1. Set a firm foundation for working together. Despite efforts in the international community to harmonize RBM, there are variations on the different schema in use around the world of public administration. Various labels – such as “output”, “outcome” and “indicator” – differ both in name and meaning from one schema to the next. So do the tools used to draft project designs, risk management plans and monitoring and evaluation frameworks.
Often differences are not large, but they are enough at variance to cause confusion if not properly addressed. At the start of any assignment, P:N places high priority on gaining a common understanding with the client of RBM concepts, labels and planned uses.
2. Build from an understanding of needs and assets. As part of the “tailoring” approach that we prefer to take with our clients, P:N places high priority on being equally attuned to skills gaps and to strengths and opportunities – to assets as well as deficits.
This allows the consultant to graft new concepts and practices onto existing ones and to relate new material in the workshops to knowledge and experience already resident among the participants. We are convinced that the sticking power of new ideas is greater when new information is referenced to things familiar.
3.Use methods that help participants visualize the futures they are planning. For most people with whom we collaborate on design know intuitively what they want to DO and what DIFFERENCE they want to make in their projects.
Their challenge most often comes in: a) calibrating their aspirations with available time and funds, and b) expressing these in a plan.
A lack of comfort with the planning discipline often obscures a wisdom and drive to get things done. To make RBM more accessible, especially to non-planners and managers, P:N consultants use interactive training techniques that help participants unleash and channel that wisdom.
Simply getting out of your seat with your colleagues and physically acting out the change you want to see can help a team map out the actions and desired consequences of their project idea.
We routinely carry a small inflatable pool in our RBM toolkit that we set among participants and fill with water. The pool allows us to explore the SPLASH AND RIPPLE metaphor to convey the fundamentals of RBM.
The metaphor, which involves dropping a stone into the water, demonstrates all the key concepts necessary to succeed in using RBM to design and monitor realistic results focused projects. Across many cultures and backgrounds, the metaphor helps demystify the sometimes perplexing language of RBM. There is nothing intuitively obvious about the terms “output”, and “immediate, intermediate and ultimate outcomes”!
4. Introduce a few guides to foster rigour. Planning often suffers from an incongruity among three variables: a) the population to be reached, b) the results to be achieved, and c) the resources available to do the work.
Exciting and far-reaching results might appear in a plan but without the resources to bring them about, or without clarity over who will experience these results. A plan might set out an impressive call for resources to implement a set of activities and it might identify a set of beneficiaries, yet it might not be clear what results are being claimed.
We introduce a few key guidelines to foster rigour in planning. There are three variables to consider when naming the change you seek as an output or outcome: a) time – the most obvious and most commonly used, b) degree of control, less recognized but in our judgement a critical determinant, and c) sphere of influence – the range of stakeholders/beneficiaries to be effected in a project at each level of result. We also introduce the idea of vantage point to ensure clarity about who is doing the activities, and proportion to ensure that results are always in keeping with the time and resources available.
5.Keep it real. Design support must be geared to the specifics of the audience – the setting, the kinds of activities and results anticipated, and the most immediate applications of RBM contemplated.
Centering training sessions around cases, real or hypothetical, is a good way to temper the burden of new theory. Often, we find, the best way to learn a new concept is to back into it through practice.
And, to reinforce case-based learning in the workshop, we believe that training should be coupled with follow up coaching, either in person or on-line. Indeed, studies have shown that around 25% of training is applied in the workplace based on a single workshop or on-line course. With follow-up coaching based on real workplace examples application increases to almost 75%.
Our methodology suggests options for this.
We ward against being too “scientistic” in our training/coaching. It is our conviction that RBM is as much art as it is science. We encourage a balance between “classification and measurement” on the one hand, and “visualization and estimation” on the other.
Training often directs participant attention toward the finer points of measuring progress – obtaining evidence. While these questions of measurement and validation are important in developing mastery of RBM they often confront people too early in their learning. In our view, these skills build on the foundational competencies of visualization and estimation.