Organisational Culture and Management Structures

The culture of an organisation is often referred to as the norms of an organisation, the way things are done and management structures relate to the more formal structures and processes in place (which are influenced by the ‘culture’). Projects try to influence changes in the way things are done to deliver outcomes more effectively; essentially to enhance organisational performance.

Key ‘best practice’ lesson

All RLP projects successfully demonstrated that organisational culture and management structures can be modified and improved but only within the formal project boundaries and duration (e.g. research management and partnerships in PETRRA, REFPI and SUFER, strategic HRD at Divisional level by FTEP-2, extension approaches and community management developed by ASIRP, FFP and CBFM2). Best results were with administrations based at the District or Divisional level e.g. District Partnership Initiative Funds and Divisional HRD strategy. The RLP experience reiterates the notion that working at the meso-level at the same time as a coordinated approach to reform at the macro-level is possibly the better practice lesson for influencing organisational culture and management structures.

Lessons Learnt

  • The clustering of projects in an organisation, particularly one whose organisational capital is largely exogenously determined, in itself hampers prospects for reform. Therefore donors and partners need to take stock and at the very least redefine the roles of projects working at this level in GoB and identify more realistically their most appropriate locus and function to support organisational development, especially when complementing a higher-level multi-donor policy forming initiative.

  • While a full sectoral approach is inappropriate for institutions with the mandates of DAE and DoF and must await action at higher government levels, major progress towards a more programmatic approach is still possible, but the issue needs to be prioritised. To this end, donor agencies must make clear their own policies by offering direct support to encourage organisational reform and sector strategies.

  • Organisational development and reform projects can take a lot longer, cost a lot more, and have much less effect than the donors may expect and where changes are achieved in organisational set-ups, doubts often remain as to their post-project sustainability.

  • Embedding cultural reform in the organisational context (which will influence management structures) may only be realised over a much longer timeframe as individuals most involved in today’s RLP project activities become future senior players in the development and implementation of the ‘rules of the game’. But government will need to set the enabling environment.

  • Where changes are achieved in organisational set-ups, doubts often remain as to their post-project sustainability.

Key Findings

  • Government departments are host to a multitude of projects supported by a wide range of donors with different rules and expectations.

  • Project culture is embedded in government Departments to such an extent that they focus on a set of activities unrelated to or duplicating with other projects.

  • Multi-project departments are fragmented with little coordination and lack of consistency in strategy and methodology.

  • Projects are often seen within departments as opportunities for a selected few rather than institutional functions.

  • Projects attract key staff away from the development and implementation of new policy processes, thus reducing the influencing potential of an organization’s greatest asset; its people.

  • Even where projects are multi-donor funded, inconsistencies between these donors’ rules can lead to sub-optimal performance on the ground (e.g. synchronising the funding of CG schemes under ASIRP, interpretation of institutional development in FFP).

  • Despite its best efforts, ASIRP’s attempts to improve DAE’s institutional capital have largely failed, for reasons connected with the organisational culture of the Department. The DAE itself admits to failings in this area in its SP 2002-2006 (ASIRP).

  • Reports on numerous interventions involving DoF have highlighted the need for change within the organisation if desired outputs are to be achieved in a sustainable manner. The current organisational structure of DoF is around projects, funded from both the development budget and from external donors. This structure does not permit the DoF to provide a standard core of extension services in a continuous manner (FTEP2).

  • The management structures within DoF are not appropriate to take over the extension programme developed by the project (FTEP2). The extension capacity building process should have been initiated after the reform of extension management structures through the FFP led National Aquaculture Extension Strategy (NAES), although implementation of the action plan for this strategy remains stalled.

  • What is seen from outside as organisational inertia may be regarded from within the system as a merit. Senior management at the DoF have a sense of being responsible custodians of natural resources and feel that it is their role to consolidate on good practice uninfluenced by outside fashions, which experience suggests are often ephemeral (FFP).

  • The closest thing to organizational reform is that achieved under FTEP 2 and FFP, where a Training Wing was initiated with the mandate to develop and implement a Human Resource Development strategy that cuts across project boxes within DoF. The EoP review of FTEP2 project (June 2003) noted the strategic importance of this change, but questioned the sustainability of the new arrangements. FFP has continued this work developing a training policy but evidence The attitudinal change necessary to support such reform is, as yet, limited at the Headquarters level, but this is not necessarily the case outside Dhaka (FTEP2).