Implementing Good Ideas

Professors: Hinote and O'Mahony
Units: 0.5
Elective Course


You found the solution, and you feel really good about it.

When you first got this analysis assignment for the (insert government agency here), you were not sure how to start—it was such a complex and intractable problem, with many conflicting restraints and constraints. You sought out advice, you recruited the help of a support team, and you applied your training. You scoped the project, researched the contributing factors, adopted an insightful model, and did the analysis. Now, after months of work, you have the answer. You are scheduled to brief the findings and recommendations to the project sponsor next week, and you are ready.

But there is a gnawing concern. Will this solution be implemented?

The hard truth is, it probably won’t be.

In this course, we will examine what happens after the problem is scoped, the analysis is done, the report is written, and the findings are delivered to the “decision maker.” (And we will discuss why we might want to put “decision maker” in quotes).

There are many reasons why a good solution may not be implemented—some obvious, and some not so much. We will spend several weeks describing these reasons. As we do this, we want to build a sense of empathy for the people who receive the report and try to implement its recommendations. It’s important that we appreciate some of the pressures that these leaders face, especially when recommendations lead to major changes in an organization’s structure and culture. It takes great energy and focus to lead change in the government, and sometimes leading change can be quite risky at both the professional and personal levels.

As we appreciate the challenges that government leaders face, we will ask ourselves if there are practical things we can do make implementation easier and more likely. We will consider a provocative proposition: as we serve organizations by analyzing problems and proposing solutions, we are leading organizational change at the intellectual level. Rather than being dispassionate and independent of the organization we are serving, we must assume we are an integral part of the change management required to solve the problem. To do this well, we need to become “scholar practitioners” of organizational change. Moreover, we need to apply this lens as we do the work, write the report, and deliver the findings.

Along the way, we will examine several real-world case studies that illustrate the challenge in very practical terms. These case studies set the stage for our discussions as they illustrate the challenges at a practical level, and they also show how some people dealt with these challenges.

We will concentrate on the dynamic within the Department of Defense and its environment, but many of the issues we examine are widely applicable to the U.S. government and others around the globe.

By the end of the course, you will be better able to serve an organization with your analytical skills, and you will be less likely to see multiple copies of your report collecting dust on a shelf.