Organizational Assessment: A Framework for Improving Performance

Organizational Assessment: A Framework for Improving Performance

Organizational Assessment: A Framework for Improving Performance

Organizational Assessment: A Framework for Improving Performance


The inability of development agencies to understand and improve the performance of the organizations they support continues to impede progress in the developing world, even after a decade of reforms. Strengthening the institutions that receive those grants and loans- including government ministries and executing agencies as well as nongovernmental organizations- has become the key to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of development assistance.

This book offers a clear-cut methodology to diagnose institutional strengths and weakness at the onset of development activities. In this way, beneficiaries can respond to growing pressures from donor governments and organizations for accountable and sustainable use of development funding. The authors examine all aspects of organizational performance, including the enabling environment, institutional capacity, management, financial viability, and staff motivation. They also review the methodological issues involved in carrying out an assessment, ranging from the choice and framing of questions to data collection and analysis, the question of who "owns" the assessment, and the reporting of results.

Designed for practitioners interested in organizational diagnosis and social change, this book includes a quick guide for organizational assessment, a sample report outline and questions, and a comprehensive assessment glossary.


The roots of this book go back to 1993, when we began to write our first book about improving the performance of research institutions in developing countries (Lusthaus et al., 1995). Development agencies have found it difficult to make adequate and useful investments aimed at improving the performance of research centers. Since we were working on this issue, the International Development Research Centre (1DRC) asked us to share our experience in written form with the wider development community. Almost 10 years later, we have a much wider set of experiences under our belts, and at the same time institutions and organizations matter now more than ever. There continues to be a need to invest in organizations in the developing world in systematic ways that can significantly improve performance over both the short and medium terms. As we began to discuss the development of this text, we asked Fred Carden and George Plinio Montalvan to join our team and add their experience and insight.

In this book, we take the organization as the basic unit of analysis, considering it to be a social unit that has an impact on our day-to-day lives. Culture and language play a crucial role in understanding the functioning of organizations around the world. In our dialogue with developing countries, we have come to realize the various levels of complexity involved in carrying out organizational assessments in these countries. To overcome this complexity, organizations must develop a common framework and concepts whenever they engage in organizational assessments. We have found that the framework and concepts in this book help to make such assessments successful.

Organizational Assessment: A Framework for Improving Performance puts forth a framework for analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of an organization in relation to its performance. The text introduces a heuristic framework that has guided our work for the past decade or so. In general, the framework posits that organizational performance is a function of its enabling environment, capacity and organizational motivation. It goes into a great deal of detail in trying to capture the ideas and concepts that underpin each of the four broad organizational ideas (performance, environment, capacity and motivation). In this framework, organizational performance is seen as a result of the organization's work.

Unlike our first edition, published by the IDRC in 1995, this book adopts a more generic approach toward organizations and is not primarily focused on research centers and nongovernmental organizations. Over the past decade, we have been privi-

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