Episode 15: Doran Moreland

BSC Director Salimah Samji interviews IPP alum, Doran Moreland, to hear more about how he is utilizing what he learned in the program as he works to resolve public problems.

Doran has held numerous roles in education including Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Belonging at Ivy Tech Community College, State Programs and Government Affairs Director at EdChoice, and Co-founder and Community Relations Director of Rocketship Education, a kindergarten through 5th grade public charter school.

For more information on Harvard Kennedy School's Implementing Public Policy (IPP) program, visit the website, read about the PDIA approach, and access the PDIA toolkit.


Salimah Samji Hello and welcome to the Practice of Resolving Public Problems Podcast Series. My name is Salimah Samji and I am the Director of Building State Capability at the Harvard Center for International Development. This new series on the practice of resolving public problems features interviews with alums of our Implementing Public Policy (IPP) executive program at the Harvard Kennedy School. The episodes will focus on how our alums are using the PDIA tools and approach in designing and implementing public policy. We hope you enjoy them. Today I'm speaking with Doran Moreland, who is a senior consultant on the Strategy and Outcomes Team within Resultant, a technology focused management consulting firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Doran has held numerous roles in education, including vice president of Diversity, Equity and belonging at Ivy Tech, Community College State Programs and government affairs director at Edge Choice and Co-Founder and Community Relations Director of Rocketship Education, a kindergarten through fifth grade public charter school. He completed our IPP program in December 2019. Welcome, Doran.

Doran Moreland Hey, Salimah. So nice to connect with you.

Salimah Samji Wonderful. So let's get started. It's been over two years since you completed the IPP program. What do you still remember as being useful?

Doran Moreland So I found the program to be extremely useful and practical. Sometimes what I find is that knowing where to start is often the most significant challenge. And one thing that IPP training really helped me to get better at is determining where to get started. I'll admit that when I first came into the program in 2019, I brought with me a few perfectionistic tendencies. Found myself freezing in place until I could find the absolute perfect solution or what I thought would be the most perfect solution. Another thing I learned from IPP is what's important is just getting started and beginning on an incremental challenge and then kind of building on it as you go.

Salimah Samji Can you share some examples about how you've been using what you've learned in the program?

Doran Moreland Sure. So what's interesting is that when I started, I was working in the public sector at a large community college based in Indiana. Today, I work in the private sector as a technology consultant working in service to public sector clients. So these are state and local governments, higher ed institutions, and the like. And basically, we're called in to address a client's most difficult challenges. Reflecting on my experience in IPP compared to where I am today, that theory of applying agile principles to government work that was presented by Professor Matt Andrews was really, really innovative to me. So this notion of starting with a minimally viable process or idea and iterating on it, getting feedback, going back, iterating more, is something that was really kind of mind blowing to me. And now that I'm working in the technology space, I'm realizing how ahead of his time Matt Andrews was in introducing that to us. And honestly, that application of Agile within the public sector space to me is under applied by public sector leaders.

Salimah Samji Have you shared your learning with your colleagues at work?

Doran Moreland Yeah, so I work on a team on a regular basis, so I'm often having to share my concepts with other team members who have different skills or different perspectives. In fact, not too long ago I use a fishbone to do just that and it worked great. It allows my team members to visualize what I'm up to or when I'm not able to articulate with words exactly what I'm looking for, I can use visuals like the fishbone to get the point across and to get their feedback.

Salimah Samji What was one of the first things you did when you came back from the IPP program? You were the one who came to the program, you were changed, your organization wasn't. And how did you think about bringing some of these ideas or change back to your organization?

Doran Moreland So, Salimah, once I had finished the program, got back to Indiana, I had all these ideas in my head. And to your really good point about, you know, I had changed dramatically, but my colleagues had not. And so it was then on me to try to impart some of the knowledge that I had gained in the program. And going back to that, what I'd mentioned earlier about applying Agile to the public sector, that was really one of the big things that I tried to do back in my job. You know, we were definitely culturally a sort of a waterfall type place, command and control, you know, like sit in a room with leaders and try to bake up the grand idea and really kind of keep that idea cloistered away from others until we felt it was 100% right. I learned very quickly in IPP that that's not the right way to do it. And so even though I wasn't saying, hey, this is agile, those are the types of behaviors I was demonstrating in my work. Presenting things early and often, asking for lots of feedback, not worrying too much about things being 100% all the boxes being checked, but just getting more feedback and then trying to tailor my work based on what I was hearing. And so that kind of demonstration, those sorts of behaviors, that's the first thing I did in trying to demonstrate what I learned from IPP, and it has made me a more effective leader in my work today.

Salimah Samji Wonderful. Now you know, one of the things about IPP program is once you complete, you join this community of practice. What does the IPP community of practice mean to you?

Doran Moreland Means so much. The first word that comes to mind is unity. Unity in terms of celebrating our cultural diversity and global citizenship within the program, and also just unity in terms of solidarity among public sector practitioners and problem solvers. The level of caring and curiosity and support shown by the IPP community has been incredible. And what's really remarkable is that it's still being demonstrated today.

Salimah Samji Great response. As part of this podcast series, I have a series of rapid fire questions that I'd like to also ask. What are you reading currently?

Doran Moreland So I'm waiting on a book to come be sent to me called After Nationalism by Sam Goldman. It's really exploring the basis of American citizenship and sort of pointing a way forward for Americans in these highly fractured times that we live in. So I'm really excited to read more about that, just kind of feel a little bit more hopeful about our future in the United States.

Salimah Samji Definitely hope is something we need a lot more of.

Doran Moreland Right.

Salimah Samji What's your favorite part of the PDIA process?

Doran Moreland Definitely the three A's: abilities, access, authority. The three A's really help you take inventory of what you have and what you need within your team. And they also kind of help you to granularly pick through what you have. And it provides an unvarnished view of like, okay, we're good in the abilities area, but we're really lacking in authority. And so going back to what I said earlier, when it comes to like knowing where to start, the three A's is a perfect way to get you started. I also really loved the section within the IPP curriculum focused on building highly effective teams led by Dr. Monika Higgins. I thought it was so brilliant, and what I really learned from that is that a good team really requires a good mix of technicians and generalists.

Salimah Samji What advice do you have for people working to solve public problems?

Doran Moreland So the word that comes to mind is optimism. You know, working with public sector problems requires optimism. And the same goes for your experience in the IPP program. So the advice I would impart is focus on what's possible. Don't overwhelm yourself with matters you can't control. Incremental wins are good. Continuous progress towards your goal is very, very important. And most importantly, focus on communication, on framing your problems in ways that others can see and contribute to and understand, and that they can collaborate with. And just most of all, to stay positive.

Salimah Samji I love that be optimistic and stay positive note that you ended with. I'm sure our users will find it very helpful. Thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your experience with us, Doran.

Doran Moreland Thank you. Appreciate the opportunity.

Salimah Samji Thank you for listening to our podcast today. If you liked it, please check out our website bsc.cid.harvard.edu or follow us on social media @HarvardBSC. You can also find links and other information under the description of this podcast.