Potential Uses of Maturity Models for Capacity Development in Emerging Democracies/Conflict Nations

October 30, 2014

Authors: PAE Section Lead Mentor for Monitoring and Evaluation Lynda Boswell and PAE Budget Subject Matter Expert Tanushree Bhargava

Abstract  The Maturity Model (MM) concept is a tool that would assist the coordination of donors and nations who provide aid to emerging democracies or conflict nations. Developing the MM with host nation governments can provide tangible objectives or at least demonstrate effectiveness of efforts toward objectives. More recently, the MM has been used in public institutional capacity development in such areas as human rights, public health, and in functional public administration capacity. It has been applied in Iraq and Afghanistan as a tool with agreed upon goals on several different levels. The MM appears to be a more focused assessment with performance goals that are more attainable and results-driven than many other formats currently available. The MM is an important assessment and goal-setting tool because it provides both short-term possibilities with long-term sustainable potential.  Developing the MM with the stakeholders provides buy-in and understanding of what features, equipment, skills, and processes are necessary for the function, or institution to be sustainable. The MM can be explained simply in various ways. Having the ultimate goals upfront provides all involved (donors, host nation, staff, governments, trainers, consultants) with tangible and clear objectives.

Key words  Institutional capacity development, Donor coordination, Maturity model, Staged capacity building model, Administrative leadership

1) Introduction

The theory behind the Maturity Model originally stemmed from the software development field. The point of the framework relied on software process assessments and feedback from different industries. It guides the organization in a standardized process improvement and objectives. Since then, various iterations of maturity models moved from software into other fields, including private industry and public administration. The concept of “maturation” also indicates that if the foundation does not exist from a previous area, then it is not possible to proceed at a higher level that provides sustainability. The original MM is one dimensional and has several MMs depending on the type of process needed. Currently, some maturity models can still be one dimensional, however, some MMs have taken a more three dimensional format adapting the original structure and providing clarified definitions of how the levels are further defined. Upon additional analysis, it appears that the 3-d structure would provide a better method in adapting the software MM into institutional capacity building. It also would inform and help donors in coordinating their efforts to concentrate on areas of interest to them. 

Although the Paris Declaration and Accra agenda for action clearly recognized the need for better coordination, after nearly 10 years, the efforts are lagging very far behind. Putting ownership on the host country to develop and coordinate the efforts of aid is may not be the best approach because the reality is that donor nations are eager to spend money for their causes and the developing countries are all too eager to obtain the funds to help sustain their economy. Iraq and Afghanistan had methods in place to provide transparency of donor contributions, but since no enforcement mechanism existed to comply with the procedures, the methods were inadequate and ineffective. There is no one panacea in solving the donor coordination, however, the MM, when focused and properly developed could provide the outcomes of sustainability for developing and conflict nations. This paper first discusses the overview of the maturity model, the importance of and the development of maturity models, and then provides a case scenario that uses the MM in conjunction with a concentrated Staged Capacity Building model. It is a results-based solution toward sustainability for the different functions of public administration.

2) An overview of maturity models

Once evolved from the software application field, the maturity model has taken revised names and forms such as capability maturity model, E-learning maturity model, organizational project management maturity model, service integration maturity model, process maturity model, etc. The basic tenets have not evolved very much. They consist of attributing descriptions of each levels, and the levels are from 1 to 5. Level 1 is the initial level, in which the process is ad-hoc, non-existent, or disorganized. Level 2 is the repeatable level with policies and procedures established; there may be some organization to it but it lacks continuous replicability. Level 3 is the defined level and those procedures and policies are consistently practiced. Level 4 is managed in which the processes are well-established with a mechanism for self-evaluation, identification of issues, and reliable practice of the policies and procedures. Level 5 is the optimized level and involves an internal improvement process, continual advancement of troubleshooting issues, and distributes best practices within the organization.

The development of levels in the maturity model stems from teams and subject matter experts.  Depending on the purpose of the maturity model, the input is entered as the objectives of each level, or the activities necessary to be at the particular level. An added aspect of the maturity model includes dimensional or elemental. Hewlett Packard’s (HP) added process, automation, and collaboration dimensions. It is at this point that applying this to institutional capacity building becomes more relevant and realistic. In addition, HP changed the order of the terms to fit how the MM could apply to its specific business service using the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) that applies different aspects of models into one. HP uses the following terms for each of the levels: initial, managed, defined, measured, and optimized. Regardless of the terms, the integrity of the maturity model is that it is a level from 1 to 5, and the different levels are defined.

Canada’s Human Rights Maturity Model (HRMM) has seven elements for each level. Those elements include leadership and accountability, communication and consultation, alignment of policies and processes, capacity building and resources, and evaluation for performance measurement and continuous improvement. In addition, the explanations and definitions provide expected outcomes and indicators. The levels defined are initiated, defined, managed and routine, predictable and sustainable, and continuously optimized.  

Given the evolution and the different ways in which the MM could be and has been used, it is no surprise that is has been showing up in developing or conflict nations. Louis Berger and Deloitte firms have used the MM format in both Iraq and Afghanistan for USAID programs. Although other assessment models exist in capacity building, the MM is a more robust feature when it is correctly developed with the programmatic theory incorporated into the objectives.

3) Importance of maturity models

The way in which the maturity model adapts and incorporates the building blocks at the different levels is more of a results or solutions-based format. Although standardized assessments exist, they often do not address the foundations necessary to move on to the next level. Often the assessments are based on process, as in the original model. However, providing separate elements allows flexibility without compromising the integrity of the model. This multi-dimensional approach is more realistic than some assessments. The MMs are driven by either departmental or functional capacities.

After millions of dollars of donor assistance in various developing countries, the question arises as to why the projects fail to attain sustainability. What does the donor-assisted project lack in its approach? Or what should be the right approach to attain sustainability? What should the donor undertake to ensure sustainability at the end of the project implementation phase? The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development identified the gaps in donor coordination focusing on national development strategies and putting the onus on the developing country governments. Valid suggestions and indicators established one-dimensional approaches in evaluating effectiveness of the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness. The ideas are there, but the way forward in implementing the idea of sustainability is not on institutional capacity. Even the Public Financial Management (PFM) assessments stop short of what sustainable success looks like. When applied against the MM, the PFM focuses on processes. It misses on other elements that would be necessary for the processes to be sustainable. Definitional issues arise in what sustainability means. 

A solution on the definition of “sustainable” in a practical manner lies in a well-crafted maturity model assessment for the areas that involve institutional capacity building. This assessment tool helps to address the holistic capacity of the entity and areas or resources needed for improvement. It also can elucidate the internal and external challenges that can hinder sustainability. It provides a baseline and foundation of next steps while the objectives are transparent. The donors can devise a work strategy based on the MM and the direction for the project implementation. Most of the current assessment tools focuses on one key area and sometimes lists the risks and issues without providing the solutions that donors need to focus. 

The MM gauges the institutional capacity of an entity. It lays down a matrix (or elements) that measures organizational development or criteria for maturity in conjunction with key functional areas.  Different levels of maturity provide explanation on what the requirement is to acquire next level of development. Without the due to lack of conducting assessment taking a complete view, donor- implemented projects can fail in the end, as the host government is incapable of sustaining the project outputs. Projects may work very well during the implementation phase, but once the donor stops funding, efforts to continue the project purpose diminishes. Since sustainability also implies financial independence of the host nation, donors often do not take the country’s fiscal policy in consideration particularly the operating budget or the maintenance budget. The finances required maintaining and sustaining the skilled staff and donated infrastructure is of crucial importance in low-income developing countries. Donors’ focus is on the development budget to construct infrastructure, and buy new infrastructure, but they dwindle in taking care of the operating budget. The donors must ask the government for its strategy to sustain the project. The donors’ project plans should be flexible to incorporate the government strategy changes whenever required.   

4) Usage of maturity models in the development of institutional capacity

The MM matrix for development of institutional capacity focuses on all of the aspects that the authors feel are lacking in assessments and definitions of sustainability. The assessment areas can vary according to the entity’s goal. For this example, five major element or assessment areas address crucial areas of sustainability in any entity in an emerging democracy or conflict nation. The key assessment functional areas are:

Resources: It is of utmost importance to explore the resources available and the required infrastructure, finance, and human resources. 

  • Infrastructure assesses the availability of space, land, building, electricity, furniture, internet cables, and other required fixtures to establish the office and provide necessities to accomplish the goals efficiently and effectively. 
  • Finance assesses the availability of funds, budgetary aspect to sustain the work, revenue generation to purchase and maintain the acquired level. In a government organization, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy plays a crucial role and a buy-in is required before any implementation of the project. The donor approach should be dependent on the fiscal policy of the country and budget deficit should be studied before implementation of the project to assess if the government will be able to sustain the project or not.
  • Human Resources assess the recruitment process and qualifications of the staff, transparent hiring process, and training conducted for the development of the staff.  

Learning Environment: This area emphasizes the entities’ work culture, ethics, the behavioral aspect, staff professional relationships, morale, support of management, and rewards for increased knowledge or training. The growth of an organization depends on the motivation of the employees, the behavior amongst the staff, the relationship between a supervisor and the subordinate, basic amenities (office and equipment to do the work) that creates an environment that a staff feels comfortable to work. In developing countries where security is the biggest issue and risk, the governments’ plan or strategy to provide a secure environment at work ensures security for its staff.

Communication and Collaboration: The communication top-down or bottom-up in the entity assesses coordination amongst the staff, sharing of information within the internal and external departments, easily obtaining information when required, having a good reporting system, and increased transparency. Collaboration assesses if the entities are collaborating and communicating with the focal ministries or other important entities while completing the assigned task. 

Automation: The automation assesses the development of IT skills in the human resources, and the usage of IT for completing the work and improving the internal processes. Some software application may need to be used if the host nation relies on entry into a national database, or a way to provide reports electronically.

Processes: This functional area identifies the level of efficiency, accuracy, transparency, and sustainability of departmental policies and procedures. It also provides the objectives needed to move from one level to the next.

The authors believe these five areas provide that holistic approach which would enrich the purpose and use of the MM.  

For this particular example, Level 1 is the initial, and Level 4 is sustainable, leaving Level 5 as optimized and self-correcting, and innovative. As the MM is developed, Level 4 shows what sustainability is supposed to look like. Working backwards, developing Level 3 and 2 show the necessary steps that are completed to be at that level. It is at this stage that the national strategy could be included as well as terms of reference in the basic tasks or objectives of the functional area. Once the objectives and the picture of sustainability (Level 4) and all of the other levels are identified, the next step is to develop the questionnaire.

The questionnaire is developed to consider all of the necessary elements for each of the different levels. The questionnaire is closed-ended, is not provided to those who are surveyed, and requires validated proof that the answer is based on observation, and not on the “right” answer by the surveyed.  Although some MMs use self-assessment, the tendency is to overinflate knowledge or desire to answer “correctly” provides false measures. The answers are tabulated to provide the results of the attained level of maturity: initiated, repeatable, defined, managed, and optimized. Each of the functional area has to attain the same level on the maturity stage to move towards the higher level. For example, if one of the elemental areas is at Level 1 and the other elemental areas are at Level 2, the maturity level identifies the lowest level and overall growth of the entity to be at Level 1. To move to a Level 2, that one elemental area must get to a Level 2. This logical framework is critical because lagging behind in one element shows the institutional capacity cannot be supported toward sustainability. Both the MM objectives and the questionnaire to follow should be developed in conjunction and with support of the host nation ministries. Different from the national strategies, the MM provides concrete objectives, definition of sustainability, and steps needed to attain the desired levels.  

Before the donors implement an institutional capacity building project, they should conduct an assessment using MM tool to determine what is required to sustain their work after the project is completed. The donors would have guidance as to which functional or elemental area they would like to contribute to which would lead towards the sustainability goal. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or other written document memorializing agreement to work with the donors in the specific areas would form a strong foundation that agrees with the objectives set in the MM toward sustainability. The contribution of the ministry in terms of human resources, infrastructure and finances should always be considered. That contribution may be at a zero to little level to start and should be followed up each year to increase the ministry’s contribution until it is self-sufficient.

5) Relationship between the maturity model and staged capacity building model

Once the assessment of the levels are completed, and the staff and management are motivated to learn new skills and improve their effectiveness, the next step is building the human capacity at the process element (or other elements as applicable). The MM is a tool to assess and provide the objectives (usually measured on an annual basis because the questions are tedious and long), and the Staged Capacity Building Model (SCBM) picks up between the assessment and annual reassessment.  The SCBM focuses on the objectives, needs, and strategies based on the results of the MM. It is an evaluation of progress demonstrated by staff and the amount of assistance provided by the advisor (or in this case, the donor’s subject matter expert in this area).

The SCBM assesses the staff on four major levels: dependent, assisted, limited assistance, and independent. The model depicts distinct requirements for each of these levels. This helps the experts to concentrate the advice or on-the-job training for each individual required to complete the objectives for the host nation department or ministry. The SCBM assessment can be conducted monthly to track progress and validate the success rate of the trainings, mentoring, and on-the-job training provided by the experts. SCBM compliments MM and helps in the development of the individuals in their functional areas. Since the MM is concentrated on the department or institution, the SCBM narrows that scope and fills the gaps identified in the MM. The attainment of the objectives should improve the reassessment scores of the MM.

6) Conclusions: Suggestions on collaborating to develop maturity models for developed/conflict countries

Many developed countries are required to have a strategy plan for the different areas. The strategy plan is different from a maturity model. The difference between the two is that the strategy lays out what its goals are, and the maturity model lays out what success looks like at the different stages.  MM provides bite-sized do-able objectives and provides very little room for allowing one part to go further without other parts catching up. One of the unique challenges in emerging democracies and conflict nations include the issue of “brain-drain.” Unfortunately, in collaborating with donors, some host nation staff gain that knowledge needed to attain the next level and then leave the country. This is a major factor against sustainability as most of these skilled workers are leaving, and the project may not be able to sustain due to the lack of qualified people in the ministries. This would have been captured in the MM tool specifying the risk and assessing on the entities plans to overcome the issue of brain-drain.

The MM is not a panacea for donor coordination and sustainability. It can address ways in which donors pick a menu from the MM to work on based on the assessment results. For example, one donor may want to focus on automation which would include computers, software, training IT personnel, stable electric source, generators, connectivity, etc. Another donor may want to focus on improving the manager’s skills in motivation, objectivity, management style, and so forth. The MM is designed to lay out the entire foundation of institutional capacity building and all of the elements necessary to move the function to the next level. It is possible that the MM can also address the issues of unstainable 1st world country standards, such as state of the art buildings and schools with the budget of the host nation would never be able to afford to fund. Many different types of models can be developed that focuses on different areas of interest, strategy, and functions. When done correctly, the MM is a very useful tool that engages and provides the understanding of all of the necessary elements to be sustainable using donor funds.


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