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1.1. What is Results-Based Management?
Results-based management (RBM) is a broad management approach whose core focus is achieving results. The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) defines RBM as a “management strategy by which processes, outputs and services contribute to the achievement of clearly stated expected accomplishments and objectives. It is focused on achieving results, improving performance, integrating lessons learned into management decisions and monitoring and reporting on performance.”2
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines RBM as “A management strategy focusing on performance and achievement of outputs, outcomes and impacts”.3
The United Nations Development Group defines results based management as “a management strategy by which all actors, contributing directly or indirectly to achieving a set of results, ensure that their processes, products and services contribute to the achievement of desired results (outputs, outcomes and higher level goals or impact). The actors in turn use the information and evidence on actual results to inform decision-making on the design, resourcing and delivery of programmes and activities as well as for accountability and reporting.”4
CIDA holds that RBM “aims at improving management effectiveness and accountability by defining realistic expected results, monitoring progress toward the achievement of expected results, integrating lessons learned into management decisions and reporting on performance”5
RBM is sometimes used interchangeably with managing for development results (MfDR). MfDR is about achieving development or sustainable rather than short-term results that have an impact on the lives of people.
It is about accountability for delivering results to the citizens on whom the interventions are focused.
Another commonly used term is results-based budgeting (RBB), which has a narrower focus than RBM and refers to “a programme budget process in which (a) programme formulation revolves around a set of predefined objectives and expected results (b) expected results justify the resource requirements which are derived from and linked to outputs required to achieve the results; and (c) actual performance in achieving results is measured by objective performance indicators”.6
RBM is about selecting a destination first, then deciding on the route, checking against a map and making adjustments as required, in order to achieve the desired results. The RBM approach shifts away from a focus on inputs, activities and processes to a focus on benefits and achievements that are a direct effect of the intervention. RBM also emphasizes using information on results to improve decision making. The RBM approach demands that management continually reflects on the extent to which that implementation of activities and outputs will lead to the achievement of desired outcomes. It is about effectiveness of implementation. Accordingly, management is supposed to continually make necessary adjustments to ensure that planned or desired outcomes or results are realized.
RBM is not a tool; it is a mindset, a way of working that looks beyond processes, activities, products and services to focus on the actual social and economic benefits of projects and programmes at the level of beneficiaries. RBM is a system, and like all systems its components must work harmoniously and cohesively for it to be effective.
What then is a result or a development result? A result arises as a consequence (intended or unintended, positive or negative) of a development intervention or humanitarian assistance, deriving from the utilization of products and/or services provided to targeted institutions and communities. Some of the key elements of RBM are:
- Focusing the dialogue on results at all phases of the development process;
- Aligning programming, monitoring and evaluation with results;
- Keeping measurement and reporting simple;
- Managing for, not by results; and
- Using results information for learning and decision-making.
Other commonly used terms for results are effect, outcome, expected accomplishment and impact.
A central tenet of results thinking is the results chain, which is an illustration of the causal relationship between various elements over time. A results chain can be summarized as a series of conditional statements: If A is done, B will happen; if B happens, C is also likely to happen. The diagram below is an illustration of a results chain.
Figure 1: The Results Chain
While a results chain shows a causal relationship over time, it is not a simple linear process. There are many external factors that may affect the results of the intervention, especially at outcome and impact levels.
Outcomes may be caused by factors both within and beyond the control of the programme – the intervention may be one of the many contributors to an outcome. In the value chain of results – or the intervention – the question to ask is, “Would the change have occurred without the intervention?” The intervention strategy has to have reasonable influence on the planned outcomes.
At impact level, it becomes increasingly difficult to attribute the observed development change to a particular intervention, as there are many variables and many actors or sources (i.e., the partner country, multiple donors and other stakeholders, both local and international) who may be contributing. At that high level, success or failure cannot be attributed to one specific programme intervention; therefore, reference is made to their contribution.
Multiple factors, events, conditions or risks beyond the control of the programme or intervention may negatively influence or threaten the achievement of intended results or changes. Accordingly, in any intervention, it is always important to analyse both internal and external risks that may hinder the success of the programme and attainment of planned results. Risks are closely related to results and should therefore be analysed against the results framework of a programme.
Risk management is therefore an integral part of results-based management. Internal risks are factors under the control of the programme that may hinder success, and include human and financial resource capacity, corruption, management capabilities, incentive structures, ownership, etc. External risks are factors beyond the control of the programme which could hinder the achievement of results and include political, institutional, economic, environmental, social and technological conditions.
2 Review of results-based management at the United Nations (OIOS )- A/63/268/
3 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “Glossary of Evaluation and results based management (RBM) Terms”, 2010 edition, page 34.
4 United Nations Development Group, results-based management Handbook: Harmonizing RBM concept and approaches for improved development results at country level” edited draft October 2011, p 2.
5 Results based management in Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), January 1999.
6 A/53/500 of 15 October 1998 – Office of Programme Planning Budget and Account
7 Within the UN Secretariat and UN-Habitat outcomes are referred to as “expected accomplishments”.