India is a diverse land. With a population of over 125 crores spread across 29 states and 7 union territories, it faces a unique challenge – one of implementation. The central and state Governments launch hundreds of programmes/schemes every year, each catering to a different group of people, and solving a different problem. But, hardly any of them get implemented properly.
How implementation works
Let us take a step back here and understand how the implementation actually works in a government setup. It usually starts with a government department being given ownership for the implementation of a scheme/initiative. The department, in turn, draws up a plan of action – who will be responsible at the district level, village level etc, how will the funds flow from one place to another, which sections of the population will receive the benefits, how will they be tracked etc. Once the plan is in place, the department communicates the process to all citizens and the initiative/scheme is put in motion.
The problem in implementation
So, then what’s the problem? One is that the department responsible for implementation of the scheme is responsible for hundreds of other things as well, and there is no clear demarcation with respect to how much time should be allocated where. Second is that the head of the department is liable to be transferred at any point of time. This basically means that there is no stable leadership for the department. Even if the department heads were to figure out exactly what needs to be done and somehow start excelling at it, there is no telling how long this would continue. It is worth noticing that both the challenges mentioned above are unique to the government setup. A multi-national firm would never allow ambiguity or instability to seep into its system.
What is the solution?
Not only is our government department burdened with work, but also increasingly unstable. What the department needs is guidance and support. It needs to be continuously evaluated and told what is expected of it. And, even when the top leadership changes, the processes need to continue. No one can be expected to perform without clear guidelines and communication. Everything mentioned above comes under the broad head of “Review and monitoring”.
Introduction to review and monitoring
Review & Monitoring is the process through which a management team is able to keep track of the progress, receive and provide feedback at the right time to the right person in order to further the objective. Any Review & Monitoring set up has three elements:
1. Defining clear roles & responsibilities
2. Monitoring key performance indicators
3. Regularly reviewing progress and giving feedback
Defining clear roles and responsibilities
The government doesn’t work on guidelines and frameworks. It works on letters, orders and meetings. It is not enough to just define a ‘programme’. It needs to be explicitly discussed what is expected out of each individual in the government. Somewhere around 2015, Haryana government introduced the academic monitoring system in the state. As a part of the system, the block level monitors were required to visit eight government schools per month and report the issues being faced by the schools. These issues were then to be entered on an online platform and sent to the concerned government officers for resolution. The ambitious scheme aimed to have all schools of Haryana visited at least twice in the entire year. However, for the first few months, the compliance was terrible. The problem was that while the guidelines and orders had been issued, no one had been explicitly told that they are supposed to visit schools. Due to lack of accountability, no one really prioritised this. It is only recently the education department started emphasising this. Compliance was regularly tracked through an online report and shared with the officers. The officers who were performing were appreciated and the slackers were pulled up. What this mechanism basically did was reducing the whole ‘Academic Monitoring System’ to a compliance report. It was now clear what the monitors were expected to do. They had to ensure that their compliance report was always at 100%, i.e. they were visiting all the schools that they were required to.
Monitoring of key performance indicators
Many a times government systems track data that is either not possible to obtain easily or is subjective and hence not designed for quick analysis. Once the officials are given specific tasks to carry out, it is imperative that tracking of the progress takes place in a systematic fashion. These can be meetings to be held, data points to be filled, technology systems to be updated, people to be registered etc. Monitoring of key performance indicators helps in understanding how the initiative is progressing and consequently plan for tweaks to be made. This constant flow of data helps the top management in guiding the machinery in the right direction.
For instance, in the state of Haryana, the government has set up a 3 tier review structure for monitoring the grievances received through CM Window. CM Window is a technology-based grievance redressal system of the state. By monitoring very specific metrics such as time taken for redressal of grievance, the number of pending grievances in a district/department etc., the government was able to improve the redressal by 25 percentage points.
Regularly reviewing progress and giving feedback
Based on the data that flows in and the objective of the initiative, the top management should also hold regular (at fixed frequency) reviews to evaluate the progress of the department and provide feedback to the officials working on the field. This is important to maintain the focus of the officials on the initiative, promote best practices and also push forward those that are lagging behind. The reviews allow for course correction, motivation and planning forward. The review meetings also provide field officials to raise their concerns and have them sufficiently addressed. This entire process helps in building a trust equation between all the levels of the machinery thus ensuring its smooth functioning.
Until 2014, the Himachal Pradesh Education Department did not have a robust mechanism for this. We facilitated its initiation to improve the quality of education in government-run schools of Himachal Pradesh. Within a year, over 6,500 schools were visited by government officials. Each one of them provided specific feedback to the department and 90% of them have already been addressed.
Thus a strong review and monitoring system can and has ensured effective and efficient implementation of schemes/initiatives. We at Samagra believe that any government system is capable of delivering high quality results if guided in the right direction through the right mechanisms!