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GUEST EDITORIAL What makes capability-building and leadership development become project ‘orphans’?

Beware projects that substitute (often with the best of intentions) great-sounding outputs for tangible benefits. Guest Editor Jonathan Norman has selected an extract from Phil Driver’s Validating Strategies to illustrate how capacity-building and leadership development are often ‘orphaned results’, unattached to any related benefits.

 

Beware projects that substitute (often with the best of intentions) great-sounding outputs for tangible benefits. Guest Editor Jonathan Norman has selected the following extract from Phil Driver’s book Validating Strategies to illustrate how capacity-building and leadership development are often ‘orphaned results’, unattached to any related benefits.

 

Many traditional strategies include actions which focus on ‘capacity-building’ or ‘capability-building’ in which employees within a provider organisation take part in training to build their skills. Because this training involves the development of an asset (trained staff), the training is a Project and the output of the training is a Result.

All too often this Result ends up being an Abandoned Orphan Result because the provider organisation has focused simply on ‘building capacity’ without any clear idea about how that capacity will enable Uses and hence lead to Benefits. In such situations, ‘capacity-building’ is seen as ‘a good thing to do’ so it is often done without any clear vision of how it will impact on Uses and Benefits.

The same applies to ‘leadership development’, a very popular concept in many private, public and third sector multi-stakeholder environments. Leadership development programmes repeatedly produce … leaders … which are just Abandoned Orphan Results unless these leaders have clear leadership roles (within Adopting Projects) to slot into. Far too often the freshly minted leaders return to their organisations into roles where they have few opportunities to lead. This isn’t good enough!

Before any Project is started it should be a requirement that the Project be part of a start-to-finish SubStrategy which shows explicitly how any Project will contribute, eventually, to desired Benefits. Any ‘capability-building’ or ‘leadership development’ Project should be explicitly clear how the new capabilities and leadership skills will contribute to Uses (probably indirectly via Adopting Projects).

If the trained staff or new leaders directly engage with end-users (for example as front-line service staff), the new capabilities will be being Used to help end-users create Benefits.

However, if – as is frequently the case with newly skilled staff and leaders – the skills are Adopted into new Projects, these Projects should be required to produce better Results as a consequence of these new skills than they would otherwise have done.

So Projects which involve enhancing providers’ capabilities frequently produce Orphan Results which need to be Adopted in order for end-user Benefits to ultimately be improved. Sadly, experience shows that traditionally and historically this is seldom the case, especially in the public sector.

Source: Validating Strategies - Linking Projects and Results to Uses and Benefits by Phil Driver, 2014, Gower Publishing, Farnham.

Read the whole of Validating Strategies and share your techniques for connecting projects and strategy by posting a comment below.

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