Project management in post-conflict societies
Clayman C. Myers, Jr., P.E., PMP
The post-conflict reconstruction work of the World Bank is rooted in the Bank’s mandate: to build a sustainable base for development. In a post-conflict situation, some prior activities that are taken for granted in normal borrowing countries may have to be supported. The restoration of normal living, working, and social conditions, the jump-starting of economic activities, the immediate rehabilitation of vital services such as water supply and sanitation and electricity, and help in getting key institutions into operation are some of the activities that distinguish borrowers in post-conflict situations from normal borrowers (The World Bank 1998).
The economy of Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H) was shattered after more than three years of war, which brought productive activity almost to a standstill. Per capita GDP fell from its estimated pre-war level of $1,900 to $500, and total GDP dropped from $9 billion to $2 billion. The country’s infrastructure had suffered enormous destruction. All modes of transport and telecommunications and almost all the facilities for power generation and distribution were severely damaged.
The war also resulted in an enormous loss of human resources and savagely ripped apart the social fabric of the society. Out of the 4.4 million that lived there before the war, an estimated 250,000 people have lost their lives; over one million have fled the country, and about 1.5 million are displaced within the country. Widespread under- and unemployment is still considered a serious threat to peace and economic recovery.
The country is confronted with three major challenges. First, to continue the process of reconstruction and recovery, which will require massive investments to rebuild the productive and infrastructure sectors; to complete the process of demobilization and reintegration of the combatants, and to resettle the displaced population. Second, to reestablish the institutions of government and service delivery, and third, to make the transition to a market economy.
The World Bank has worked with the government of B-H and the donor community to help develop an ambitious reconstruction program which is estimated to cost $5.1 billion over 3–4 years. The Emergency Recovery Program covers nine sectors and several subsectors including water and waste management, energy, transport, telecommunications, agriculture, industry, education, health, and housing and a Social Fund to support the strengthening of institutions, demining, and demobilization. The major objectives of the program are to immediately rehabilitate the facilities essential for economic recovery and social well being, to make maximum use of private initiatives and to expand new facilities that have a high rate of economic return.
The detailed sectoral reports prepared in support of the Emergency Recovery Program all identified the shortage of skills, weak project design, and implementation capacity, the lack of familiarity with international procurement procedures, and institutional weaknesses as important constraints to the pace of project implementation and hence, the economic recovery. To fill these gaps, heavy reliance was, and is being placed on foreign consultants, turnkey projects, and technical assistance for training. These recommendations are reasonable for any one project or sector as a short-term solution but the heavy reliance on outside help can adversely affect the longer-term implementation and sustainability of projects.
There are also important political constraints that must be addressed in the reconstruction effort. The demography of the country is quite complex. In June 1995, there were about 1.2 million Muslims, 900,000 Serbs, 500,000 Croats, and 250,000 Yugoslavs living in B-H. The pace of the economic recovery will also depend on the success in reestablishing a harmoniously working multicultural society. Finally, the country is effectively landlocked and its economic development is dependent on political and economic cooperation with Serbia and Croatia. Conflict prevention and management are thus essential requirements of the economic recovery effort.
The principal objective of the training program in Project Implementation and Conflict Management was to provide Bosnians at every level, and from different cantons and communities, with the skills needed to manage and implement projects under difficult post-conflict conditions.
The World Bank Institute (WBI) component of the course provided training in the essential skills of project management and implementation. A training course in a typical project cycle can take up to six weeks, however, in response to the emergency situation,WBI selected specific training modules for a shorter three-week course. The design of the course focused on providing the skills needed to establish common standards for project management and implementation, the procurement of goods and services and disbursements.
The Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR) provided training on the techniques of conflict management. This component of the course was designed to provide the participants with the management and communication skills needed to carry out peace building activities such as mediation, arbitration, facilitation, human rights protection, and strategies for conflict resolution and negotiation.
The goal of this specially designed training program was to build a cadre of up to ninety Bosnians a year with skills in Project Implementation and Conflict Management. The course provided training that would enable the participants to promote post-conflict reconstruction, improve the implementation of donor-supported projects in the Emergency Recovery Program, and employment in the public or private sector.
Another objective of the training program was to ensure its sustainability by building an in-country capacity to carry out, on its own, similar training activities.
The location of the training program in the small town of Stadt Schlaining in southern Burgenland, Austria, enabled the participants to get away from the stresses of the local situation to a peaceful place that encourages learning and constructive interaction. The program provided the participants with training that will help them to get a job or do their jobs better, and introduced them in this setting to the concepts and techniques of peacekeeping and peace building.
Audience and Coverage
About thirty participants were invited to attend each course, which was to be held three times a year. Participants were recruited widely from the public and private sector, the central and local governments, and different ethnic groups, and from refugees and displaced groups. The total number of participants over the three year period was 186, consisting of 101 Federation persons (Muslims and Croats) and 85 Serbs. There were 81 female participants.
WBI (Gordon Appleby and the author) worked closely with its partner institution in Austria—The Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR) located in Stadt Schlaining. ASPR was a cosponsor of the program, and, through Mr. Arno Truger, Deputy to the President, provided the training module in conflict management. The participants received boarding and lodging in the nearby facilities. The location of the course in Austria was very convenient and cost effective. The schedule of the courses also gave the Bosnian participants the opportunity to interact with the participants from around the world who were either attending workshops conducted by ASPR on peace keeping and peace building or attending the European Center for Peace Studies (HPU). The rural and peaceful surroundings also provided additional encouragement for learning and discussions on conflict resolution matters.
The training course consisted of two modules:
Module 1. Project Implementation and Management. The skills and tasks required to manage the implementation of a project. This includes planning tools such as work breakdown structure and the Critical Path Method, as well as team building and behavioral subjects in leadership and motivation. Particular emphasis was placed on analyzing organizational structure and authority and responsibility relationships. Participants were taught how to design and implement a project management system using the latest tools and computer software. The course also taught both World Bank and international procurement policies procedures and practices. Particular emphasis was placed on planning for procurement and working within local guidelines.
Module 2. Strategies and Techniques for Conflict Transformation. This course gave participants the skills to recognize conflict escalation and de-escalation factors and gain experiential knowledge of different concepts, simulation exercises aimed at improving communication skills, and the promotion of intercultural understanding.
Training Program Participants
A group of 25–30 participants were invited to attend each course of the program. Participants were recruited widely from the public and private sector, the central and local governments, NGOS, different ethnic groups, and from refugees and displaced groups.
Nomination and Selection of Candidates
Official “Nomination and Application for Admission” forms were made available to nominating institutions. As a first step, before the applications were sent, the nominating institutions were asked to fax or telex the name, position, current responsibilities, and age of their candidates to WBI as soon as they reached a decision on whom they would nominate. The applications for admission had to be signed by the candidate and by the nominating authority and sent by fax and airmail. Applications received after a stated deadline would not be considered.
The eligibility requirement for the training program was a university degree or its equivalent. Since the training programs would be conducted in English, proficiency in English was also required. An Admissions Committee made final selection. In making the selection, the Admissions Committee took into account, among other things, the present position of the candidates, their experience, the relevance of their duties to the training program, their level of responsibility, and their personal and professional qualifications. Particular weight was given to the statements of the nominating authority and the candidate, explaining the reasons for the nomination and the benefits expected from the training program.
Administrative Arrangements and Pledge of Attendance
The sponsors of the training program required that, in making nominations, nominating institutions agree that:
1. Participants will be given a leave of absence for the duration of the training program that they will be attending.
2. Participants will not be given assignments that would prevent them from devoting their full time and attention to the training program. In the event the participants are required to return to their home institutions before the end of the course, a request for reimbursement of incurred expenses would be requested of the home institutions.
3. Upon their return, they will be placed in their former positions or in other positions of equal or greater responsibility in which knowledge gained from the training program will be utilized.
Participants pledged to observe the following terms for attending the training program:
1. They will attend all sessions on a prompt and regular basis; absence is permitted only for reasons of illness and other purposes approved by the training program codirectors.
2. They will return to the service of their institution after the training program. In addition, the training program required, because of its highly interrelated and cohesive content, that participants be present for its entire duration from the first to the last day. EDI and ASPR paid the round trip transportation by bus of participants from their duty station to the training program location, plus the cost of lodging and subsistence.
Workshop: Ex-Post Evaluation of the Project Implementation and Conflict Management Training Program for Bosnia-Herzegovina
The completion of the program afforded an opportunity to evaluate the course not only in terms of individual participant development but also in terms of overall contribution to the development of their country. Although the evaluations received at the end of each course segment were positive there still remained a question of whether the original objectives of the program had been met: 1) enable trained participants to promote post-conflict reconstruction; 2) improve the implementation of donor supported projects in the Emergency Recovery Program; 3) effective employment in the public or private sector.
Introduction and Statement of Objectives
In order to determine the overall effectiveness in accomplishing the goals of the program, a plan was proposed whereby former participants can input their post-program experiences and resultant contributions to their country. The plan envisioned a three-day workshop type conference with panel discussions and small workshops that would include as objectives findings of fact on the effectiveness of the prior program in addition to reports on current issues of project development in B-H. Participants to the seminar were chosen from the entire field of graduates of the program, and included, inter alia, participants from the public and private sectors including NGO’s and an even mix of ethnic identities. It was also reasonable to expect that the seminar would yield recommendations for future seminars, including, for example, an advanced course in project management in B-H, and/or a similar course for training of trainers (TOT), addressing preconditions necessary for effective project management and conflict management training. These preconditions would include determinations of: 1) availability of sufficient numbers of former participants to become in-country trainers, and 2) available structures in both entities of B-H to support such a follow-on program.
The subject workshop was jointly sponsored by WBIEN and the Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR) and consisted of small discussion groups of five members each. Each group “brainstormed” the session topics, then consolidated and prioritized them for presentation in plenary sessions. It included findings of fact on 1) the effectiveness of the prior three year program; 2) recommendations for improvement of the program; 3) recommendations for future seminars, including, for example, an advanced course in project management in the Balkan countries and other countries in post-conflict, and/or a similar course for training of trainers, addressing preconditions necessary for effective project management and conflict management training. Participants to the seminar were chosen from the entire field of graduates of the three-year program, and included participants from the public and private sectors and NGO’s with an even mix of ethnic identities, gender, sector, and class year. Twenty-six participants had been invited, however eleven could not attend for various work-related reasons.
The participants consisted of fifteen middle management government and NGO representatives: Bosnian Federation (6), and the Republika Srpska (Serbs) (9). There were ten female participants: 5 Federation and 5 Serbs. The venue was at the castle Burg Schlaining. Three invited participants advised ASPR just prior to the start of the workshop that they could not attend. One seminar room and two breakout rooms were provided by ASPR and proved quite adequate and pleasant. Refreshments were also provided during the breaks.
There were three products expected from the workshop: 1) An evaluation of the three-year program as held, with specific comments/examples; 2) An improved design of the program that could be held in the future in B-H or elsewhere; 3) Suggestions and/or recommendations for more advanced follow-on programs. Of particular note were the many specific examples, given by the participants for product of the benefits gained from the course they had attended. Prior to the workshop a series of questions similar to those given to the workshop participants was mailed to all former participants—about 200. Responses were received from sixty.
Analysis of Group Findings on the Workshop Program
Evaluation of the Three-Year Program as Held
1. Specific examples of useful application in their work of information and skills gained as a result of the course. What could they actually use in their jobs?
All working groups stated the value of proper project planning learned during their course. Particular note was made of the use of the classic management process of planning, organizing, implementing, controlling, and evaluating in the development of project proposals. The use of project proposal development exercises in the third week using the principles of project management developed during the course was clearly a major factor mentioned in their responses to this question. Organizational knowledge gained was also stated as useful in their work. Procurement and contracting knowledge was also successfully applied in their work. Specific examples included:
• Rehabilitation of the City Hall in Sarajevo
• Rehabilitation of the Stadium Kosovo in Sarajevo
• Rehabilitation of the Secondary Technical School in Sarajevo
• Reorganization of the NGO “Synerjia” to a more functional design to assist in applying matrix organization principles for future project implementation
• Three projects in the health sector were integrated in one PMU by applying new organizational principles
• Full preparations of housing project proposals were made in both the Federation and in Syrpska, including the use of budgeting and implementation skills learned during the course
• Procurement of vaccines through learned bidding procedures
• Applying the principles of conflict management in the management of project priorities
• “Partnership Life Skills” were now being applied in the creation of project implementation teamwork.
2. What did they want to do or try to do that did not work, and why?
A common theme for the groups was that project management skills did not exist for all parties in the implementation process, thus there was significant difficulty in realizing efficiencies that, in some cases, resulted in cancellation of projects. It was also stated that schedule and cost control skills learned during the course could not be applied due to lack of computers and programs, and the lack of qualified instructors in B-H. It is believed that this situation was the impetus for comments, during the last day of the Workshop, for developing a Training of Trainers (TOT) program.
3. Least useful topics contained in present course design and why. (Didn’t even think of using or even bother to try.)
There were only a few comments on this question, best described by the following examples:
• Lessons on the “Dayton Agreement”
• Political cases in conflict management
• Communications and perception training. It is believed that this comment reflected the adverse opinion that the presentations, given the first day of the course, were akin to “kindergarten” exercises.
4. Additional topics that would have been useful.
The comments made show the need for more intensive training in the skills required for present-day implementation requirements. They also reflect the progress made in BH in improving project implementation skills.
• Prefeasibility study skills, particularly in the privatization process
• How to manage and guide “creative” conflict processes
• Project management software training
• Further training in reporting systems
• More detailed procurement training
• Project presentation skills
• More advanced financial monitoring and cost control topics.
5. Have participants successfully demonstrated to superiors and subordinate the knowledge and skills learned? Examples. Effects of successful demonstration.
The response to this question was positive both in the group sessions and in informal conversations during the three days of the workshop. Some examples were:
• The advantages of teamwork with all parties to the project were presented
• On request, the distribution of training materials from the course to interested parties was made
• One NGO (EDA) organized short training programs for their personnel and other interested parties
• One participant convinced her superior to attend the course, which he did.
6. Other assistance (besides training) that might have been provided.
Some stated examples were:
• More discussion about financial disciplines, such as the stock market, managing investment funds, and working capital
• A request to use email to keep former participants informed of new developments and ideas
• Suggested use of better visual aid equipment such as LCD projectors
• Make trainers of former participants
• Present more topics on the “legal side” of project management, including the “Rule of Law.”
An Improved Design of the Program That Could Be Held in the Future in B-H or Elsewhere
1. Are the topics of Project Implementation and Conflict Management successfully integrated? If not, how might the integration be better effected?
The responses from the groups indicated that the integration was only partly successful. The point was made that project implementation and conflict management were presented “side by side” and therefore not integrated. It was pointed out that project implementation seemed to be derived from project experience while conflict management had a political base, thus integration did not occur. The suggestion was made that both project implementation and conflict management should have a common denominator of business applications in order to be show integration.
2. What topics should be eliminated? What should be retained?
The consensus of the groups was that conflict management should address and emphasize the phases of the project management life cycle and thus lessen the emphasis on political examples. Once again they suggested the elimination of communication and “kindergarten” exercises given at the beginning of the course.
3. Which should be condensed or lengthened? Which topics should be added?
One group suggested condensing the topics of contracts and contracting. Several topics were suggested to be lengthened or added, such as risk management, team development, procurement, conflict resolution (as opposed to conflict management), and project planning, monitoring and reporting. It is believed that these suggestions reflect a growing sophistication in project implementation and conflict management among the participants.
4. Mix of training methods by module.
There was general agreement that lectures and case studies (in that order) were desirable but that role playing in conflict management be eliminated. Case studies in project implementation should reflect real world cases in B-H.
Suggestions/Recommendations for More Advanced Follow-On Programs
1. Advanced topics
An interesting recommendation was made by the groups that project implementation should be expanded to include the topics of the total project life cycle, i.e., prefeasibility studies, economic and financial analysis, procurement, supervision, monitoring, and so on. Also recommended was the topic of preparation and design of project proposals in addition to methods of obtaining financing. Additional topics recommended were impact analysis, team building, risk management, negotiation, and presentation skills. Again these recommendations reflected a growing sophistication in project management and conflict management among the participants.
2. Training of Trainers (TOT)
The consensus of the groups was that TOT is important and needed. The observation was made that project implementation trainers should be chosen from the graduates of the present course but conflict management trainers should be specialized. They also recognized that it was important to have teaching skills as well as professional skills. Training methods should be fairly mixed between theory and practice, i.e., case studies, lectures, exercises, and so on, and that the development of presentation techniques is very important.
3. Applicability to other Balkan Countries
It was stated that project management skills are applicable to every country but that conflict management skills had to be adapted to the country in question. This is because of the differing cultural and sociological background and environment found in each country. It was suggested that BH could be a strong player in such a training program.
4. Other topics
Suggested topics to be considered for the follow-on program:
• Financial management
• Software applications “across the board”
• Capital market and stock market
• Management of investment funds
• Human rights
• Rule of law
• Preparation of master plans
• Economic transition for former socialist countries.
On the Monday following the workshop (Dec. 6) Arno Truger, ASPR, Mark Bardini and Clayman Myers, WBI, met with Monika Einzinger of the Austrian Chancellery to report on the results of the workshop. She was appreciative of the report given and stated her support of the program; however she noted that a coalition government had not yet been formed by the newly elected president, thus budgets were uncertain at this time.
The responses and data generated by the program are segmented into four thematic areas: respondent satisfaction; learning and skills gained; impacts on the respondents and their country; and suggestions for improvement. The responses indicate that the program had been a vital force in assisting with the post-conflict rebuilding of B-H.
Respondent satisfaction with the course was high. A majority of the respondents (43, or 72 percent) indicated that all aspects of the course were useful, attesting that the course was important to them. Additionally, their responses that the program is needed and should be continued are further evidence of its importance and usefulness. The fact that many respondents consider follow-on programs vital to other countries in need of this type of training, and also the respondents’ offers to assist with further training in other countries are indicative of the importance and interest which they attach to this program.
Learning and Skills Gained from the Workshops
The more positive features of the PICM workshops were their ability to generally improve the project implementation and conflict management skills of participants. Indeed, respondents indicated that they commonly applied the skills that they learned in the workshops in proper project planning. This included: planning; organizing; implementing; controlling; and evaluating the project. Respondents believe that these vital skill scan be used not only in their work,but also in their everyday lives. This indicates that the course has personally affected the participants and has impacted their lives—a conclusion that the course has gone beyond affecting their work environment.
Impacts on the Respondents and Their Country
The respondents’ replies to the questions posed to them in the evaluation workshop and in the questionnaires indicate that the PICM workshops have had profound effects on both the participants and their country. Respondents offered convincing evidence of level 3 (behavioral) and level 4 (institutional) impacts which arose from the knowledge and skills gained from participating in the course. Graduates implemented projects that impacted both their work and their country’s emergence from the countless damages inflicted during its civil war. Indeed, B-H, as a whole, seems to have benefited from the specific skills that participants brought back to their country and utilized to improve projects.
While impacts are unusually difficult to assess and even more difficult to directly attribute to any one program, respondents in this study offer specific examples which are both compelling and credible. These examples speak to the merits of the program and offer the clearest evidence that the program had demonstrable impacts.
Suggestions for Program Improvement
Respondents believe that the two topics of Project Implementation and Conflict Management can be effectively combined and taught, but also indicated that there needs to be better integration of the topics into the workshop. Their responses indicate a belief that the two topics are closely intertwined and not mutually exclusive. Moreover, the respondents stated that the two topics, taken together, should address and emphasize the phases of the entire life cycle of a project.
The respondents’ requests to incorporate the entire life cycle of a project into the course, along with their desire for additional topics (including risk management, team development, procurement, conflict resolution, as opposed to conflict management, and project planning, monitoring, and reporting), appear to reflect their growing understanding and sophistication in Project Implementation and Conflict Management. Suggestions also were made by the respondents that additional experts in the area of conflict management are needed for this program.
Additional training in computer applications and software for project management was another suggestion offered by the respondents to improve the program. This important type of training could certainly be better integrated into a one or two day event within the three-week duration of the course.
While the case studies used in prior workshops were rated as good, respondents also suggested that more real-life case studies, appropriate to their country-specific situations, are needed. If follow-on courses are offered by the PICM program to other countries, it should strive to utilize additional country-related case studies that are more realistic and appropriate to the participants’ specific situations. According to the respondents, these case studies would enhance the value of the program.
Conclusions and Recommendations (Bardini 2000)
The responses and data indicate that the PICM program has been positively regarded by its participants. It also appears to have been a vital force to assist in the post-conflict rebuilding of B-H, as expressed through the views of 98 percent of the respondents to the questionnaire who stated emphatically that there is still a demand for additional programs of this kind in B-H. Moreover, the responses of the PICM program graduates, along with the data analysis, attest that the PICM program has had positive impacts on both its graduates and the country of B-H. The respondents in this study offered convincing evidence of level 3 and level 4 impacts that arose from the knowledge and skills gained from participating in the program.
WBI, ASPR, and the Austrian Federal Chancellery have established a unique partnership that continually supported and strengthened the PICM program and contributed to its success throughout its history. This partnership should be continued since it is mutually beneficial. The best evidence to support this theory is conveyed through the testimonies of the PICM graduates who took part in this study. Moreover, this collaboration would be very useful in implementing additional programs of this type for countries like Kosovo that are currently undergoing recovery and reparation in post-conflict conditions. If WBI continues to offer this program with ASPR and with the Austrian government, the graduates of the program would make excellent teachers and vital resource contacts.
Bardini, Mark B. (2000). Evaluation of the Project Implementation and Conflict Management Training Program for Bosnia-Herzegovina. Washington, DC: World Bank.
World Bank, The. (1995). Post-Conflict Reconstruction. Washington, DC.
Proceedings of PMI Research Conference 2002