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Beyond Knowledge: The Skills for Public Policy Success | Anand Jha

Beyond Knowledge The Skills For Public Policy Success

ISPP recently held an Interactive tea and policy session with Anand Jha- Managing Director at the Blackstone Group,  where many curious minds asked questions across a range of themes. Let us delve into the diverse themes that were discussed during the session.

The discussion started out with the concept of long-term skills and the role of hobbies in personal development. A question emerged regarding whether hobbies should be monetised. However, for many of our hobbies, the market is not receptive, and demonstrating the determination to advocate for them truly reflects one’s spirit.

In the realm of public policy, promoting a culture of lateral learning emerged as a key endeavour, wherein both policy professional and target audience engage in mutual learning. This is in contrast to a mere display of knowledge, akin to a memory test, where one simply presents their expertise to an audience.  Such an approach lacks collaboration and tends to facilitate one-way-communication. It is only through reciprocal learning that meaningful propositions can be formulated, as one listens and absorbs insights from the other. 

Delving deeper into favourite domains was highlighted as essential to foster relatable and meaningful conversations. Tacit individuals adeptly manage to sidestep superficial discourse.  When collaborating with seasoned industry leaders, you discover their in-depth understanding of their domain during discussions. It is respectful to familiarise yourself with their background and be observant to gauge their personality, which enhances the relevance of the conversation. Moreover, recognising the intense pressure they face to deliver results, and communicating concisely alleviates their burden.

This leads us to the discussion of skills in public policy. Brevity remains a recurring theme in policy discourse. Additionally, a comprehensive understanding of the legal and economic dimensions of the chosen domain is crucial. Verbal and nonverbal communication skills are also paramount. To underscore the importance of these skills, consider scenarios where you have limited time to communicate with influential figures, such as the President of a country or a minister.In these fleeting moments,the ability to convey impactful information is put to test. Mastering concise yet impactful communication becomes imperative in such situations. 

When it comes to the topic of mentorship, mentorship, harsh mentors can surprisingly work wonders by throwing curveballs at you, compelling you to genuinely learn. In fact, it is beneficial to seek mentors who are pressed for time because it forces you to master the art of debriefing in the most concise manner. 

So, what did we discuss in frameworks? 

Controlled or managed risk – Policymakers can sense if you have a pre-decided agenda leading them to rightfully assume that you are not listening. It is better to be non- judgemental as this approach will help in overcoming mental constructs. Otherwise,  they will restrain our ability to make our interactions mutually meaningful. The DPE framework – dream, plan and execute encourages making an objective assessment of life. It encourages individuals to learn about their aspirations, make concrete plans to achieve them and then execute their plans. While talking about this framework, he cites Shakelton’s quote “ Humans do not know what they want”, to highlight the challenges of understanding one’s desires and goals. Acknowledging limitations and objective assessments of life can help individuals gain clarity about their aspirations and priorities. 

The next part of the session revolved around the importance of honesty and communication in various aspects of life. When it comes to key people in our lives, honesty is paramount. It is important to seek honest feedback from trusted friends. Engaging parents in brief yet meaningful conversations daily can help in alleviating their anxieties as most of the anxiety stems from uncertainty. In the context of professional life, the author underscores the importance of aligning personal goals with goals of the organisation. He suggests evaluating job opportunities periodically, considering factors such as career advancement within the same company by exploring different roles and domains. He advises against hastily leaving a job if it offers valuable learning experiences if it can benefit long-term growth. 

For organisations, he suggests using the opportunity evaluation matrix, which encompasses 4 key factors:

  1. Job Context and Content: Examine the relevance and significance of the job’s tasks and how aligned it is with the organisation’s objectives.
  2. Next 5-10 years: Assess potential job opportunities, industry trends and advancements in technology that may impact the job
  3. Colleagues: Consider the quality of colleagues, the level of support and camaraderie among team members. While you can choose your job content, you may not have control over the nature of your colleagues, as they can come and go within an organisation
  4. Long-term Goal Alignment: Assess how well the job aligns with your long-term career goals

Evaluate each factor in the matrix to determine the impact of your overall satisfaction and well-being within the organisation. Consider whether your organisation acknowledges and appreciates your contributions beyond just compensation. Remember that while compensation is important, it may not be the sole determining factor of job satisfaction.  

Anand Jha highlights the importance of an important skill set which is needed in public policy professionals- the ability to navigate unexpected scenarios. He calls it the “ airport test”, where one has the ability to captivate someone’s attention under constrained circumstances. It becomes even more effective if you can envision briefing someone with limited time, such as the President, as mentioned above. 

He goes on to discuss the importance of the garbage can model in organisational decision-making making which acknowledges the chaotic nature of decision-making processes Garbage can model is particularly applicable in developing countries because of the multitude of complex economic, social and political issues, where challenges are numerous and resources are limited. The garbage model challenges the traditional view of decision-making as rational and systematic, highlighting the importance of managing ambiguity and uncertainty within organisations. He also underscored the importance of vendor developmental model for organisations. The model suggests maintaining and strengthening relationships and connections with colleagues, clients and other contacts for personal and professional success. 

Anand Jha concludes by emphasising the importance of both attitude and approach in determining long-term success in both personal and professional life.

PDM Scholar, Class of 2024

Aastha worked at Lokniti, CSDS providing research inputs for various South Asian-centric studies such on the Indian developmental process, such as the police study in Covid-19 affected areas and the Urban poor in Delhi. She completed her undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of Delhi followed by a master’s degree in Development Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. In line with these courses and research experiences, she hopes to further contribute in understanding and broadening the developmental paths pursued by India coupled with continual analyses of the specifications of the public policy frameworks to ensure that these developmental paths are charted in a fair and equitable manner.