The risk of barriers runs through the entire implementation chain. A foregoing Ramboll analysis on implementation in the Danish labour market shows that the most important driver in creating successful implementation is the closest manager’s focus on the task. The initial analysis is complicated, but management must take full ownership and tailor its approach, efforts and tools according to the scale of the change.
- There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Leaders have to focus on all types of barriers. The management barriers at all levels are the most important to address, but the cultural barriers – and even categorical resistance – can turn out to be more difficult to overcome. New ways of working demand new working cultures for administrative staff and hands-on practitioners alike. Leaders are the culture bearers, explains Jeppe Ostersen, managing consultant and implementation specialist at Ramboll.
That management can be a barrier in itself is also highlighted by Harvard Business Review. Bureaucrats respect barriers by nature. Instead of knocking them over, they find ways to see over and around them, and this makes change processes difficult.
A new understanding emerges
The Ramboll study comprised in a white paper is based on interviews with public sector leaders who show the way in how to pro-actively embrace the implementation challenge to successfully achieve the desired results at the end of the implementation chain.
- More often, leaders recognise that changes, people and organisations are emergent and dynamic entities. But you need to realise that implementation equals change and not everyone welcomes that. So, you have to take on that challenge and work with practitioners as front-line staff having to change to reap the effects pursued, says Ostersen.
One of several examples of authorities pro-active pushing for changes and put in the needed resources is found in the Swedish National Agency for Education. Director of Education, Anders Frederiksson points to long-lasting support as key:
- The accountable authority is offered support from a dialogue team from the Agency. This team is there during implementation and offers support to the accountable authorities needed. Cooperation may last up to three years. The new approach can be described as a new method of implementation.
Understand the behaviour you want to change
When developing the implementation strategy, the first step is to understand the behaviour you want to change. Leaders need to clarify the match between the new practice and the organisational capacity and its readiness for change. And this is not just an analytical task.
- We have designed our implementation strategy from the point of departure that those people out there know best how they will succeed. They are educated well, so we should use them to make sure they achieve the goals. This goes for teachers, school leaders and administrators in municipalities. It’s a local ecosystem that we believe has the capacity to succeed, says Jesper Fisker.
There are many tools available to guide the analytical process, but the dialogue with administrators, practitioners, end-users and experts is essential to understand the behaviour at all levels of the chain.
- Not all change processes are extremely complex. Once you grasp the challenge and the role of your project in the bigger picture, you can start calibrating the strategy to the specific context and practice, says Nicolaj Ejler.
One of the tools and frameworks that supports you to understand the behaviour you want to change is the Behaviour Change Wheel, developed by Susan Michie, Lou Atkins & Robert West. The Behaviour Change Wheel makes it possible to understand routines and behaviour and the context in which it unfolds to a far greater extent than previously.
Learn more about the Behaviour Change Wheel.