“We cannot measure it. Our project is too technical” or “too specific” or too something else can unfortunately be heard in some development management circles.
Scientists say “if you cannot measure it, it does not exist”. Development management is about change (positive, preferably). So if we cannot measure change, it does not exist. Now, let’s go with that to the Project’s Board or, even better, the project’s beneficiaries. Yes, right…
Developing, agreeing on and monitoring project’s indicators is not an easy fix. It is a necessity. All stakeholders need to know and see the progress towards the objective of the project. It is true that in development projects we deal with institutions (in the sense of an established law or practice) and concepts, such as governance, corruption, transparency, accountability, empowerment, access to justice. Thanks to extensive research over the last two decades+ and due to efforts of organisations such as the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, Freedom House, Council of Europe (through its Commission for the Efficiency of Justice), OECD and many more it is possible to measure. These institutions are no longer abstract concepts they have dimensions we can grasp, measure and report on. Let’s look at the six dimensions of the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) of the World Bank:
- Voice and Accountability: measuring political, civil and human rights;
- Political Stability and Absence of Violence: measuring the likelihood of violent threats to, or changes in, government, including terrorism;
- Government Effectiveness: measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery;
- Regulatory Quality: measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies;
- Rule of Law: measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts as well as the likelihood of crimes and violence;
- Control of Corruption: measuring the exercise of public power for private gain, including both petty and grand corruption and state capture.
When you start to develop a project, I learned how important it is to give to the performance metrix the time and effort it deserves. My experience helped me put together a couple of road signs in this respect, which I share below:
a. Identifying, selecting and agreeing on project progress indicators is a collective exercise and should be done in a participatory and inclusive way.
b. Discharge things you cannot measure or, if you are keen on them, double check on them during the inception phase of the project.
c. Use data already available from credible sources. Creating your own set of data and measurement tools is costly and time consuming.
d. If there is no data and the project absolutely needs a tailor made measuring stick, make sure to budget for it.
e. For measurements designed specifically for the project, make sure you take the measures (right) at the project start. It will give you a reliable baseline.
f. Regularly monitor progress for signs of trouble or delays. Use your performance metrix as a tool. It can help you “measure twice, cut – once”, as illustrated by the old adage, or “measure constantly, optimize continuously”, as the context of your project demands it.
g. And perhaps, the most important the performance metrix serves the achievement of the project objective (and not interests or circumstances).
Post inspired by: “Myths and Realities of Governance and Corruption”, by Daniel Kaufmann World Bank, https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWBIGOVANTCOR/Resources/2-1_Governance_and_Corruption_Kaufmann.pdf
“Kaufmann, Daniel; Kraay, Aart; Mastruzzi, Massimo. 2007. Measuring Corruption : Myths and Realities. Africa Region Findings & Good Practice Infobriefs; no. 273. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/9576 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”