MLD 102: 2014
Class 10, October 6, 2014
PDIA: Principles to get things done
(and out of the big stuck)
Matt Andrews
Harvard Kennedy School
So far
• We have gaps in many development interventions
– Where implementation does not happen
– De jure is better then de facto
– Concentrated is better than deconcentrated, etc.
• We have many strategies/tools to close these gaps
– Both policies and management mechanisms
• Management tools: Mostly classical administrative and NPM
• But the gaps fester, despite the tools
– Largely because of capability traps
• Organizations/governments are in a Big Stuck
• Chasing external answers that give external legitimacy
– Good, better and best practice policies and management solutions
– That often fail to offer real solutions and improved functionality
– Because they are beyond abilities (external load bearing) or are adopted
simply for external support (isomorphic mimicry)
The Big Stuck as I see it: Too much development
=isomorphic mimics or effervescent bubbles
External legitimacy
External support
By complying with
Procese agendas)
Zombeta…assuming functionality will follow?
But no improvement in functionality…so
A mimic without results
Nomburo…assuming legitimacy will follow?
we start But no legitimacy: effervescent bubble
(achieving goals with the
right people and participation)
So…what’s next? Today’s class
• How do you get out of a Big Stuck?
• Let’s consider the two experiences of policy and management
reform in the case reading
– Malaysia and Burkina Faso
• Discuss your answers to the following table in your teams:
How is it successful?
What drives change?
How does the change process work?
Who drives change?
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
How is it
Looks good. External
legitimacy at first…but
not much more
Looks strange, limited,
are ‘finding
and fitting’
quick progress,
a solution
a fitting
strategy we call
much to build
What drives
External answer
introduced by narrow
How does the
change process
Introduce external
answer and expect
implementation, use,
and roll out
Who drives
Narrow group
(i) Start with problems,
Internal problem that
(ii) Iterate with experiments,
gets unpacked
things, with
attention learning,
(iii) Building authority and
Experiment with
as you
get Producing
results, learn
that deliver
works, build
Functionality and legitimacy
diffuse, try more
(through functionality)
Broad, expanding group
PDIA: Basic principles in a picture
External legitimacy
External support
By complying with
Procese agendas) iii. Learn from first
step, build with
new intervention
Identify a
where authority
allows some
action; Take a
we start
small step to
iv. Repeat. Until
problem solved.
ii. Build authority
And legitimacy
based on early
(achieving goals with the
right people and participation)
technical sectors—that we propose PDIA as a pragmatic alternative.
PDIA: a contrast with conventional approaches
Table 1: Contrasting current approaches and PDIA
Elements of approach
What drives action?
Planning for action
Feedback loops
Plans for scaling up and
diffusion of learning
Mainstream Development
Externally nominated problems or
‘solutions’ in which deviation from
‘best practice’ forms is itself
defined as the problem
Lots of advance planning,
articulating a plan of action, with
implementation regarded as
following the planned script.
Monitoring (short loops, focused
on disbursement and process
compliance) and Evaluation (long
feedback loop on outputs, maybe
Top-down—the head learns and
leads, the rest listen and follow.
Problem Driven Iterative
Locally Problem Driven—
looking to solve particular
‘Muddling through’ with
the authorization of
positive deviance and a
purposive crawl of the
available design space
Tight feedback loops based
on the problem and on
experimentation with
information loops
integrated with decisions.
Diffusion of feasible
practice across
organizations and
communities of
Do we always need PDIA? No. sometimes you
can just move ahead with an external solution
It depends on the nature of your task:
Is it simple, complicated, or complex?
(Allen, Glouberman and Zimmerman)
You address simple and complicated tasks with
‘solutions+rational management’….But
complex tasks demand a different approach
How you address complicated tasks
Role defining – setting job and task
Decision making – find the ‘best’ choice
How you address complex tasks
Relationship building – working
with patterns of interaction
Sense making – collective interpretation
Tight structuring – use chain of command Loose coupling – support communities
and prioritise or limit simple actions
of practice and add more degrees of
Knowing – decide and tell others
Learning – act/learn/plan at the same
what to do
Staying the course – align and maintain
Notice emergent directions – building on
what works
Taylor, Weber, much of NPM
My view of development
• We have done pretty well with the simple and
complicated stuff
• But complex tasks, problems, systems still confound us
– Challenges with learning in our schools
– Gaps with polio vaccinations
– Getting civil servants to use shiny new systems, best practices
• So we need something like PDIA
– To help us find and fit policy and management solutions
– That fit the contexts in which we are working
Others have argued similarly…
Chris Pollitt suggests lessons from past reforms tell us that…
Big models, such as NPM or ‘good governance’ or ‘partnership
working’, often do not take one very far.
The whole idea that there is one model or set of principles that
can or should be applied everywhere is suspect.
Task differences really do matter.
Change is always political as well as managerial/organizational.
Change is usually saturated with vested interests, including
consultants/advisors, and the existing public service staff. To
conceptualise it as a purely technical exercise would be naïve.
Successful PMR is frequently an iterative exercise, over
considerable periods of time.
It does work sometimes!
And many of the principles of PDIA are
not new…
Korten: participatory development (1980)
– Contrasts ‘blueprint’ and ‘learning process’
– Emphasizes working in the context, learning what fits through action engagement, and then
diffusing the new solutions
Rondinelli: the changing face of development problems (1982)
– Noted that problems were getting more complex
– Asks: “If control-oriented planning and management procedures are neither effective nor
appropriate in coping with the complexity and uncertainty inherent in development
activities, what alternatives do international development organizations and governments in
developing states have for dealing with these problems more effectively?”
– Suggests: “Effective development administration requires managers who can facilitate rather
than control the interaction of those individuals and groups who have the bits of knowledge
and resources needed to change undesirable conditions, and the experience and judgment
to define what the undesirable conditions are. It calls for skilled people who can act as
catalysts, mobilizing those whose support or commitment is needed to make projects
relevant and successful. it demands technicians and administrators who can respond
creatively, appropriately, and quickly to changes, who are willing and able to seek out and
correct mistakes as they are discovered, and who can plan and manage simultaneously.”
And many theories of change influence our thinking…
Next class…context
• A key issue in PDIA
– Finding and fitting solutions that fit context
• So what is it about context that matters?
• And how do we ‘see’ it?
• We will look at a contemporary (new) case of regulatory
policy reform in the USA
– Where govt. is not ‘getting it done’
– And we will ask ‘why?’
– What contextual factors get in the way of reform?
• And we will think beyond this to a basic approach to
understanding what it is that matters about context…