Ring 2 Implementation arrangements

Managing certainty and uncertainty in program design (circle 1) translates into implementation arrangements. Meta-Frame advocates that the two are given equal weight and are carefully thought through and connected. In our experience this does not always happen, much attention goes to planning content but often far less to creating an effective program of implementation. Moreover, often once implementation is underway it is on a blind course and adjustment is through trouble-shooting mainly.

Examples:

  1. Program management arrangements – responsibilities need to avoid blind courses and decision overload
  2. Financing mechanisms – value for money to be safeguarded in the budgeting processes
  3. Feedback, monitoring and reporting systems -timeliness monitoring and feedback mechanisms provide the timely response that allows adjustment
  4. Communication systems – to create transparency and support
  5. Stakeholder management – facilitation and articulation are central to improve quality of implementation and build up a conducive environment

Program management arrangements

Program management arrangements probably are the largest determinant of the ability to achieve objectives. There are many arrangements and many supervising systems. Particularly when a program is complex, they require considerable thought to make sure that the program can be implemented and not get entangled in overload, procedure or lack of responsibility.

In program management it is also important to thinks of sponsorship. Especially when a program entails considerable change, champions are required. Coordination committees and steering committees should be seen as sources of support too, not as internal control mechanisms only.

Financing mechanisms

Financing is where things comes together. Unfortunately it is also still often the domain of input control. Financing mechanisms are often primarily designed to achieve internal accountability requirements. While this is important, financing mechanisms should also serve program achievement. Program objectives and financing mechanisms need to be in line.

Points:

  • Budgets and financial reports should make it possible to link expenditures with outcomes. If not, it is not possible to achieve cost effectiveness
  • Flexibility is one of the largest and most useful challenges in budgeting.
  • Budget efficiency is prime and can be facilitated.
  • Consider financially supporting on-going processes that help achieve objectives. Avoid ‘projectization’

Tools:

  • Output based budget systems
  • Beyond budget systems
  • Process budgeting
  • Budget efficiency check

Feedback, monitoring and reporting systems

Feedback is of essence to steer program and policy implementation. Reporting and monitoring are the two most common feedback mechanisms, but there are others. Ideally these systems should be timely and confronting. Relevance comes from focussing on program content and program context. The latter allows one to spot new opportunities and risks in achieving program objectives.

Some points:

  • There are often many unexplored possibilities for feedback
  • Not all detail is required upfront – it is often better to work in two steps. Issues are flagged in the first step and investigated in the second
  • Involving implementers and stakeholders in monitoring creates spirit of change
  • To avoid predictability it is useful to consider variation in monitoring and feedback systems
  • We often learn more from understanding implementation than from planning

Tools and instruments:

  • Implementation research
  • Best case benchmarking
  • Participatory monitoring techniques
  • Unorthodox feedback mechanisms
  • Perception systems

Communication systems

Communication can be a powerful component of program implementation arrangements. It helps to inform and achieve transparency. It enlarges the circle of players actively engaged – which in complex programs is important. It can remove unnecessary resistance. Lack of familiarity is often the greatest source of ill-feeling.. Communication can also be used to create a constructive feel-good factor and get value-time of main players.

Tools:

  • Visibility strategy
  • Good/bad news communication

Stakeholder management

In managing the context of a program stakeholder management is important. Stakeholders can be an important source of support of a program and should not be alienated. What is required is a considered planning of the process: understanding who the stakeholders are and then managing their engagement.

Points:

  • Try to concentrate at least on those stakeholders that (potentially) have a bearing on the program – avoid trying to comply to all that have a divergent opinion
  • Respect diversity and try not to negotiate it away
  • Shared decisions are better – negotiation is more usually mentioned than done

Tools: