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A Broad Definition of Development Management – The term development management tends to be as broad and profound as it sounds. Although it stemmed from the introduction of pure management principles to the running of international development activities, the necessity to introduce a radical system that will remedy stagnation in the public service systems of developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia has broaden its scope.

Invariably, it is a system, an applied discipline set up to systematically break strict administrative procedures in public service delivery, while increasing management efficiency and business-like approach to public service with the infusing a sense of ownership to development practice by national and local government apparels as well as the benefiting communities, local NGO’s and the civil society.

One of its major principles inspires the learning of lessons from local situations, and maintaining the global perspective, to plan strategies and actions for development and social services to strive better. The process of its acceptance and application is founded within the principles it professes, where dynamism, adaptation, result and client orientation, as hitherto known in the private sector, dictates the tools and strategies towards the running of business, work progress and organization outlook.

A most remarkable exposé on development management and one that is devoted to the theory and practice of the subject is found in an article written by Derick and Jennifer Brinherhoff (2005). The research paper titled “International development management: definitions, debates and dilemmas” dogged deeper into the potentialities of development management, it’s multi-facets, pro-efficiency and value based wherewithal. The article stressed on the fact that development management is a sub-discipline of public administration which evolved from the traditional process of development administration, modified to meet the accelerated need to be more responsive by applying customised approaches to varying challenges, situation and development conditions and at all levels increase efficiency by reducing emphasis on process, administrative procedure and overgeneralization of problems. It also describe the emergence of development management as alternative to curbing the lapses created by valuing process over results as peculiar to traditional development administration while emphasising that the subject represents a system adopted by international development agencies and NGOs in developing countries in an attempt to ensure concrete impacts of programmes.

The work of Derick and Jennifer was published in 2005 as one of the first to be devoted purely to the theory and practice of development management — this shows the extent at which the discipline is new on the pure research platform. However, its nature conforms with what Swanson (2007) referred to as an applied discipline, when he said “beyond a few traditional academic disciplines, the majority of disciplines in contemporary institutions of higher learning are applied, dynamic, and relatively young – such as management, information technology, interior design, or dental hygiene. Applied disciplines almost always have both a strong theory component and a strong practice component”[1].

Development management as an applied discipline evolved from the traditional process of development administration, modified to meet the accelerating need to be more responsive and applied customised approaches to different situations and conditions. It therefore emerging from attempts to correct the lapses experienced in traditional development administration. It surpasses the concept of development in the sense of deeper thinking regarding how to achieve it. The primary pathway began with centrally-planned, state-dominated strategies to market-led polycentric approaches with the state as coordinator and regulator rather than as the sole or predominant actor. This shift corresponds with a change in the terminology to describe these processes, from development administration to development management. Derick and Jennifer put it: “The term, development administration, has been the traditional label for the sub-field of public administration in developing/transitional countries. However, this has in many circles been gradually supplanted by the term, development management. The replacement of administration with management signifies an emphasis on nimble organizations, flexible strategies, and proactive managerial styles, as opposed to the tasks and tools of routine administration in bureaucracies. Also, flowing from the polycentric concept, where numerous actors are actively engaged in the tasks of improving people’s lives and generating socio-economic benefits, development management is not restricted to the public sector. Development managers can be staff of NGOs, members of community groups, entrepreneurs and businesspeople, as well as civil servants”[2].

In effect, from its initial focus on institution-building for central-level public bureaucracies and capacity-building for economic and project planning, development management has gradually expanded to encompass bureaucratic reform and restructuring to enhance democratic governance and responsiveness to citizens, including the poor; the integration of politics and culture into management improvement; participatory and performance-based service delivery and program management; community and NGO capacity-

Four strategic and objective components were identified, namely institutional agenda setting, process, tools and value as the four major dimensions by which it could be seen. However, the point where the four dimensions are articulated, or not, makes the difference between when a holistic and effective approach to development is being applied or not. Public service reforms are usually backed with specific objectives depending on the vision of the visionary or those who are entrusted in carrying out the reform. Agenda setting, process, management tools and the value of managers must therefore converge to produce effective outcome.

Like its parent field, public administration, it has shifted along with the changes in development strategies , moving away from techno-rational, Universalist, public-sector administrative models toward context-specific, politically infused, multi-sectoral, multi-organisational models. In summary, development management has moved from: simple policy reform and implementation, sole reliance on technical-rational, concentrating on improving so-called hard systems and structures, universalist solutions (one-size-fits-all), focus on reactive administrative models, fulfilling routine functions to: context-specificity – recognizing that while solutions in various settings will share some features, they must be adapted to the particular features that make each context unique; recognition that any change, even if it appears to be just a “neutral” technical modification, is in fact politically infused (that is, somebody wins and somebody loses, and power matters); multi-sectoral solutions: no single discipline or perspective has a corner on “the truth;” the best solutions emerge when the insights of many viewpoints and sources of expertise are brought to bear; strategic perspectives merged with operational administration: paying attention to the “big picture” and long-term direction while not neglecting the details of how to get there; and multi-organizational models, whereby the complex problems of development almost always require the attention and intervention of numerous agencies, even if one organization is nominally “in charge.”

This movement has resulted in the emergence of a higher demand for specialities in development management, particularly in the United Nations when expertise on governance and public administration is needed. A knowledge of the structure and changing landscape in the requirements for successful carriage of actions to bring about concrete development results, experience and knowledge of concepts of Results-Based Management, Managing for Development Results and a background on new approaches in the project management cycle, are essential skills required from a development Manager.

Finally, the value approach in development management signifies commitment to results and people orientation – and this is essential as far as measuring the real impacts of public management actions are concerned.


[1] Richard A. Swanson (2007), Theory Framework of Applied Disciplines: Boundaries, Contributing, Core, Useful, Novel, and Irrelevant Components, The University of Texas at Tyler, march 15, 2007, p 1[2] Today’s reality in development administration has removed the limits of who is involved in managing development (see Derick W. Brinkerhoff and Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff, 2005). As the different sectors of the society are found to have a stake in ensuring sustainable development, their engagements are also found inevitable, since underdevelopment is a product of the « progressive activities » of institutions and individuals alike. In fact the principles of sustainable development advocates for this in finding leverage between the explorative activities of business, individual consumption patterns, ethics in science and technological development and renewed consciousness of administrators responsible for people’s development towards a human based approach.

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