I work in the public sector. More often than I care to admit, I see programs being developed that do not solve the problem – that is, there is “activity” that constitutes program development but for whatever reason the organization / team is not focused on solving a problem. And in many case these are BIG problems! Is it a lack of patience? Is it a need to give the “appearance of legitimacy” but that’s where it ends? Is it an issue of what type of performance is rewarded?
As Chip and Dan Heath say in their book Switch: “Big problems are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions. Instead, they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions, sometimes over weeks, sometimes over decades.”
I suggest a lens be adopted in public sector management that small steps are rewarded against a three-pronged approach to developing programs that actually solve problems:
Creating a dialogue – what conversation needs to take place to elevate the problem to be solved and make it worthy of attention?
Taking a human centered approach to program design in which the problem to be addressed is identified and human behavior is taken into account – asking ourselves and continuing to ask ourselves “what problem are we solving and how can we experiment in getting it solved?”
Thinking about who else needs to be involved since it is likely that the problem takes more than one organization to solve and that learning, iteration, etc. will be needed to advance an understanding of the problem – let’s put egos aside and ask “who else do I need and how can we learn together in order to be more effective?”