The World Bank’s ability to deliver effective services to its clients is contingent upon its responsiveness to partner countries and the technical quality of the services it provides. To enhance the quality of its client services and complement its lending with knowledge services, the Bank introduced internal reforms in 1997 and established a matrix system with dual accountability between the regions and networks across the Bank, and between the country and sector units in each region.  The objectives of the matrix system were to enhance client responsiveness through its country delivery model, and the technical quality of its operations and knowledge services through strong technical networks and an internal labor market for staff renewal and global mobility.

IEG's matrix report evaluates the extent to which the dual objectives of the matrix system have been achieved and have enhanced the Bank’s development effectiveness. The evaluation examines the implementation of the matrix system and its relevance and effectiveness from 1997-2010.


Main Findings

Corporate and Sector Strategies vs. Country Based Model. Alignment of client priorities with sector and corporate priorities enhances the Bank’s development effectiveness. The evaluation finds that the country based-model has increased responsiveness to client governments but in many cases is more focused on short term needs than on strategic sector or corporate priorities. Country programs are designed to respond to client demands within three- four year timeframe of a Country Assistance Strategy. Sector and corporate strategies have a longer time horizon and broader scope and are unable to effectively influence country programs. As a result, although country assistance strategies are better aligned with client demands and have the flexibility to adapt to country circumstances when necessary, they lag behind in realism in matching program design to country capacity and achieving broad country ownership.

Corporate and Sector Strategies. The World Bank invests considerable resources in developing sector and corporate sector strategy papers (SSPs). However, SSPs are more generic by design to have global coverage and, thus, need to be complemented by regional sector strategies to be relevant to the work on the ground. The evaluation found that more Recent SSPs are better in reflecting country and regional experiences.

Staff Incentives. The country-based model does not incentivize staff to internalize corporate goals. In many cases the uptake of global and regional programs in countries has been catalyzed by the availability of trust funds or earmarked funds. It is important to create a balance between client demands and the World Bank’s broader perspective on global public goods like climate change and communicable diseases.


  • Enhance incentives and resources
    To operate the current matrix system effectively, the World Bank needs to enhance incentives and resources to promote sharing of knowledge and revamp the performance management system to reward quality and results.
  • Replace sector strategy papers by more modest "state-of-the-sector" reports and invest more in strategic economic and sector work and business development
    The Bank needs to replace sector strategy papers by more modest “state-of-the-sector” reports and invest more in strategic economic and sector work and business development. The Bank also needs to enhance the focus on technical quality by strengthening the mechanisms and accountability for quality of lending and knowledge products and simplifying budgetary rules for collaboration across organizational units.
  • Develop and implement a plan to enhance matrix effectiveness
    There is a need to develop and implement a plan to enhance matrix effectiveness that addresses existing constraints in the sector and network architecture, strengthens links among the Regions and anchors, and rebalances the relationship between country and sector units in the Regions. Key organizational constraints in the Sustainable Development Network also need to be addressed.


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