solve a complex problem, and helps foster a sense of trust – not only with your authorizers, but with your peers.

The entire process is designed to create a constant feedback loophelping you to review whether your potential solutions are working or not, but also to getting you working with other people, obtaining and re-affirming authorization from your superiors, and brainstorming additional methods to tackling an issue.  When it comes to our problem, we were able to learn that data-driven decision-making is optimal to use as part of PDIA.  Having data and being able to evaluate it before and after the feedback review helps to determine whether that iteration was successful or not.  We made progress narrowing down some of the core issues behind the perceived sub-optimal performance of See Click Fix, including no consistent methodology of using “acknowledged” vs. “closed,” and have also seen a decline in days to acknowledge and days to close as part of the expanded use of ipads as part of our improvements.

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Solving Complex Problems in Albany

BSC 2019: The Year in Review

written by Salimah Samji

Reflection is a key part of the PDIA iteration process and as I have done in previous years (20172018) here’s a look back at what we @HarvardBSC achieved in 2019.

Some highlights of the year include: training and engaging with 740 practitioners around the globe (incl. degree programs, executive education, online courses and direct policy engagements with governments); publishing 9 papers and 54 blog posts; activating our PDIA online course alumni community of practice; releasing a new 12-part podcast series on the Practice of PDIA; translating our content into Spanish and French; and last but not least … drum roll please … launching Harvard Kennedy School’s first blended learning Executive Education program Implementing Public Policy, designed to equip policymakers around the world with both the skills to analyze policies, as well as the field-tested tools and tactics to successfully implement them.

2020 promises to be another exciting year for us. Here’s a few things we have in store for you: releasing our PDIA Toolkit in French, Portuguese and Arabic; publishing blogs written by our Implementing Public Policy program alumni; launching our new long read podcast series; and sharing our experience on creating and sustaining communities of practice with you. To stay tuned, follow us on twitter, or subscribe to our blog and podcast.

Here’s a month by month playback of 2019.

January

BSC Faculty Director Matt Andrews chaired the executive education program entitled, “Public Financial Management (PFM) in a Changing World” at the Harvard Kennedy School. 47 PFM practitioners from 25 countries participated in this program.

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BSC collaborated with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative in their Cross-Boundary Collaboration Program held in New York City. Director Salimah Samji served as a City Team facilitator during this program.

Continue reading BSC 2019: The Year in Review

PDIA Course Journey: The Thrills and Bliss of Working on PPPs in Nigeria

Guest blog written by Alinnor Doris Chibumma, Daniel Ayako Filibus, Emmanuel Philip Chorio, Mohammed Barma Adam, Patrick Egie Ederaro, Felix. O. Ogbera.

This is a team of six development practitioners working for the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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The journey of our PDIA training was like the 1804 journey where the destination was quite unfamiliar and the terrain very challenging. But the journey had to be made to achieve success. PDIA is about matching your capability with your challenge. Therefore, the composition of our team was made up of people of diverse backgrounds.

Owing to our diversity, we started by building our team, agreeing on the problem we aimed to solve; setting the ground rules for our team’s operations and success. We agreed to accept our differences, our idiosyncrasies and agreed also on common ground to promote unity as a hallmark towards achieving our goals of carrying out a successful PDIA training by finding and fitting the contextual solutions to our problem – Low Acceptance of PPP’s by MDA’s in Nigeria.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: The Thrills and Bliss of Working on PPPs in Nigeria

PDIA for Delivery Facilitation

written by Matt Andrews

We at the Building State Capability program (BSC) have been working directly with governments for over a decade now; focused on helping agents in those governments build their capability to deliver for citizens and society.

We are not consultants. We do not write purely academic papers, offer technical advice, or work in other traditional consultant ways. Rather, we ask the authorizers we are working with in the governments to nominate problems they care about and appoint their own teams to work on those problems. We then work with the teams regularly (often weekly) to learn their way through their problems, to new, locally defined solutions. The teams do the work, gain from the learning, and achieve the progress. This is how they grow their capability and make progress in improving delivery to their citizens and society.

The methodology we employ is called Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA). It is a simple management approach that helps organizations solve specific complex problems and build their capability to solve other complex problems in the process.

Some people ask if we are like delivery units. The answer is no.

Continue reading PDIA for Delivery Facilitation

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

Follow “Getting Things Done” at the Harvard Kennedy School

Matt Andrews teaches a course entitled “Getting Things Done: Management in the Development Context,” at the Harvard Kennedy School. He often gets asked about what he teaches in his course. So, he has decided to experiment with blogging about his course after every class. Each blog entry will include his powerpoint presentation, his syllabus, required readings/videos as well as a summary of what happened in class.

He already has two blogs up. The first class was about the need to understand the bureaucracy better, and second class was on classical management theory, bureaucracy and scientific management. You can see the entire syllabus here. This is your opportunity to follow the class and learn more about “getting things done in development.” Let us know what you think.

 

BSC Paper wins ASA award

We are proud to announce that Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation co-authored by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock won the Faculty Article Award from the Sociology of Development Section of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The award ceremony was held in San Francisco on August 16, 2014. This seminal paper is the foundation of the Building State Capability (BSC) program and the precursor to PDIA. For more information, please read Escaping Capability Traps through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) or watch our Vimeo Channel.

BSC video 24: Selling solutions vs. solving problems

When asked to name a problem, people often name a solution (i.e. the lack of a solution). This leads to designing typical, business as usual type of interventions without addressing the actual problem. In this video, Lant Pritchett, uses an education example to illustrate the difference between problems and solutions. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.

If you are interested in learning more, watch constructing problems to drive change.

BSC Video 20: Is your activity locally discretionary?

An analytical typology can help you answer the question, building capability to do what? This is the second of four videos that addresses the analytical questions you need to ask in order to determine the implementation capability required for your activity. In this video, Lant Pritchett explains the meaning of local discretion using examples from health and the financial sector. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.

If you are interested in learning more, watch why do we need a typology and is your activity transaction intensive.