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"Towards more effective Project Management"

by McNeill H. W., & Belko F.,

Date: London, October, 2011.

Published by: Hambrook Publishing Company

ISBN: 978-0-907833-02-4

Series: A Boolean Society, a publications series produced by the Decision Analysis Initiative 2010-2015, George Boole Foundation, London.
McNeill & Belko have clearly identified the elephant in the room.

For too long M&E and LFA have remained exempt from criticism while literally millions of dollars in development aid and loans have been wasted as a result of ineffective project planning and management.

In the current conditions of fiscal constraint, McNeill & Belko's paper, "Towards more effective Project Management" represents an important first step towards a more rational approach to the management of development resources. It would seem that with the same levels of resource aid, effectiveness might be doubled by applying the methods they suggest. This is of fundamental importance, especially under the current international regime of severe fiscal constraint.

Summary (from document introduction)

The process of economic development can achieve a higher likelihood of sustained progress if the agencies and institutions responsible for project implementation are supported by an effort to maintain constant improvements in institutional capabilities. Government institutions in transition economies need to become increasingly proficient in managing projects so as to maximize their development funding absorptive capacity and ability to implement projects in an increasingly effective and efficient manner.

The use of conventional Monitoring & Evaluation methods tied to the Log Framework Approach (LFA) tends to separate, in the name of "independence" and "transparency", the monitoring and evaluation assessments from project and institutional management. This can result in the timeliness of monitoring being more related to external assessor convenience than to project management needs. Institutional management can become less directly involved in project management affairs because M&E+LFA is often assumed to be a "project management system". This often results in implementing agencies only focusing attention on project problems at the time of M&E visits.

M&E+LFA can "perform" when projects are relatively simple, lower budget and well planned simply because such projects have a lower probability of failing. However, more complex and higher project budgets run the risk of an inability to respond to problems as they arise if reliance is placed solely on M&E+LFA.

From the standpoint of the funding organizations (FOs) regular M&E visits can give a false sense of management effectiveness when in fact M&E+LFA do not possess the characteristics required to assist FOs minimize risks at the planning stage. They are ineffective in providing timely orientation when problems arise, reducing the likelihood that projects can be brought back up to speed so as to meet original expectations. The quality FO portfolios and the status of FOs is directly related to project achievements. FOs have a direct interest in ensuring that project management is effective. Without any doubt the mutual interests of FOs, governments, implementing agencies, project managers and beneficiaries (all stakeholders) can be enhanced by replacing inappropriate planning based upon M&E schedules and activity profiles based upon LFA.

Real Time Audit (RTA) is a project management approach that maintains the independence and transparency of project assessment and guarantees the timeliness of vital information for FOs, governments, institutional and project management and beneficiaries This can increase the responsiveness of project management to evolving issues and maintain FO, implementing agency and project management and beneficiary focus and involvement as a continuing characteristic of project development. When events change, as a result of any number of factors, project and institutional managers need assistance in the rapid identification of optional pathways to maintain project momentum, coherence and progress. This support does not exist in conventional M&E+LFA. The use of a Tactical Options Map (TOM) as a replacement for the conventional LFA can provide this base line support.

The combination of RTA and TOM provides an easy-to-manage system with a methodology to assists FOs, governments, implementing agencies, project managers and beneficiaries with a fully transparent project management system. A major benefit of this system is that positive project progress momentum is more likely to be sustained through real time adaptation and adjustment. This is far superior to the conventional ex-post reporting of "lessons-learned" that are often identified too late to benefit the current project.

The purpose of this paper is to encourage discussion on what the authors think is an important topic by describing the shortcomings of the M&E+LFA approach in the context of supporting the general demands of project management and to explain why Real Time Audit and Tactical Options Maps provide a significant potential in supporting a more effective basis for managing economic development.

This short paper will be followed by three separate papers in this series by the authors entitled, "Ethical Decision Analysis", "Real Time Audit" and "Tactical Options Maps".

The authors

Hector McNeill is Director of the Systems Engineering Economics Laboratory (SEEL), Portsmouth, United Kingdom. He is a graduate of Cambridge University in Agriculture with post graduation in Agricultural Economics and, at the University of Stanford, he completed post-graduate studies in International Development Economics and Systems Engineering.

Fahro Belko is an M&E Specialist with the Ministry of Foreign Trade & Economic Relations of the Government of Bosnia & Herzegovina. He is a graduate of the University of Sarajevo in Agriculture with post-graduation in Pedology.