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Can executing agency networks contribute to better project implementation?

A new perspective on critical success factors for Project Management

What would really lead to success in project implementation? Put in terms of the borrowers’ perspectives, what would create a sustainable way of ensuring success of public sector projects that will assure less drain on the fiscal budget?

Finding new ways for enhancing project implementation in the field so that established targets are met and the developmental impact of the investment can be achieved remains a constant challenge. Traditionally, project managers seem to accept the iron triangle of cost, time and quality as success factors with more focus on time and budget delivery as indicators of project success or failure.

Other studies have identified factors such as regional integration, public perception and stakeholders’ involvement. Whilst some success criteria are common there are unique factors that are project specific.

An interesting observation when examining influencing factors of project implementation is that there seems to be a strong focus on project processes with little or no consideration given to aspects of human relationships and political power, perhaps because these elements are hard to measure. Generally, critical success factors are based on the hard paradigm linked to the positivist approach and focused on establishing controls towards efficiency measured against established goals. However, these classical project management techniques are becoming inappropriate for handling complex projects and increasingly project success factors incorporate elements such as participation, stress the social processes and emphasize learning (Pollack, 2007).

To build on previous efforts by the Bank the task is to explore new ways for supporting project implementation in the field that will help bring about more impactful and sustainable results.
Earlier this year, Country Office Bahamas established an executing agency network with the expectation that this interaction and sharing amongst members will promote more effective management of operations. Creation of this Executing Agency Learning Network had its genesis in the earlier initiative by the Country Office called “Twinning” where a more experienced Project Executing Agency was linked with a newer one to help familiarize them on working with IDB procedures and navigating bureaucratic processes. Participants in this initiative were extremely satisfied about the support they obtained from their peers.

My hypothesis is that improvements in the attainment of project targets can be accomplished by establishing a sustainable Project Executing Agency Network (PEA-net) which is a critical success factor for project management. Recognizably, this network has to be actively engaged in a program of learning with a well-defined evaluative framework. Advancing the work of PEA-net could be based on the Soft Systems Methodology (Pollack, 2007) and enacted through the Action Research approach.

As a strategy for change therefore, PEA-net would stimulate learning at both the individual and organizational levels. This learning will then be transformed into actions that will ultimately lead to improvements in project execution targets.

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