Opinion: Want to improve development outcomes? Anticipate the failures. Here’s how

Opinion: Want to improve development outcomes? Anticipate the failures. Here’s how. by Susan Davis, Devex, February 12, 2018.

We’ve all been in this meeting — you know the one — where knowledgeable people have concerns but are reluctant to express reservations about a project. So plans march forward, while those who might have valuable insights keep quiet. The result for the global health and development sector is that far too many projects fail. There is a better way. So if you take away just one message today, let it be this: “Imagining that an event has already occurred increases the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30 percent.

The better way is called a “pre-mortem” — a strategy in which a team imagines that a project has failed, and then works backward to determine what potentially lead to the failure. Like a medical post-mortem, you figure out why the patient died so you save future patients by not repeating the same mistakes. You do it in advance in a way that safely provides space for stakeholders, experts, and dissenters to share concerns, improve chances for success, and not kill the proverbial patient. And unlike a post-mortem, which is often completed and then sent to the morgue so-to-speak, pre-mortems live on.

Pre-mortems have been used for years in the business world, but infrequently in the global health and development sectors where they could make a world of difference, not just to prevent costly mistakes and risks of failure, but also to reduce risks to the communities we serve and the sustained outcomes after a project that we need.

Case in point are water, sanitation and hygiene projects that are filled with good intentions — and broken handles and rusty pumps. Because access to safe water is so fundamental to health and development, WASH projects have typically focused on immediate needs — let’s get that well built quickly — and underemphasized the long-term needs — like who’s going to maintain the well and its pump, who’s going to pay for replacement parts, and are those parts going to be available?

Read the complete article.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s