AFTER years of research and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the Managing for Development Results (MfDR) approach has become commonly practiced by champions of Results Based Management (RBM). I will unpack the concept of RBM in another article before Christmas.
Similarly, MfDR has increasingly become a widely adopted paradigm among public sector and non-state development actors. It is understood broadly as a management strategy whose emphasis is the achievement of development results at all levels of an intervention, be it a policy, programme or project.
The approach uses performance information to support enhanced decision-making processes through the utilisation of technical tools for strategic planning, progress monitoring, impact evaluation and risk management. At the core of the MfDR strategy is the concrete and continuous utilisation of evidence to inform all phases of development processes. Typically, the approach involves shared tenets of good governance, which include objective setting, accountability, transparency, evidence-based decision making, and constant adaptation and improvement. To institutionalise the practice of MfDR, many governments have embarked on strengthening their systems for monitoring and evaluation (M&E).
The utilisation of results in informing development processes is the central focus of the MfDR strategy. A result is a describable and measurable development change emanating from a cause and effect relationship (i.e. outputs, outcomes and impacts). In that regard, the MfDR strategy puts an emphasis on the acquisition of evidence by those in charge of public policy and decision making and directly utilise such information for development purposes. There has been an evolution at global level of the adoption and utilisation of the MfDR approach by development agencies and governments in their efforts to lower poverty levels, attain equitable and sustainable economic growth, and improve the definition and measurement of development results.
Since the Monterrey Conference of 2002, there has been a focus on managing the work of the development community (which comprises partner countries and donors) to achieve the maximum development results. Thus, although there were efforts before 2002, the new era of a shared and strengthened understanding concerning the need to think about results and ways to sustainably realise them from the beginning to the end of an intervention has become the emphasis. In 2004 at the Second Round Table Meeting on Managing for Results, principles for the MfDR were agreed by development stakeholders and these included aligned programming; results-based M&E; keeping simplified measurement and reporting; managing for results, not managing by results; and learning and decision making using information from results.
In that regard, MfDR incorporates newer and more innovative ideas about country ownership, harmonisation, collaboration, partnership, and alignment. In addition, MfDR focuses continuously on country outcome performance, which is a higher management standard than giving prominence to short-term results only. At best, MfDR is broadly considered an example of best practice in development management. Unequivocally, in an attempt to achieve desired development results, MfDR focuses on improving all financial, technological, human, and natural resources, internal and external. For that reason, it becomes inevitable to view MfDR not only as a methodology, but as a way of thinking and acting, built and linked on a practically oriented toolbox for enhanced public management.
Therefore, to achieve success, it is crucial to invest in the development and nurture of a ‘performance culture’ that could be attained operationally through full implementation of the MfDR approach. Nevertheless, this kind of development achievement can come effectively by creating incentivising results-focused management systems and internal preconditions through targeted human resource and organisational development. However, capacity development alone would not be enough, thus requiring a stronger and sustained leadership and political buy-in, of which both are essential ingredients in pursuing the fuller benefits of institutionalising an MfDR approach.
Consequently, the role of leadership remains central to constantly clarifying the essential organisational objectives and functions through setting the development course. Additionally, a visionary leadership provides a clear model of operation and works to inculcate a transformational development agenda at individual and institutional levels pursuant to a results orientation. Thus, sound leadership develops and seeks to sustain an incentive structure that assists in realising a change in institutional and cultural conduct. MfDR represents an essential shift in such key aspects as policy process, predominantly in the nature of thinking, acting and overall management in the wider scope of the public sector. In the absence of prudent public management approaches like MfDR, governments and indeed other development agencies will tend to perform poorly in good governance tenets of accountability, transparency and reward mechanisms.
MfDR contributes to processes of policy- and decision-making improvement by making available evidence-based information on results. This is achieved through a range of tools and techniques, which include strategic planning, progress monitoring, risk management, and outcome evaluation. To a large extent, MfDR is aimed at holding development actors such as governments, international agencies and individuals accountable for delivering desired results to the citizens they serve. Therefore, country systems are required to promote the managing for results agenda in order to have an improved and sustainable country development results. MfDR has recently evolved to incorporate a range of policy issues, including international goals and standards, accountability for development results, and the participation of civil society and other interest groups.
My emphasis to governments and development agencies is that time to invest in the MfDR approach is now! Similarly, citizens will also need to demand for development results from public institutions and leaderships. The private sector and non-state development actors too need to demonstrate results. To institutionalise and enjoy benefits from the MfDR approach, Zambia will need to inculcate a sound culture of results through building and sustaining functional M&E systems. The civil service and the political systems and ideologies will do well to embed M&E to help them deliver results as encapsulated in the MfDR approach. With visionary, qualified and committed leaderships and operationally sound structures at all levels of our country, I have no doubt that Zambia and Africa would be on a transformational trajectory developmentally. Failure to embrace and entrench MfDR and M&E will be detrimental to all forms of development effort.
Dr Vincent Kanyamuna holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Monitoring and Evaluation and is lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, Department of Development Studies.
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