Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Finding a New Name for PDIA

The Problem:
Various voices are calling for a new name for PDIA. PDIA stands for Problem Driven Iterative Adaptations. It is based on four principles:

  1. Solving locally nominated and defined problems in performance (as opposed to transplanting preconceived and packaged “best practice” solutions). 
  2. Create an authorizing environment for decision-making that encourages positive deviance and experimentation (as opposed to designing projects and programs and then requiring agents to implement them exactly as designed). 
  3. Embed this experimentation in tight feedback loops that facilitate rapid experiential learning (as opposed to enduring long lag times in learning from ex post “evaluation”). 
  4. Engage broad sets of agents to ensure that reforms are viable, legitimate, relevant, and supportable (as opposed to a narrow set of external experts promoting the top-down diffusion of innovation).

The Solution:
Call PDIA, agile reform since it is based on almost the same principles. 
Agile Reform is driven by a common goal and a plethora of trials and errors. It has 5 principles: 

  1. Have a Vision 
  2. Several solutions for the same problem 
  3. Just start doing 
  4. Change is managed at the lowest possible level (subsidiarity)
  5. Big change is the result of the iteration of small changes.

Principle 4 would cover PDIA 1. Principle 2 and 3 covers PDIA 2. Principle 5 covers PDIA 3. It would be nice if Principle 1 would have covered PDIA 4. While there is definitely some affinity, agile reform should learn iteratively and include more emphasis on constituency building. Principle 1 should thus be rewritten as:

  1. Have a vision to engage broad sets of agents for reform

The Solution:
The suggestion in this blog is of course a joke. But the message is clear whether it is called agile reform or PDIA, the paradigms are shifting.  
In a discussion with Duncan Green, Matt Andrews (one of the PDIA authors) said that "we have arrived at a ‘moment’ – a coming together of dissidents from numerous disciplines to reject the logframe/best practice culture and push for something more rooted in reality." 
Duncan provides a list of examples that are not really in line with the PDIA approach. This is probably a better list.