I have just come back from the ‘International System Dynamics Conference’ [no, you’ve probably never heard of it], and seen reported a staggeringly brilliant piece of work done for the World Health Organisation [WHO] on its strategy for eradicating Polio. [OK you star MBAs + MIchael Porter – tell us how your 5 forces and value curve analysis would tackle that one !! ]
Polio prevalence has been cut very substantially by vaccination programs, but is still common in parts of the Indian sub-continent and central Africa. Economists advising the WHO had recommended on a cost-per-case basis that eradication was prohibitively expensive, and that strategy should switch to a much cheaper control-response approach – basically responding with vaccination to each new outbreak, rather than widespread preventative treatment. This advice had been adopted by the WHO.
The report, presented by Kimberly Thompson on behalf of colleagues, explained how the WHO leadership had rapidly and completely reversed its policy, following a thorough assessment of the dynamics of polio’s prevalence and spread. Being a prize-winning paper, this is not yet publicly available, but if you search Google Scholar for her name + polio + system dynamics, you will find plenty of background on this work.
A great example of brilliant strategy work, and an indictment of the inadequacy of established strategy tools to tackle major problems.