Featured Post: Better Management for Better Justice Reform

Editors’ Note:  Our friend Lisa LeSage from LexTerra Strategies reminds us that good management is key to achieving good project results.

While you might not be a management specialist, you might spend much of you time managing or helping others to manage.  If this makes you feel way out of your league, never mind.  Help is on the way.

This is the first in a series of posts on good management.  Please join the discussion by sending us your ideas and insights about the management skills you have (or wish you had!).  If you have a good story about how management skills influenced the outcomes of a project, please contact us and send it along. 

What’s So Special About Management Skills?

We are all familiar with the long lists of key management skills required of us in every TOR: strategic planning, resource mobilisation, communication, team leadership, personnel management, stakeholder engagement, conflict management, attention to detail, writing, highly organized, etc.  We know these skills are in our TORs because good management is usually key to good outcomes.

However, the TOR is usually the first and last time we see an emphasis on project management. And if we reach the end of a project and fall short on meeting some objectives, our last instinct is to examine the role our own management skills may have played in a poor outcome.  

Most project evaluations measure program outcomes against pre-set indicators, but don’t include management factors. When projects don’t have the impact we hoped, we usually don’t blame our management skills.  It’s easier to blame weak local stakeholders, institutional corruption, or poor infrastructure even when poor management of the project has had an adverse impact on results.  We can help change that by working together to improve basic management skills in the justice reform community.    

Three Things You Can Do Right Now To Strengthen Your Management Skills

1.  Just Start Learning.  

Pick one skill you would like to be better at, and get started!! There are several online resources that can help anyone build more robust management skills. The international NGO PM4NGOs promotes management in international development, and has several free resources, including a skills self-evaluation.  This blog’s Strategic Planning Tips can get you started or help you hone your strategic planning skills.  Toolkits, such as the UN’s TAP Network (Transparency, Accountability & Participation) and the ABA’s toolkit on conducting assessments provide helpful templates, step-by-step analyses and case studies. There also are myriad non-justice community centered management resources on specific issues, such as  Global Giving’s guide on how to conduct a SWOT analyses and the Guidestar Blog’s “creating mind maps”. 

2.  Focus on Your Current Project. 

Identify the key “soft” and “hard” management skills that you believe are critical to helping you achieve the program results for the project you are working on right now.  Think about how you can effectively incorporate these skills into each phase – strategic plan, work plan, implementation strategies, and monitoring and evaluation

3.  Seek Feedback on Your Management Performance

Ask your team regularly how you are doing as a manager.  Even if your TOR doesn’t demand it, you can create one or two simple measurement tools, such as questionnaires, that will give you a better understanding of how your management skills are contributing to project outcomes. For example, what effect is your team coordination having on training outcomes? Are there gaps in your strategic planning that are leading to missed opportunities? Is your failure to conduct effective outreach leading to weak stakeholder engagement? Are you succeeding in getting your project the resources it needs?

Please Share Your Management Experience

Each new project demands slightly new or different management skills, and is a new opportunity to build our skills!  What are some of the management skills that you have found most relevant for your justice project?  What are some of the resources, tools, and technologies you tap into that you are excited to share?    

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