By Lucie Phillips 

Does IBI International work locally? Nationally? Internationally? Globally? How does your organization approach human performance technology in each of these landscapes? Is it different? How so?

IBI International provides consulting services and technical assistance in developing countries, particularly those recovering from conflicts, to improve economic growth and governance. Human performance technology methodologies offer a clear path to institutional rebuilding in such situations. In order to provide sustainable outcomes, we adapt our performance solution approaches to each local context, obtain and maintain stakeholder buy-in, and build off of current capabilities and cultural considerations, particularly those surrounding performance evaluation. IBI summarizes our approach in the tagline, “Global insights, local solutions.”

How does IBI International adapt to performance improvement needs for today’s variety of generational workforces?

Post-conflict and transitioning countries face unique generational and gender workforce challenges. Often young people growing up amidst conflict and war are unable to attend formal schooling, and too often many youth are forced into participating in the violence of war. Demobilized fighters, especially youth, need to be reintegrated back into society, and immediate employment can be one pathway to help glue back together lives and communities. However, in the countries in which we have worked, few people have relevant qualifications and skills for employment in today’s workforce. Indeed, where electricity has been out for years, very few people have been exposed to computer skills. The Ministries with which we work, to begin to close performance gaps, often need to invest in longer term degree programs for their staff and to recruit from their diasporas. Countries experiencing long periods of conflict also tend to have missed the opportunities to rectify gender imbalances in opportunities for education and employment advancement. This requires special attention to gender mainstreaming strategies appropriate to the context and capable of closing the opportunity gap between women and men in society.

How do you use social media in your work? As a resource? As a solution?

Social media help a wide range of people not familiar with international development understand better what we do and why. IBI uses social media, including some based overseas, as a resource for identifying consultants with rare specialties. Also, on one of our long-term human and institutional capacity development projects, we are working to build online communities of practice which will bring together functional area specialists across our client’s Ministries and Agencies to provide a platform to meet, exchange ideas, and improve skillsets through online interaction.

What is your favorite HPT story?

Due to years of war, our country counterpart’s Budget Office was in disarray–a single page served as a “secret” budget during the years of conflict and transition. Through application of HPT methodologies, IBI assisted the Director of the Budget to develop a results-driven budget and to train his entire staff plus the budget staffs of 54 Ministries and Agencies to prepare, publish, administer, and report on the budget. When the Bureau of the Budget was merged into the Ministry of Finance, the directors of other divisions sought IBI’s assistance. That was gratifying, but what was best was their reason: not what IBI had said or advertised about the work, but that they could see the dramatic performance improvement and results achieved by their colleagues in the Budget Department.

What excites you about ISPI’s work?

ISPI systematizes and creates a community of practice around best practices in human and institutional capacity development. IBI is thrilled to share some of our experiences and tools developed over the years to address performance improvement. We believe by participating in the ISPI community we will deepen our HPT practice and knowledge and look forward to meeting professionals who share our excitement about applying HPT solutions to international development issues.

What types of learning/performance improvement opportunities does IBI International offer its employees? Its clients?

Since its founding, IBI has had a fringe benefit funding educational opportunities for employees. Often it was used for graduate courses. Now, we also are often sending people to short-term training and conferences.

For clients, IBI focuses first on what can be done within the organization to close performance gaps. The first option is to use existing talents, enabling them to be applied more effectively and shared more widely. Where new skills are needed IBI recommends a mix of local, regional, and international short- and long-term training programs.

How has IBI International’s approach(es) to performance improvement changed over time?

Some of the most powerful recent changes in IBI’s approach include introducing customer surveys to the needs assessment process and keeping that focus through the implementation of performance solutions packages. Indeed, I was struck by the power of a customer focus while conducting one of the earliest “Doing Business” studies in 1989. Ministry personnel in many developing countries at the time considered themselves an entitled elite and not accountable to meet the needs of their fellow citizens. Through documenting the true time and costs of procedures required to do business, I was able to demonstrate the negative impacts of this attitude and my report set off major change in the host country. Unlike many consultant studies that sit on the shelf, this one was picked up by the Chamber of Commerce, then the Vice President, and next the President. Instead of just dealing with the gaps identified in the study, the President ordered ALL ministries to define their customer base and revise simplified procedures for serving them. This experience and demonstrable success has stuck with me and I continue to see the value of assessing customer satisfaction as a powerful tool to guide and tailor our approach to performance improvement solutions.

What interesting things does IBI International do to manage and develop its human capital?

We truly understand that the pathway to excellence for IBI, in both the implementation of our current project portfolio and the growth of the business, depends on hiring and retaining the best talent. We believe we have a unique culture that supports innovative thinking and problem-solving through a team-oriented approach to the challenges we help our clients address. We encourage staff to pursue interests that may be tangential to their core responsibilities, and to provide input into the constant performance improvements taking place. Each staff member sets annual goals and performance is measured against these targets via a 360-degree appraisal.

How does human performance technology add value to IBI International? How do you measure its worth and value?

Through our economic growth and governance consulting services, we seek to help our local counterparts improve the quality of life in their countries. Unfortunately, the history of international development contains far too many examples of gains being lost after the end of interventions due, in part, to ineffective or inappropriate project design. We seek to implement sustainable development solutions. We believe that the comprehensive HPT approach, when tailored appropriately to the developing country context, offers IBI a toolkit to implement and share human and institutional capacity building solutions that will build enduring, inclusive, and sustainable development outcomes for our clients.