How to IMPROVE Programming: USAID/Vietnam’s Performance Management Principles
Photo: USAID/Vietnam organized the quarterly Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Officers (MELO) Event for officers from USAID-funded activities in the South of Vietnam. March 2021/Ho Chi Minh City.
Over the last several years, USAID/Vietnam has integrated collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) approaches throughout the Program Cycle. This was the case during the recent creation of the Mission’s Performance Management Plan (PMP), the guiding document for how the Mission will monitor, evaluate, and learn from implementation at the strategy level.
As the main facilitators of the creation of the PMP, we took a step back and asked ourselves: what performance management principles do we need to drive the creation of the PMP and its implementation?
This brought us to the creation of the IMPROVE performance management principles. If over the five-year strategy, we found ourselves needing to change all the indicators, evaluation questions, and learning approaches, we knew these principles still represented ways of working that we wanted to commit to regardless.
There was no big workshop to create the principles. Through various pause and reflect opportunities within the Program Office and hallway conversations, we came to a shared understanding of what mattered to the Mission. In essence, the principles were solidified over months of conversation, and we simply used the opportunity of the PMP to formalize them.
What is most important is how we bring these principles to life in the PMP and in how the Mission implements and learns from programming in collaboration with its implementing partners and Government of Vietnam (GVN) counterparts. This document explains the principles in greater detail; examples of some of the principles in action include:
I - Institute strong performance management by first having strong designs.
The Mission has recently overhauled its approach to project and activity design in line with recent ADS201 changes. The emphasis is on having strong theories of change and greater engagement with the GVN to ultimately improve ownership of results.
M - Meet users’ needs.
When deciding on indicators in the PMP, we tried to select indicators that served both management and reporting purposes, wherever possible. This reduces the burden on technical office staff and implementing partners.
R - Reflect and make meaning of our knowledge in order to use it.
The Mission has incorporated pause & reflect into most of its awards. In some cases, partners are encouraged or even required to pause & reflect quarterly or annually ahead of work planning to apply the knowledge they have gained throughout implementation.
E- Engage local stakeholders in our learning and adapting efforts.
Every piece of research or evaluation supported by the Mission’s support mechanism (USAID Learns) is used as an opportunity for engagement with GVN and other local stakeholders. Stakeholders participate in validation exercises where they begin to make sense of the findings and in utilization events where they discuss recommendations and actions.
We have shared these performance management principles with USAID/Vietnam’s implementing partners via the annual partners meeting and our recent quarterly MEL Officer “Share and Learn” event. We asked partners to think about how these principles show up in their organizations and which they were most excited about. The principle of promoting a spirit of curiosity and continuous improvement was a definite fan favorite. We have also incorporated the principles into a recent update of the Mission’s Activity Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan (AMELP) template (see text box).
We hope these performance management principles inspire other Missions and implementing partners to prioritize continuous learning and adaptive management in service of better development results.