Episode 6: Mitchell Rusu

BSC Director Salimah Samji interviews Implementing Public Policy (IPP) alum, Mitchell Rusu, to hear more about how he is utilizing what he learned in the program as he works to resolve public problems.

Mitchell Rusu is based in London, and is the Global Recovery and Resolution Planning Director at Bank of America, providing oversight of RRP related projects across the international jurisdictions. He is responsible for overseeing the coordination of large projects that prepare financial institutions for potential periods of severe stress and identify in advance contingency options that could be implemented to stabilize their financial position and recover from financial losses. Mitch's career spans over 20 years, working for large corporations such as Ford Motor Company, GE Capital and Bank of America in both the US and the UK. During his career, he has held various positions across Finance, Treasury, Risk, and corporate strategy departments. To learn more about Mitch's IPP journey, read his BSC blog post, PDIA Application in the Private Sector.

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.

Transcript

Salimah Samji Hello and welcome to the sixth episode of the Practice of Resolving Public Problems podcast series. My name is Salimah Samji and I'm 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 Mitchell Rusu, who is the global recovery and resolution planning director at Bank of America, providing oversight of RRP related projects across the international jurisdictions. He is responsible for overseeing the coordination of large projects that prepare financial institutions for potential periods of severe stress and identify in advance contingency options that could be implemented to stabilize their financial position and recover from financial losses. Mitch's career spans over 20 years, working for large corporations such as Ford Motor Company, GE Capital and Bank of America in both the US and the UK. During his career, he has held various positions across Finance, Treasury, Risk, and corporate strategy departments. Mitch is based in London and he completed our IPP program in December 2019. Welcome, Mitch. 

Mitchell Rusu Thank you, Salimah. 

Salimah Samji So let's get started. You know, it's been almost two years since you completed the IPP program. What do you remember as being useful? 

Mitchell Rusu Well, first and foremost, the IPP program was a fantastic course that I was fortunate to join. It has equipped me with tools that I have been able to apply in my daily tasks, in my daily responsibilities. And it has improved the way my team is responding to crises and around all international jurisdictions that we cover. And it has improved the way we conduct the implementation of the various policies that we are required to ensure we're compliant with in operations and activities that we carry out around the globe. I would probably highlight as most useful tools that I have taken from the course. Firstly, the fishbone or the tool that helps us to perform a root cause analysis to deconstruct the problem, understand the components of the project that we would be undertaking. Another powerful tool that I learned doing the program was how to build supportive teams and secure authority. Learning how to develop a team and how to attract the necessary talent, even when you don't have formal authority over the members of the team, was an extremely powerful tool, which helped me realize that many successful people know how to build teams without, as I said, having that formal authority over the members of the team. Last but not least, I would probably call the most useful tool that I have learned during the program was the iterative approach, the testing approach that I have actually been able to implement across many projects that my team has undertaken. 

Salimah Samji So, Mitch, you talked about the fishbone, you talked about teams and you talked about the iterative approach. Can you give some examples of how you've used those three tools? 

Mitchell Rusu Definitely. So the fishbone, I believe it's, as I mentioned, is an extremely useful and powerful tool. It helps you to visualize the overall project, to identify potential bottlenecks or areas that will require additional support, and it will also help you to identify stakeholders that you could engage to facilitate the successful execution of the project. It can also help you to identify various aspects of the project that could be addressed by initiating parallel work streams such that the overall execution of the project can continue, even though some areas are stalling. At the beginning of each project now, I tried to identify the stakeholders that would most likely have a big impact on the outcome of the project by either providing resources, providing expert knowledge inputs, playing a key role in the approval of the project or by simply being able to delegate the authority. So what I always do at the beginning of a project is to develop a list of key stakeholders and organize preliminary discussions, briefing sessions to explain the scope of the project, to highlight why their input is necessary, and to secure the necessary delegation of authority that will help me to build the appropriate team for the project. 

Salimah Samji Wonderful. Have you shared any of your learnings, you've talked about how you have done this with your teams? Have you shared any of your learning with the colleagues at work? 

Mitchell Rusu Absolutely. Upon completion of the IPP program, I started to apply the learnings that I accumulated during the course, such as how to accurately define the problem, identify its root cause and the potential points of entry to initiate parallel work streams, I applied the knowledge of how to build supportive teams, how to engage authorizers, how to secure delegation of authority and most importantly, how to run iterative tests that helped us to identify the best solution available. I quickly realized that these were very powerful tools that would help my team across the various projects that we undertake. And I started sharing this knowledge with them. Previously, we were approaching our projects in a linear sequential manner, which often resulted in work streams that ran into roadblocks, deadlines that were missed and long hours being blocked by the project team. Using the PDIA approach helped to identify and acquire the necessary resources to eliminate the churn and to avoid delays in the execution of the overall project. My team was very happy with the new ways of approaching the project. The internal and external stakeholders engaged more closely and provided more support, and our authorizers have congratulated us on how smoothly the projects were being executed. 

Salimah Samji Congratulations, that sounds excellent.

Mitchell Rusu Thank you. Thank you, and thank you for all your help and for teaching us all these amazing tools. 

Salimah Samji Most of the class had people from the public sector and you came from the private sector, and I was wondering if you can share a little bit about how you found what you learned relevant for the private sector. 

Mitchell Rusu What I have found was that the tools that the PDIA approach is providing helps you to build the framework that can be applied to any kind of project, any kind of problem that you are trying to solve. I would even go to arguing that it can even be applied in our personal lives, not necessarily just professional, but we can follow a similar approach in any type of problem, especially complex problems professionally and personally. So I was probably even more successful in applying the PDIA tools in the private sector, given that probably private organizations are a bit more nimble, are a bit quicker to react and willing to explore and take on risk, much more so than public organizations. So I would argue that the private sector could benefit even more from the PDIA approach, and I would definitely encourage people that even the private sector to join this course. 

Salimah Samji What does the IPP community of practice mean to you? 

Mitchell Rusu The IPP program has allowed me to meet and interact with colleagues from around the world. People of very high personal and professional caliber. They came from diverse professional backgrounds and everyone had vast experience in their areas of expertise. Attending the Harvard IPP program allowed me to learn about various issues that societies around the globe are facing. It held me to interact with people that I would have never been able to meet otherwise, to develop long lasting relationships, and to understand how the PDIA tools can be applied across a wide range of problems and fields in different environments. 

Salimah Samji In this podcast series, I'm asking a series of rapid fire questions, so I'll start those. What are you currently reading? 

Mitchell Rusu There is No Planet B. I believe it is by Mike Berners-Lee. 

Salimah Samji What's it about? It's a great title. Planet B. 

Mitchell Rusu It looks at the issues that we're currently facing as humanity. It's exploring and trying to understand how we're going to be continuing to feed the world. What does climate change mean? What plastics and pandemics do to our society? It's an amazing book. It raises a lot of interesting issues that we should all be aware of and should try to to come together to solve, to make our world a better world. 

Salimah Samji Definitely sounds like something timely and needed. What's your favorite part of the PDIA process? 

Mitchell Rusu Definitely the iterative testing approach. I would particularly call it out because it is an extremely powerful tool. I like to compare it to a problem solving function that allows you to rapidly run multiple iterations with the aim of finding the best solution or the most appropriate solution. 

Salimah Samji And what advice do you have for people trying to solve complex problems? 

Mitchell Rusu Join the Harvard IPP program. The tools that you'll learn in this program, will provide you with the framework to be successful when trying to to solve public and private problems. 

Salimah Samji I like that you added public and private and on your earlier point of personal issues, we actually have had people use the PDIA approach on their relationships, in churches, because as you rightly point out, it really is a problem solving toolkit. And problems are everywhere, not just in the public sector and they're everywhere. Well, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your thoughts and experience with us today, Mitch. 

Mitchell Rusu Thank you very much, Salimah. It was a pleasure, thank you very much for having me. 

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.