“The Delivery Unit is the leader’s weapon to make his government effective across the civil service and country.”
– Tony Blair
Governments exist to deliver results for their citizens. This is true even in the most challenging contexts, where states strive to provide security and order for their people. And it is especially true in democracies, where the ability to govern rests on explicit promises made to citizens in each election. No matter where one lives, making government deliver effectively for its citizens is one of the great moral issues of our time.
But when most political leaders arrive in office, they find that delivering results is the hardest part of the job. Formally speaking, they have the authority to direct what government does. But they sit on top of a large and complicated bureaucracy, and it’s not immediately evident how to work through it to get things done. At the same time, political leaders must of course manage politics – the inevitable day-to-day distractions of events that public figures must deal with.
By reactivating the presidential results delivery unit, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has demonstrated his willingness to be accountable to Nigerians and his commitment to fulfilling campaign promises. By tracking governance results, Mr President can ensure that public services meet quality standards, leading to improved services for citizens. One of the reasons why leaders use results trackers is to identify and mitigate risks that could impact governance initiatives. Early detection of issues allows for proactive problem-solving.
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Governance Results Tracker is a valuable tool for leaders to improve government performance, ensure accountability, and make data-driven decisions. It benefits both the government and the citizens by promoting transparency and effective governance. Many nations have international commitments, such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that require them to track progress. Leaders use trackers to meet these obligations and showcase their commitment to international partners.
For instance, Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister and the ‘Father of Deliverology’ in his second term as prime minister, prioritised 20 public service targets. They covered a range of outcomes – literacy for 11-year-olds, reduced road traffic congestion, and lower street crime rates, for example – that captured citizens’ expectations of what effective government should accomplish for them. He set up a new entity, the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, headed by Sir Michael Barber, which reported directly to him and was responsible for ensuring the delivery of these targets.
Within four years, the unit had helped the government to achieve over 80 per cent of these targets and had made significant progress on the others. This attracted attention and interest in the work of the delivery unit, especially after a book detailing the original experience was published. Without realising it at the time, Sir Michael and his team had discovered a repeatable methodology for achieving real impact in government. They had invented a missing discipline: ‘deliverology’, the science of delivering results.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the ministers, and the Manager of the Delivery Unit Hadiza Bala Usman and her team must collectively and collaboratively answer these five simple questions:
- What are you trying to do? 2. How are we planning to do it? 3. How, at any given moment, will we know whether we are on track? 4. If we are not on track, what are we going to do about it? 5. How can we get support and from where? Delivery Unit is about building systems that allow a government leader to ask and answer these questions consistently and rigorously.
At the end of the just concluded retreat for ministers, President Tinubu redefined the priority areas of his administration into eight Key Results Areas (KRAs): 1. Reform the economy to deliver sustained inclusive growth; 2. Strengthen national security for peace and prosperity; 3. Boost agriculture to achieve food security; 4. Unlock energy and natural resources for sustainable development; 5. Enhance infrastructure and transportation as enablers of growth; 6. Focus on education, health, and social investment as essential pillars of development; 7. Accelerate diversification through industrialisation, digitisation, creative arts, manufacturing and innovation; 8. Improve governance for effective service delivery.
This is a good starting point because one of the cardinal principles of the Governance Delivery Unit GDU is the prioritization of the key areas the president or the governor wants to focus on to deliver quick wins and huge impact results.
The six low-hanging fruits.
- Focusing on outcomes
President Tinubu’s GDU should focus on measurable and verifiable outcomes such as the number of women and youth lifted out of poverty, the level reduction in maternal mortality, and the level reduction in number of out-of-school children. The level of reduction in Nigerian children suffering from learning poverty, The unit should not only target inputs (projects, activities, even strategies). The government needs to strive for big, ambitious outcomes that the electorates will feel the impact. The best GDU keeps this question front and centre: how will what we do make a difference for citizens, as soon as possible? And how will we know?
- Data and technology infrastructure
There is a need to invest in modern data collection, analysis, and reporting tools to support data-driven decision-making. MDAs should embrace technology for efficient data management. All the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies MDAs that are expected to be sending data to the GDU must have all the necessary tools to work with. Also train the MDAs level Results Reporting Officers RRO in data analysis, project management, and governance issues. A knowledgeable team is crucial for effective results delivery.
- Rapid response unit and quality assurance
There is a need to establish a rapid response unit within the GDU to address emerging issues promptly and mitigate risks that could hinder results delivery. There is a need also to develop quality assurance mechanisms to ensure that government projects and services meet set standards and deliver the expected results. Nigerians are hungry for results.
- Crisis management plan
With lessons learned from COVID-19, there is a need to develop a crisis management plan and governance business continuity plan that outlines procedures for addressing unexpected challenges or crises that could disrupt results delivery. There is need also to foster a culture of continuous improvement within the GDU. Regularly review and adapt strategies to enhance effectiveness. To prevent tech-based crises, ensure responsible handling of sensitive data and maintain strong data security and privacy measures. This is very important.
- Measuring the unmeasurable
The unit might know how to monitor many of the fundamental outcomes that governments deliver, but there is a need to monitor some indicators such as; the level of social cohesion, changing citizen attitudes due to fuel subsidy removal, what citizens think about palliatives and the level of citizens’ happiness, something like the Nigeria Happiness Index. GDUs are tapping into new sources of data to make real-time information available – for example, by using social media to crowd-source information on results or attitudes, or both.
- Communicate results not activities
What MDAs communicate mostly are activities, not results. Success should be measured not by how much activity you generate, but by the impact of that activity on the electorate. For instance, it’s not by the number of MoUs signed, but by what has that led to. Building of new hospitals – How does that translate into a reduction in maternal and child mortality? Training of 10,000 teachers – how does that translate into a reduction in the number of Nigerian children suffering from learning poverty? There is a need to train the MDA’s Results Reporting Officers on communicating results so that they would be able to communicate results and impact not just activities.
“Most successful leaders think and communicate in the language of achievement rather than activity. Great leaders bring an ‘outcomes-mindset’ to everything they do and focus on instilling that mindset in their people” – Mark Fritz
Mohammed PhD is the Founder/CEO System Strategy and Policy Lab