Focus on what matters most.

Management consulting to help you work smarter in the world’s toughest environments.

Strategy  |  Major change initiatives  |  M&E systems

Focus on what matters most.

Management consulting to help you work smarter in the world’s toughest environments.
Strategy | Major change initiatives | M&E systems

Welcome. I’m an independent consultant and writer on how to work more effectively in places affected by serious violence and political instability.

I’ve spent the last fifteen years supporting international institutions to engage in fragile places the right way, both in-country and at the policy level.

My approach is defined by trusted collaboration and co-design with people right across the organisation — to translate high-level goals into the nuts and bolts of getting the right things done on the ground.

For examples of previous work, and what this all looks like for real clients, please click through to the case studies page.

Fragile places are defined by their complex political and social environments.  I help motivated leaders develop “best-fit” approaches that address key success factors, and pull in less-heard voices to the maximum extent possible.

Generic public sector management models don’t work too well in crisis situations.

The stakeholder environment is complex and contested; and the implementation environment requires constant collaboration across the traditional “silos” of humanitarian response, development and security.

With this in mind I support large institutions to develop politically smart and best-fit approaches that are robust for the context.

This draws upon substantial experience of “what works” for peer institutions, with a fifteen-year track record of both designing and evaluating major initiatives. (And a strong international network to match.)

The other hallmark is a design methodology that prioritises work with those closest to the problems, to ensure that ground truth is always at the centre of the conversation.

Key services:

  • Strategic review: Gathering and interpreting both “outside-in” and “inside-out” perspectives on the organisation, to provide a 360-degree view of performance.
  • Strategy execution: Translating high-level goals into a holistic change plan covering internal operating processes, external partnerships, and sustainable capacities.
  • Inclusive politics: Finding ways to bring less-heard voices into the policy conversation, including the community level and marginalised minorities.
  • Inter-agency initiatives: Clarifying shared goals, and developing common systems and processes to make the operational level work better. Managing sequencing and inter-dependencies for humanitarian-development and development-security partnerships.

 

Highlights of experience:

  • A field background including the humanitarian, security and development perspectives, giving me the ability to move comfortably and credibly between all interlocutors.
  • A decade-plus coordinating initiatives to better integrate international engagement in serious crises, including transitions from humanitarian to development assistance; “integration” of the different arms of the UN system; and linking up security and development assistance.
  • Pioneering work on how to involve less-heard voices in tough environments, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, mid-war Sri Lanka, and UN Peacekeeping at a global level.
I use design thinking to make sense of complex challenges. This means working with those closest to the issues to understand what matters to them; to co-develop practical steps forward; and to test feasibility in real operating environments.

The most important resource for a mission-driven international organisation is its people. They’re the ones on the ground, that must grapple with fast-moving situations, tricky stakeholder relationships, and often considerable personal risk.

My philosophy is to lean into that, and build solutions that all key stakeholders want, need, and get excited about. (The corollary: Avoiding top-down approaches that don’t match up with realities on the ground.)

In practice this means adopting two complementary perspectives:

Systems & processes (“hardware”):  Working with internal stakeholders to map out out what needs to change with regard to people; policy & strategy; business processes; and partnerships & resources. This may involve tools and methodologies such as:

  • process mapping & re-engineering;
  • activity-based costing and zero-budgeting;
  • benchmarking against comparable organisations (in confidence);
  • organisational capacity assessment tools, e.g. European Foundation for Quality Management, or McKinsey 7-S

 

People & culture (“software”):  Involving people across the organisation to draw out perceived benefits and barriers of upcoming changes, and to develop shared goals and momentum. This may involve tools & methodologies such as:

  • structured change models, e.g. the ADKAR model (awareness-desire-knowledge-ability-reinforcement);
  • oral history and narrative approaches, building profiles and implementation stories;
  • internal stakeholder engagement strategies for large organisations;
  • mentoring, coaching, and trouble-shooting with key staff.
Fragile places require flexible approaches, and the ability to learn while doing. I equip clients to set pragmatic goals, to generate real-time and relevant feedback on progress, and to ensure decision-makers respond quickly.

The most challenging environments tend to frustrate traditional approaches to monitoring, evaluation and learning.

There’s a good deal of uncertainty around the baseline situation; “what works” requires a certain amount of experimentation to find out; and facts on the ground tend to evolve quickly and invalidate key assumptions.

Even when the data is clear, large organisations often struggle to respond quickly. Major initiatives are under-pinned by complex funding arrangements and stakeholder relationships, and it takes time and patience to “turn the ship”.

With all this in mind, I help build M&E processes that can drive better decision-making in real-time. This means that decision-makers get the inputs that they need, when they need them.

Key services:

  • Strategy / program design: Clarification of logic models, including conflict analysis and political economy analysis. Evaluability assessments for major initiatives, and re-design of M&E frameworks.
  • Adaptive management: Ensuring that senior staff have access to real-time feedback via “dashboard” tools. Supporting more effective decision meetings through process re-engineering and targeted capacity building.
  • Inter-agency challenges: Designing M&E approaches and metrics at the strategic level; developing shared processes and common standards; and finding resources and capacities for issues that exceed the remit of any one agency.

 

Highlights of experience:

  • Coordination of M&E functions for a range of inter-agency initiatives for stabilisation, peacebuilding, and early recovery, including Secretariat support to high-level political fora.
  • Leadership of global meta-evaluations of how large institutions approach RBM, including strategic review of peace operations; humanitarian-development transitions; and joint working between the World Bank, UN and EU.
  • A mixed background including both extensive formal training in quantitative methods, and a decade’s experience with applied ethnographic methods in the field (oral history / narrative, visualisation).

I work on a freelance basis — either on retainer for a flexible number of days, or on a lump sum basis for major projects. This includes consulting firms (prime contractors) who need either confidential advice, or a client-facing technical lead, on large projects.

If you would like to discuss a specific challenge, or check availability, please do get in touch. No job is too short, as there are always gaps in schedule!

Contacts:

The best option is email: ian@iandquick.com.

You can also find me on LinkedIn, or Twitter, if you’d just like to keep the lines open.

Fragile places are defined by their complex political and social environments.  I help motivated leaders develop “best-fit” approaches that address key success factors, and pull in less-heard voices to the maximum extent possible.

Generic public sector management models don’t work too well in crisis situations.

The stakeholder environment is complex and contested; and the implementation environment requires constant collaboration across the traditional “silos” of humanitarian response, development and security.

With this in mind I support large institutions to develop politically smart and best-fit approaches that are robust for the context.

This draws upon substantial experience of “what works” for peer institutions, with a fifteen-year track record of both designing and evaluating major initiatives. (And a strong international network to match.)

The other hallmark is a design methodology that prioritises work with those closest to the problems, to ensure that ground truth is always at the centre of the conversation.

Key services:

  • Strategic review: Gathering and interpreting both “outside-in” and “inside-out” perspectives on the organisation, to provide a 360-degree view of performance.
  • Strategy execution: Translating high-level goals into a holistic change plan covering internal operating processes, external partnerships, and sustainable capacities.
  • Inclusive politics: Finding ways to bring less-heard voices into the policy conversation, including the community level and marginalised minorities.
  • Inter-agency initiatives: Clarifying shared goals, and developing common systems and processes to make the operational level work better. Managing sequencing and inter-dependencies for humanitarian-development and development-security partnerships.

Highlights of experience:

  • A field background including the humanitarian, security and development perspectives, giving me the ability to move comfortably and credibly between all interlocutors.
  • A decade-plus coordinating initiatives to better integrate international engagement in serious crises, including transitions from humanitarian to development assistance; “integration” of the different arms of the UN system; and linking up security and development assistance.
  • Pioneering work on how to involve less-heard voices in tough environments, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, mid-war Sri Lanka, and UN Peacekeeping at a global level.

Fragile places require flexible approaches, and the ability to learn while doing. I equip clients to set pragmatic goals, to generate real-time and relevant feedback on progress, and to ensure decision-makers respond quickly.

The most challenging environments tend to frustrate traditional approaches to monitoring, evaluation and learning.

There’s a good deal of uncertainty around the baseline situation; “what works” requires a certain amount of experimentation to find out; and facts on the ground tend to evolve quickly and invalidate key assumptions.

Even when the data is clear, large organisations often struggle to respond quickly. Major initiatives are under-pinned by complex funding arrangements and stakeholder relationships, and it takes time and patience to “turn the ship”.

With all this in mind, I help build M&E processes that can drive better decision-making in real-time. This means that decision-makers get the inputs that they need, when they need them.

Key services:

  • Strategy / program design: Clarification of logic models, including conflict analysis and political economy analysis. Evaluability assessments for major initiatives, and re-design of M&E frameworks.
  • Adaptive management: Ensuring that senior staff have access to real-time feedback via “dashboard” tools. Supporting more effective decision meetings through process re-engineering and targeted capacity building.
  • Inter-agency challenges: Designing M&E approaches and metrics at the strategic level; developing shared processes and common standards; and finding resources and capacities for issues that exceed the remit of any one agency.

Highlights of experience:

  • Coordination of M&E functions for a range of inter-agency initiatives for stabilisation, peacebuilding, and early recovery, including Secretariat support to high-level political fora.
  • Leadership of global meta-evaluations of how large institutions approach RBM, including strategic review of peace operations; humanitarian-development transitions; and joint working between the World Bank, UN and EU.
  • A mixed background including both extensive formal training in quantitative methods, and a decade’s experience with applied ethnographic methods in the field (oral history / narrative, visualisation).

I use design thinking to make sense of complex challenges. This means working with those closest to the issues to understand what matters to them; to co-develop practical steps forward; and to test feasibility in real operating environments.

The most important resource for a mission-driven international organisation is its people. They’re the ones on the ground, that must grapple with fast-moving situations, tricky stakeholder relationships, and often considerable personal risk.

My philosophy is to lean into that, and build solutions that all key stakeholders want, need, and get excited about. (The corollary: Avoiding top-down approaches that don’t match up with realities on the ground.)

In practice this means adopting two complementary perspectives:

Systems & processes (“hardware”):  Working with internal stakeholders to map out out what needs to change with regard to people; policy & strategy; business processes; and partnerships & resources. This may involve tools and methodologies such as:

  • process mapping & re-engineering;
  • activity-based costing and zero-budgeting;
  • benchmarking against comparable organisations (in confidence);
  • organisational capacity assessment tools, e.g. European Foundation for Quality Management, or McKinsey 7-S

People & culture (“software”):  Involving people across the organisation to draw out perceived benefits and barriers of upcoming changes, and to develop shared goals and momentum. This may involve tools & methodologies such as:

  • structured change models, e.g. the ADKAR model (awareness-desire-knowledge-ability-reinforcement);
  • oral history and narrative approaches, building profiles and implementation stories;
  • internal stakeholder engagement strategies for large organisations;
  • mentoring, coaching, and trouble-shooting with key staff.

I work on a freelance basis — either on retainer for a flexible number of days, or on a lump sum basis for major projects. This includes consulting firms (prime contractors) who need either confidential advice, or a client-facing technical lead, on large projects.

If you would like to discuss a specific challenge, or check availability, please do get in touch. No job is too short, as there are always gaps in schedule!

Contacts:

The best option is email: ian@iandquick.com.

You can also find me on LinkedIn, or Twitter, if you’d just like to keep the lines open.

I also host the One Step Forward podcast, a series of candid interviews about public service in hard times, and tough places. Each episode is an extended conversation with a practitioner doing impactful work against a backdrop of serious violence and political instability.

Listen for free via:  Web  |  iTunes  |  Google podcasts

I also host the One Step Forward podcast, a series of candid interviews about public service in hard times, and tough places. Each episode is an extended conversation with a practitioner doing impactful work against a backdrop of serious violence and political instability.

Listen for free via:  Web  |  iTunes  |  Google podcasts