Building the Capability to Implement a Growth Strategy in Albania

Project team: Matt Andrews, Zerina Bruci, Peter Harrington, Tim McNaught, Salimah Samji, and Edit Uruci
May 2014 – June 2016

Reforms often have limited impacts because they introduce solutions that do not work in the contexts in which they are applied, and more importantly, they fail to engage local people in making the solutions work. Given the limited success of past reforms, the need to find and fit solutions that work, and the fact that future growth strategies require civil servants to solve problems, a new approach to administrative reform in Albania was sought. BSC was thus invited to use the PDIA approach to build the capability of the Albanian public administration.

In May 2014, BSC established Black Belt Teams (BBTs) across government, where groups of public servants tackled projects and policies of importance to the country’s growth agenda. The BBTs identified and deconstructed local problems, pursued a repeated set of time-sensitive tasks to address the problems, worked step-by-step across organizational boundaries to solve them, and facilitated progress, change, and lessons about ‘what works’. The iterative process of meeting regularly to learn from the experiences, and to decide on next steps, helped facilitate efficient and effective problem solving. BSC facilitators also met with the BBTs every 3-4 weeks to provide support and check on their progress. During this phase, BSC trained and supported 74 government officials working across 11 multi-agency teams.

Albania workshop

In September 2015, BSC launched a six-month hybrid training workshop entitled Project Launchpad: Project management and execution for complex tasks to promote a structured engagement through learning in class about ways to manage projects and learning in action where concepts were then turned into practice. Teams were expected to turn project ideas into action, through iterations with structured feedback and learning, and to work with groups of stakeholders to expand capabilities and reach. Participants were assigned individual as well as team homework between in-class meetings, which was designed to assist them in applying the tools they learned to address the complex challenges they faced in their projects. During this phase, BSC trained and supported 37 government officials, from 5 ministries, working across 6 BBTs.

Graduation ceremony Albania

In October 2016, BSC engaged with the relevant authorizers of the Launchpad teams, as well as the teams themselves who had a lot of experience in using the PDIA model, to determine which teams wanted to continue their projects. Through the Launchpad process the teams were efficiently and effectively presenting their work, and working out next steps, with little prompting from the PDIA facilitators. In this phase, BSC wanted to foster independence of the teams by allowing them to take more ownership of the work process. In addition, the focus was on teams learning about the process of engaging investors and marketing—given the stage several of the projects reached at the end of Launchpad. During this phase, BSC trained and supported 20 government officials, from 6 ministries and agencies, working across 3 BBTs.

Over the entire period of 3 years, BSC has trained and supported a total of 131 government officials, in 10 ministries and agencies, working across 20 teams—allowing cross fertilization of ideas and the emergence of new solutions, relationships and capabilities. This does not include authorizers or others who the team has worked with because of this engagement. This amounts to 7,500 in-person training hours which includes:

  • 25 workshops (180-200 hours of in-person training), and
  • 300-400 weekly team meetings facilitated by BSC team members.