Case study

Why and how embracing messiness is the key to success

Part 1 of the Messiness Series - In search of the sweet spot in implementing MSD programmes

January 201824 pages Adaptive management (incl. CLA) Results measurement / MEL Fiji Pakistan Papua New Guinea Timor-Leste Download as PDF (1.5 MB)
Published by
MDF: Market Development Facility

Part 1 of four in the Messiness Series

This case study outlines the rationale for the series and presents its organising framework. 

The central argument is that to create adaptive learning programmes able to manage messiness and embrace complexity, we need to embed ‘flexibility contained by principles’ in methodologies, programme design and results measurement. 

It examines why we should avoid overly rigorous, standardised practices. Instead we should focus on the underlying principles which allow flexibility, but prevent an ‘anything goes’ approach in which little could effectively be achieved. 

Use of an Industry Life Cycle tool allows us to compare the small island economy of Fiji with the much larger, mature markets of Pakistan. This enables us to examine the reasons why messiness occurs and how best to leverage different market and partner contexts.

Part 2Why building the plane while flying it is the only approach that works builds on the Industry Life Cycle tool (Part 1) via two further diagnostic tools 
Part 3The artful choice between ‘prescriptive orthodoxy’ and ‘anything goes’ outlines some of the implications distilled from MDF’s experiences as relevant to a range of contributors - from MSD practitioners to donors and consultants
Part 4, Managing messiness for success, discusses the importance of an agile learning organisation in responding to messiness