This figure shows scientist Dean L. Fixsen’s labelling of public-sector implementation from a hierarchical top-down approach to increasingly more co-creative and tailored bottom-up approach.
This understanding marks a new wave of public reforms. In Finland for example:
- Previously, the implementation of governmental programmes and strategic initiatives was made more or less top-down. Such procedures tended to lead to huge lists of set tasks for different agencies, which were very hard to verify and measure. The new implementation procedure focuses on strategic objectives and gives governed agencies and entities more freedom to formulate their tasks themselves, which will contribute to strategic goals, explains Antti Joensuu, Strategy Director at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
Related article: Why top executives struggle with change
The change of practice also entails more cross-administrative collaboration to manage complicated challenges, such as immigration, better.
Turning evidence into meaningful change
When change processes drag on for decades and face multiple delays, it is often caused by the high level of complexity and resistance throughout the implementation chain. The process requires consistent changes in procedures, practices and ways of working. And this is where the individual capacity building comes in handy.
- Speeding up the implementation calls for local support. Organisations have to understand and apply new practices in local settings, and capacity building can help design the process, says Ejler.
As effective implementation strategies to a greater extent involve bottom-up thinking and capacity building, there is no quick one-size-fits-it-all solution. However, this does not automatically remove the need for classic top-down implementation strategies, the implementation expert emphasises.
- There’s obviously a difference between following a simple recipe and raising a child. Solutions should be tailored to the specific context. This means that the leader must be able to differentiate organisational complexity, assess the readiness to learn among practitioners and estimate the scope of the change.
- Only then may the leader choose a path. Too often, the rationalistic top-down solution has remained unchallenged, but it may still be relevant for less complicated change processes, for instance. Or in those cases where the decision is certain to face reluctance, but has to be carried out anyway. The art is to turn rational thinking and evidence into meaningful change in all parts of the chain.
How that is done can be explored further in the white paper that features several models and possible steps forward depending on the situation at hand.
Link: Download the white paper to get more fresh conclusions from the study and specific advice on how to approach an implementation process.