What are IDB Operations Days?
Operations Days are an integral part of BIDAcademy, the knowledge and learning platform of the IDB Group. The main objective of these Days is to create a space for collaboration and constructive dialogue among Project Executing Units (PEUs) within a particular country or sector, in order to share knowledge and experiences that address cross-cutting execution challenges that impact IDB projects.
Development projects are complex endeavors, and many of the challenges that our teams face are intertwined, not isolated from each other. Regardless of the differences in contexts, countries, or sectors, these challenges have common denominators that affect project implementation, including processes, financial terms, scope, and timeline, to name a few. The IDB’s Knowledge, Innovation, and Communication Sector (KIC) conceived of this initiative as a way to strengthen the accompaniment offered by the IDB to its counterparts and progressively strengthen the operational excellence that we strive for in terms of transparency, effectiveness, and efficiency.
The core of an Operations Day consists of a 2-to-3-day workshop where PEUs in a country from one or more sectors work on pre-identified challenges and cocreate potential short- and medium-term solutions. This happens during dynamic fast-paced sessions where knowledge sharing is prioritized and ideation is the name of the game. The main output of the workshop is one action plan per project, detailing specific short-term activities that each team will work on, based on the challenges that were analyzed and the collective conclusions that project teams reached while working together.
Paraguay, Bahamas, Brazil, Ecuador, and Honduras are just some of the countries that hosted an Operations Day workshop in the past. In these countries the challenges for which executing agencies cocreated potential actionable solutions ranged from topics related to environmental safeguards to fiscal procedures, from project management skills to institutional bottlenecks, and many more in between.
Operations Day in Barbados
At the end of September a total of nine projects from Barbados had participated in a virtual version of the Operations Day methodology to address two key cross-cutting challenges that where affecting Barbados’ portfolio:
- Procurement processes
- Strategic communications
At first glance, these areas may seem too general or distant from a PEU standpoint. This is precisely one of the main elements that is stressed during the workshop though, ensuring that the energy and effort spent will focus on actions that the project teams have control or influence over, and not on external circumstances that fall outside of their sphere of action. In Barbados we introduced the term “marginal gains” to serve as our guiding light throughout the exercise. No matter how slow progress may seem, or how small an action may be perceived, it’s extremely valuable if it’s a step forward in the right direction. When we start the ideation process, we don’t look to develop complicated or fancy solutions. On the contrary, from the get-go we know those are impossible to achieve in a short time span, so instead we prefer to focus on practical solutions and keep it simple at the beginning, and progressively move towards more complicated grounds.
Lessons worth sharing
Overall, Barbados taught us that there is a strong will to overcome multidimensional hurdles and make procurement processes more efficient, and that Agile methodologies are adaptable to specific contexts, meaning that a one-size-fits-all approach is not always the answer. We learned from Barbados:
- The importance of systematizing and sharing lessons learned so that other teams have a head start while engaging in complicated processes
- The value of recognizing the difference between reporting for the sake of reporting and sharing resourceful information for decision making purposes
- That strategic communications to key stakeholders should not be an afterthought: How well we communicate (or not) can build or break a project
- Finally, we witnessed the power of peer-to-peer learning and how, in this case, more minds do work better than one
By David Zepeda, knowledge and learning specialist at the IDB.