As experienced procurement professionals, it can be tempting for us to rush through the planning stage of reform projects. However, planning is about more than drafting a list of activities. This is a critical moment to develop a cohesive theory of change, create alignment within teams, and build buy-in with team members. In fact, we at OCP have found that being very intentional during the planning phase of reform projects is crucial for achieving impact.
We recently saw the value of a robust planning process at LiftOff, our weeklong kickoff workshop in Mexico City for the 5 teams of procurement reformers participating in Lift. To be accepted into Lift, each team already had to demonstrate a good understanding of the procurement challenge that they want to solve, as well as a solid approach to tackle it. Plus, taking this time boosted excitement around the projects and the months ahead.
All teams found that taking the time at LiftOff to go even deeper in analyzing their challenge and refine their plans made a difference.
Teams spent most of their four days at LiftOff on activities to develop their plans. First, teams considered the challenge (why), then about the stakeholders (who), and designing the reform strategy (how) and lastly, measuring their impact (what). Together, these pieces resulted in cohesive theories of change to drive implementation efforts.
We are sharing the materials we developed for LiftOff to help you think through the why, who, how and what of your own reform plans so that you can use them for your next project as well.
- Theory of Change Worksheet
- Design for Impact Worksheets (version 1 and version 2)
- Challenge Wheel
- Stakeholder Mapping Worksheet
Here’s what teams valued about the process and how it improved their reform plans:
- Better team alignment and ownership over approach. Talking through the nitty-gritty details of root causes, relevant stakeholders, and strategies could become difficult at times. This was particularly true for cross-functional teams whose members bring different perspectives and expertise. However, by having these tough conversations while co-creating their reform plans, each team came away with a strong shared vision and ownership over the approaches.
- More creative – and stronger – solutions. The first idea for a solution may not always be the best idea. By taking the time to re-examine their challenges and brainstorm, all teams came away with fresh ideas to integrate into their reform strategies. The teams’ approaches better addressed the real root causes of their challenges when grounded in a deeper understanding of their issues. For example, one team realized that an informational campaign alone is unlikely to drastically increase vendor diversity since awareness of bidding opportunities is just one of several barriers potential vendors might face.
- More meaningful theories of change. Teams developed logically coherent theories of change, built on their nuanced thinking about the problem, stakeholders, and approaches. The more details they could add to their theories of change, the better teams understood what day-to-day activities will help them reach their goals. Plus, their theories of change will help teams identify useful indicators and benchmarks for monitoring and evaluation.
What works well
Here are some insights from LiftOff that can help your teams get the most of our planning processes:
- Cross-functional and cross-sector teams: We saw that the teams that brought together people from across different government departments and other sectors such as civil society really benefited from the planning process at LiftOff. Since these team members don’t necessarily work together on a day-to-day basis, sometimes it took more time to align. Yet these teams’ diverse perspectives and expertise resulted in more robust plans. Plus, by involving members of important stakeholder groups in the planning process, they have a strong foundation to work together moving forward on implementation.
- Supportive environment: We were mindful about creating a respectful and collaborative environment. By helping everyone feel heard and respected, regardless of seniority, team members brought their best selves forward and made meaningful contributions during the planning process.
- Going analog: Although we’re are often all about moving away from paper and towards technology, at this stage of planning we like to make an exception. By coming together in-person and closing their computers, teams were able to focus at the task at hand and each other rather than their email. Plus, using paper and sticky notes allowed teams to easily visualize connections, identify patterns, and synthesize ideas. Most of the planning activities at LiftOff involved printed worksheets, writing with markers on whiteboards, and using sticky notes. We’ve included some of our key worksheets above.
Asking team members to give the planning process the time that it deserves can feel like a lot to ask. Especially when you’re on deadlines and caught up in the day-to-day. We know this can be hard. But as we have seen at LiftOff, doing this work is essential for long-term success.
We hope you find our planning worksheets as useful as the Lift teams have. If you have any questions about how to use our worksheets or would like additional assistance with your own reform efforts, please contact us.