One of the pillars of the World Bank Group strategy is working as a “Group” to achieve transformational impact. IEG has learned quite a bit through its own intense integration process which started about five years ago.
At the time, IEG decided to bring together the evaluation units of the World Bank, IFC and MIGA and create evaluation teams capable of working across organizations and issues. The goal was greater impact and effectiveness.
This was a progressive effort, including one very concrete and effective action: putting everyone under the same roof. Staff started talking to each other and interacting, professionally and personally. Thus creating a new unified team was a process that came through by the simple act of working together for a common purpose.
It wasn't easy. Staff had to really understand each other’s work as well as the operations of other Bank Group agencies. Patiently, IEG experimented and adapted through different models of joint work—joint venture model with co-Task Team Leaders (TTLs) and co-managers; one leading department model with staff from various departments providing inputs; and one single team model, in which each department would combine staff from the three Bank Group agencies.
As teams were requested to work increasingly more on joint evaluations, the need for a new structure became clear: The conclusion was that staff had to be organized by themes and focus areas, rather than by institutions. Today, while to preserve their professional identity IEG staff members maintain their mapping to their original institutions, they form teams, share insights and produce evaluations across institutions and along broad thematic/sectorial areas, combining their expertise.
Producing joint evaluations was not an easy and natural step for staff. Many were used to their own models, institutions and approaches and never knew or heard of their colleagues’ work. There was a steep learning curve in adjusting to different institutional, operational and cultural models across all three institutions. The teams had to come up with approaches that would work in evaluating both private sector and public sector operations.
Interestingly enough, joint evaluations also induced management of the WBG to articulate their response and react collectively to IEG’s assessments.
Leadership was another important element. The IEG management group began working together more effectively. Decisions were disseminated quickly and clearly by a unified management group. Everyone had to make some compromises, including on staffing and resources but none that weren't worth the prize.
Another critical step was to create a unit that would provide advice and services across the unit on Strategy, IT support and Knowledge, which merged staff from various departments. This unit aimed to help IEG think jointly and convey a unified voice, including through the launch of a single website for the group. Likewise, major steps were taken to articulate a joint strategy, a joint budget and in establishing evaluation and performance measurement systems covering all three organizations
The communications, knowledge and strategy unit in IEG was the first to start working under the new model of One IEG. Staff needed not only to get used to working together, but also to co-share responsibilities in some of the same areas and in some cases, change their work approaches to deliver best results to diverse teams.
Challenges were numerous, including navigating through different HR processes, IT systems and organizational cultures. These challenges were particularly hard to overcome as in many instances staff has limited knowledge of what the “neighbor” is doing, including understanding differences in business models, instruments and processes.
What’s the take away so far? Growing together without losing institutional identities takes work, but it can not only be done – it is the way to go.