Iraq, Palestine - Organizational Self-Assessment & Transformation Program (OSTP) Empowers Iraqi Civil Servants to Pursue Organizational Excellence
Country(ies): Iraq, Palestine
Primary thematic focus: Capacity challenges in post-crisis and transitional situations
In a Nutshell:
The Organizational Self-Assessment and Transformation Program represents a fundamental departure from top-down, expatriate-driven capacity building. Empowering Iraqi Government officials with the tools and knowledge to improve their skills, pursue excellence, and transform their organizations from within, it has achieved unprecedented success and expanded five-fold since inception.
The Iraqi Minister of Oil has seen immense challenges these past years as his Ministry has struggled to reinvent its role in a new era. Despite being perhaps the richest such entity in history, the Minister often takes the stairs to his office due to broken elevators or power outages. Through the halls he walks past offices equipped mostly with barely functional desks and chairs, and the occasional blank computer screen. He greets employees without job descriptions, limited management skills, narrow comprehension of their roles in realizing larger Ministry of Oil (MoO) outcomes, and virtual disconnect from their leadership and each other. Until recently, the Minister faced this dire situation as possible, scraping together resources to patch collapsing infrastructure, and searching for an approach which could sustain and drive comprehensive reform for the decades-long effort required.
In response to this need, we initiated OSTP support at two MoO production companies in Winter 2007/2008. We had invested heavily in obtaining leadership buy-in for the program during 2007, recognizing that contemporary management concepts would not come naturally to a bureaucracy emerging from decades of authoritarianism and conflict. Empowering mid-level employees to lead change in the companies’ systems would not be easy in Iraq. However, OSTP offered the greatest incentive imaginable to Iraqi decision-makers: ownership. OSTP was merely the enabler, the reform and the ensuing transformation would be our counterparts’ entirely. In fact, our initial presentations to MoO – and most donors – were met with skepticism over this very point. Nevertheless, MoO leadership recognized the potential, and dedicated teams of top mid-level managers from across the companies to ongoing OSTP activities.
OSTP launched with intensive workshops providing a model of government excellence built on transparency, citizen-centeredness, and a results-focus, and covering best practices in five organizational performance criteria: Leadership, People, Processes, Knowledge, and Finance. We also prepared the teams to assess their organizations’ performance using interviews and surveys. While overcoming their anxiety was challenging, the incentive of self-driven reform countered the brunt of their concerns. Within several months, the two teams completed their data collection and produced organizational benchmark reports for their leadership. These assessments proved significantly more valuable than those from other programs in previous years due to their more informed content and meaningful local ownership. The U.S. Ambassador overseeing development efforts requested multiple presentations on the underlying elements contributing to the unprecedented value and success of these assessments. OSTP continued with additional workshops to tackle the greater task of using the reports to identify, prioritize, and implement reforms. We took a back seat to the teams, offering only tools, advice and communication support to help with each step. Always, we sought to capture or create transferrable tools and approaches which could immediately be put to use by the teams and absorbed for future efforts. Examples include tools for decision-making, communication templates, action planning tools, and change management skills.
Currently, several priority reforms are being implemented at each company. Teams are also monitoring their activities’ impact and moving to institutionalize the overall process. Building on this and in response to requests, we have launched OSTP at ten additional service-oriented Iraqi Government organizations. As for the Minister of Oil, in mid-2009 he requested that OSTP replicate its activities at all remaining MoO companies and the central headquarters, a process now underway. Though the Minister’s elevator may not be working perfectly just yet, his managers now have the capacity to initiate and sustain the long-term, organizational transformation required for the future of Iraq.
Results and Critical Factors:
OSTP grew quickly after its initial successes with MoO, expanding support to 12 organizations. We adapted OSTP to the particularities of each counterpart while maintaining focus on the three pillars of government excellence and empowering locally led initiatives. We currently see Iraqi ownership, leadership support, resources, replicability, and impact all growing. Initially, OSTP teams required significant support through the process. However, with increasing internal leadership backing, most now have the capacity to work with limited assistance.
The Agriculture Ministry Team is undertaking its sixth directorate-level self-assessment, and its initial effort at Baghdad Agricultural Directorate resulted in the creation of a Directorate-wide vision and a customer feedback process. The MoO has teams at five operating companies, the original two having both conducted multiple department-level self-assessments and begun work on strategic planning and business process reforms. The Water, Health, and Planning Ministry Teams have completed three or more benchmark reports and are implementing their own priority reforms. Some teams, such as Agriculture, have submitted budget proposals for their ongoing work. Others created formal OSTP units with dedicated staff time and financial/technical resources. For our part, we are working to bring these teams together through forums and an online OSTP interface. Ultimately, we aim to connect them to Palestinian peers where we recently launched OSTP as well.
Three critical factors contributed to our success: context, partnership, and balance. First, our framework of government best practices enabled more informed discussions and decisions among GOI reformers. Second, OSTP provided a forum for GOI managers to enunciate their concerns and objectives. Outside consultants became stakeholders in capacity building outcomes the GOI prioritized, rather than the opposite. Third, we maintained focus on creating and building both trust and long-term commitment among ministry leaders, OSTP Teams, and donors. This required a balancing act between achieving immediate results – particularly important given the pressures of conflict environments – and building both local capacity and momentum to craft and sustain ever-further reaching reforms. By leveraging these three factors, OSTP established a high standard for effective and highly sustainable capacity building in a conflict environment.
Name of Primary Contact Person: Martin Mayerchak
Title of Primary Contact Person: Organizational Development Advisor
City: Washington, DC
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