Here’s a simple observation that can make a big difference.
I’ve seen savings group programs of most of the big international NGOs. (You know who I mean.) They all have some good programs and some not so good programs. The approach - VSLs, SILCs, Saving for Changes, CBSGs - are not the determining factor in quality.
Nor is the region the determining factor: I’ve seen good programs living beside bad programs in the same country.
So what makes the difference? I’ll bet dollars to donuts that it is above all the quality of the management, and specifically of the manager, running the program. Give me a good manager and I’ll give you back a good program, whatever the approach, and whatever the country.
And, I’m also confident that the qualities that make a good manager are integrity, vision, communication, energy and, probably in last position, knowledge.
I promised you a simple observation, and there it is. Management makes the difference, not design or approach or environment. So shouldn’t we be poaching each other’s best employees, like the banks do, and letting non-performers go, like the private sector does, and rapidly promoting the high performing junior staff, like the best firms do? If you’re already doing this, then good for you - but if you’re not… Why not?
Originally posted May 22, 2013 by Paul Rippey
Reader Comments (3)
We could do an in depth study on what specific management skills are most effective in running successful savings groups programs and train people within organizations to become better managers. Rather than undercutting weaker programs by poaching their best employees we could work on building the overall capacity of managers of weaker and stronger programs alike. Maybe we can create a "rising tide" of good practices to lift all the savings groups "boats" together rather than a corporate "survival of the fittest" approach. Just a thought.
Fri, May 10, 2013 | William Maddocks
Having just been defeated by the lethal combination of incompetent management and deficient leadership in the process of an important MFI complying with new laws by transforming into a registered & licensed non-bank financial institution, I have a high degree of empathy for your observation.
Is integrity a specific management skill? It seems to me that if this is missing within either management or leadership (those to whom the manager is directly accountable), then very little is likely to be done to address management inadequacies. Integrity, in my opinion, provides the bedrock of the motivation to face up to obvious problems and resolve them. We can formalise it as 'fiduciary duty' but it boils down to having what it takes to act on behalf of clients of the MFI -- especially when there are savers; to act always and only in their best interests.
If there's a critical mass of integrity, bad management gets promptly sorted.
Fri, July 5, 2013 | Greg Pirie
Hey Greg - good to see you back on the site!
I never would have thought that integrity was a management skill until I read this article, "Integrity - without it, nothing works".
This article takes the form of an interview with the author, Michael Jensen, and it has links to longer and more scholarly versions. But the gist is in the interview.
Note that he agrees completely with what you say in your comment, and elaborates it into fundamental and essential theory of management. You'll enjoy reading it I think.