At a fundamental level, Management is the design and implementation of systems (structures, processes, relationships etc.) for achieving defined purposes. These systems are informed by values, implicit or explicit. Business Management is influenced, and has, historically developed on the basis of two key ideas – Industrial Revolution and Capitalism. Today, most work, organised or otherwise is evaluated, measured and success criteria defined, on the basis of principles and frameworks from these two ideas at the core. However, these ideas often fall short when it comes to working in the social sector.
Development Work and Development Management requires a fundamentally different outlook and approach because the basic aspirations and objectives are significantly different from the Corporate or Business world. The objective in the case of business is to maximize returns to a small group of individuals who are owners/ shareholders, whereas in development work, the benefits do not accrue directly to the founders/ shareholders; in classical business economics, labour is a resource to be used ‘productively’, whereas in the development sector, people have agency and cannot be counted/ defined in terms of mere head-count; definitions of ‘returns’ are different; funding structures are different; employee propositions and motivations are different; marketing and communication ideas and bases are different; the complexity of engaging and working with people is significantly different; relationships with key stakeholders, like say the Government, is very different.
The experience of the Founders, and numerous other individuals, who have moved from Business Management to Development Management, and spent considerable time in the development sector, has been that there is a lot of ‘un-learning’ and ‘re-learning’ to be done to be relevant and effective in Development Management. The general feedback was that Development Management requires a very different understanding, skills and mind-set. A common mention was that seemingly obvious ideas based on experience in Business Management (which are typically derived from the industrial revolution) like standardization/ efficiency/ productivity/ etc. can be utterly misplaced in the context of social change especially when dealing with thinking, feeling human beings.
A large part of development work is 'change'. It requires the ability to collectively envision a different future. It is about 'direction setting' and 'influence' i.e. leadership. Structures, processes, relationships, funds, and so on, i.e. management systems are required to achieve that envisioned future. So leadership and management are an intrinsic part of development work.
Development Management, therefore, is a domain that requires a different approach, and cannot be treated as merely an application of business management principles to development organisations and interventions. Some principles and ideas from Business Management could be relevant for the Development Management space, but will require intense scrutiny for appropriateness and relevance, prior to adoption. As a new and ‘applied’ discipline, there is no doubt that Development Management will derive its richness by learning from all other disciplines and intensively from experiences on the ground.