PM4NGOs People – Josephine Carlson

PM4NGOs People – Josephine Carlson

Board Members

Josephine has worked in international development and humanitarian response for more than twelve years. A true generalist, she has accumulated a broad experience from managing programmes, people, and processes for several large INGOs and across a wide range of thematic areas, predominantly while based in post-conflict and/or disaster-affected contexts, such as Afghanistan, Lebanon and Myanmar. Having played a central part in Mercy Corps’ efforts to roll out and standardise project management across the agency globally, Josephine is qualified to Project DPro Level 1 and Program DPro, and a trained facilitator and Trainer of Trainers in Project DPro.  

Josephine is a firm believer in that improving and assuring quality, with the ultimate goal of delivering the best impact for the communities we support and serve, should drive all international development work. Successful project and programme management is key to this effort.

Josephine holds both a Bachelor Degree and a Master of Social Science in Peace and Conflict Studies from Uppsala University, Sweden. She is Swedish and currently based outside Stockholm.

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Four traps that can lead to project failure

Four traps that can lead to project failure

Project DPro, Project Management

Accountability for results trap

Lack of management capacity trap

Cultural trap

One-size-fits-all trap

According to statistics from several sources, there are between 39 to 64% of projects that result in failure and projects’ stakeholders are more dissatisfied than those that are satisfied (Ilk, 2012). This failure might either be with operational implementation as not meeting one of the three project constraints, i.e. project scope/quality, time frame or allocated budget; or by non-reaching the project impact, purposes and Goal. The project failure can be a result of several reasons, e.g. a wrong or impractical design, unclear project scope, lack of communications, overloaded project team, lack of stakeholder engagement, unrealistic appraisals, unrecognised potential risks, poor planning, absence of monitoring and controlling, and weak institutional capacity. Those reasons can be classified into three categories: context related problems, management capacity problems, and sustainability problem (Ilk, 2012). It is believed that those reasons for project failures are the results for failing into one of the following four traps that project managers might sink into: “the one-size-fits-all trap”, “the accountability for results trap”, “the lack of project management capacity trap”, and “the cultural trap” (Ilk, 2012). So, let us analysis more every one of those traps and try to suggest solutions that can mitigate the risk of failing in each one of them so that we can increase the likelihood for the project success.

Starting with the first trap “one-size-fits-all”, it is clear from its name that the project manager and the organisation use the “copy and paste” approach in the planning and managing the project. This is well known as the blueprint approach, which is having one solution plan for each time the project is implemented. In contrast with the process planning, the blueprint approach is non-participatory planning method where the experts and advisors are brought to repeat a design that was successful for a context in another part of the world. This repetition of using the same plans, and designs is hoping to reach the same results. With this approach, the organisation, try to involve less the stakeholders and the communication with them, justifying this as there is intense experience of the technical advisors that know exactly what the problems are and the solutions to resolve those problems. They might design amazing projects, but most probably they might be irrelevant to the communities’ needs, and/or not match with the local culture. With the blueprint approach, there is no time for investing with the local capacities; thus, most probably the local institutions will be disrespected and bypassed. Usually, the result of this trap is that the project achieves its outputs within the time, cost and scope but with not reaching the purpose, Goal and impact. An example on this might be: an organisation that built a high school to increase the ratio of educated people among the population but the high school was not operated due to nonexistence of local teachers, or the absence of elementary school at first. To overcome this first trap, project managers need to understand that no one magic solution can fit each development project. Thus, they need to do more research and assessments from the beginning of the project to understand as much information as possible on the context, i.e. the political stability, the economic growth, the social life, technological application, the cultural norms, and other essential knowledge about the targeted community and its surrounding environment. Project managers should ensure that stakeholders are identified, analysed and communicated well during the whole project life cycle and that international advisors are not experts with identifying the problems and solutions on behalf of those stakeholders. In contrast, the only experts to identify the problems and possible solutions would be the targeted communities themselves. Project managers should be agile and revisit the plans, continue to ensure that they are adapted to fit the project purpose, Goal and impact and those plans are not fixed as if they were bibles and holy books.

The second trap “the accountability for results trap”, is the concentration on achieving the outputs in the most bureaucratic procedures with less focusing on reaching the outcome or whether these outputs were needed. The trap here is that project managers pay attention to the details of how to reach the result rather than searching whether that proposed result is justified and rational or not. Project managers in this trap sink with the details of the procurement procedures, the financial reporting, the recruitment process, and other organisational bureaucratic systems to show the donors and the public that the funds were assigned to the safest hands ever. They invest in the external reporting mechanisms and try to market their work with attractive expressions such as value for money which means that the funds were implemented efficiently. Still, the question will be have the funds been spent effectively, has the project improved the lives of the targeted people? An example on this trap might be that an organisation professionally implemented a medical project starting from recruiting the well-skilled resources, purchased the best items with the best prices, document each financial transaction through the best accounting software but at the end mortality among children was not resolved. To overcome this trap, project managers and their organisations should link the project with long term development plans, whether on the local level, national level or the global level. Local governments should agree with the organisations on how the projects are fit into its developmental national and local plans; organisations should ensure that the projects are helping in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals that the UN has upgraded from the Millennium Development Goals. The rationale behind the project and the Goal that this project was designed to reach should be the utmost aim for the project managers. This can be done by the integration between the result-based management with the impact evaluation process. Organisations and donors should ease the bureaucratic procedures and encourage project managers to be innovative and productive in managing the interventions.

The third trap “Lack of project management capacity” highlights the weakness in the skills, capabilities and capacities that accidental project managers have which result in the failure of the project. Those necessary disciplines are the hard skills such as the technical knowledge in managing scope, managing risks, knowledge in the logistics systems, control the budget and other technical aspects. In addition to soft skills such as leadership techniques, communication with vision, coach the team, productive working environment, motivation, and interpersonal management as analytical thinking, stress management and multi-tasking. Organisations are not investing as much as needed in the capacity development of the project management especially in high risky context, in contrast, they decrease the administrative costs so that they can still be a competitor to new win grants. Organisations decrease the level of the intervention from programmes to projects assuming that this might mitigate the risk of the failure instead of believing in the potential capacities of the locals and recruit the appropriate team to be developed and invested. Additionally, organisations minimise the supervision on those accidental project managers that were assigned with less capacity development investment, instead of increasing the supervision to ensure that projects are under control and deliverables are as planned. Today developing the team skills is not that expensive as it was. There is a diversity of online courses in various topics that can build on the university degrees of them.

Finally, the last trap that organisations and project managers fail in is “Cultural Trap”. As mentioned in the first trap, organisations tend to use blueprints to design the projects and interventions without involving with the local stakeholders. Starting from this mistake, organisations in our days are not that different than those in the colonial era as they tend to bring their western values in each aspect of the project management. Starting with the staff recruitment and the absence of the localisation. Then with designing the interventions without researching the local traditions, cultures and norms. Ending with fewer sustainability plans with evaluating the capacities of the local institutes that can ensure the continuity of the services. One of the examples on this trap is when a European organisation brings its own values and perception on a country in the Middle East with no in-depth research on the culture there and start focusing on the gender balance issue with no understanding what might be harmful and cause more damage to the communities and what can be applicable. To overcome this trap, organisations should put aside their impressions, perceptions and thoughts and conduct full context assessment to be aware of all of the details on that context. Assumptions should be replaced with facts and statistics. Organisations should localise their team as much as possible. Local stakeholders should be involved from the early stages before even the funds are granted to ensure proper design till the end of the project completion, and appropriate hand over is made to ensure the sustainability of services. Organisations should ensure that information sharing and accountability mechanisms including feedback procedures are in place and well active to allow locals to supervise the project management and held the organisations accountably.

As a conclusion, organisations and their projects managers have to understand that donors and the taxpayers behind them are now more accountable than ever and there is no way to accept the high ratio of the failure projects. The news of organisations that are downsizing their operations around the world and those that are immerging with other organisations as they reach a level of impossibility to continue, is increasing more and more. And with the open communications around the globe, any project that fail in a part of the world will be reviewed closely in the other part. Even though above traps, and failure reasons are old and still valid thus, organisations and their projects managers should start activating the learning review process to track their challenges and document the solutions to be used in the next projects. Donors should hold the organisations accountable to those learning reviews and ensure that they are not repeated again and again.

Mazen Housseiny

Mazen Housseiny

PM4NGOs Hub in Syria, Mazen has more than 8 years’ experience in humanitarian field, starting as field volunteer till director position for a variety of well-known organizations (International NGOs as well as Syrian Diaspora NGOs). Currently working as part time with Syria Relief as organizational development manager supporting the capacity strengthening of Syria Relief as well as other CBOs through conducting comprehensive organizational capacity assessments and training needs assessments, design and implement capacity development activities such as training, on the job support, coaching and mentoring in addition to providing the required consultations for improving policies and procedures.

References:

Ilk, L. (2012), Project Management for Development in Africa: Why Projects Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It, Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

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How to create and manage an Issue Log

How to create and manage an Issue Log

Project DPro, Project Management, Tools

Creating an Issue Log is an activity performed during project Implementation. The PMD Pro Guide defines an issue as:

An issue is an unresolved decision, situation or problem that will significantly impact the project and that the project team cannot immediately resolve.

The Issue Log is a tool for reporting and communicating designed to facilitate the timely resolution of issues. Without an issue log, it is possible to either ignore or forget about issues arising, only for those issues to have more serious consequences later on.

Please note that this is a resource available at the DPro+ platform. In order to access the DPro+ you must be Project DPro or Program DPro certified.

Click here to read this full guidance and access the series of “How to” guides available at the DPro+ platform.


The “How to” guides are booklets that present guidance and tips to develop some of the Project DPro and Program DPro tools. Some of the activities related to the project/program management routine are also included in the “How To” collection.

If you have an idea for a “How to” guide or you would like to write one, please contact our team and share your experience.

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PM4NGOs People – Samantha Musoke

PM4NGOs People – Samantha Musoke

Board Members, PM4NGOs

Sam qualified as a Chartered Accountant in London in 2000, working in the charities department of Mazars. The following year she moved to Uganda where she has lived and worked ever since.  She started off auditing with a local audit firm with predominantly NGO clients, then moved to consulting and training with Aclaim Africa Ltd, with assignments in Ethiopia, Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Rwanda as well as across many districts in Uganda.  She was accredited as a Humentum (Mango) Associate trainer in 2004, and delivered the course that became the precursor to FMD Pro, as well as their training of trainers course.

Sam spent two years as part time Chief Financial Officer of a tourism business before returning to the NGO world as Grants Management Advisor to VSO, supporting a programme with 28 sub-grantees in Northern Uganda.  Having tasted the INGO experience, she took on the role of CFO of a small local organisation preparing for its first USAID grant as a sub of Catholic Relief Services.

Sam returned to full time work in 2017 as Regional Director East Africa for Humentum, where she was also the internal ‘Subject Matter Expert’ for financial management training and developed a ‘Fighting Fraud in NGOs’ course. Sam has passed PMD Pro and is excited about the crucial complementarity between PMD Pro and FMD Pro. Sam is currently Project Director for IFR4NPO at Humentum, an initiative to develop internationally applicable financial reporting guidance for non-profit organisations.  Sam has a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and is honoured to serve on four other boards at present.

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PM4NGOs People – Maggie Korde

PM4NGOs People – Maggie Korde

Board Members, PM4NGOs

Maggie works for Save the Children in Rwanda as their Country Director for Rwanda and Burundi. Before this she was their PMM Lead, developing a project management methodology for the organization, which was based on PMD Pro. She has over 15 years’ experience of managing teams and programmes of work in the development sector, always with a focus on child rights programming and often in highly challenging environments. These have included living and working in countries such as Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Moldova, Kenya, Rwanda, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Russia and Kyrgyzstan with organizations such as Plan International, EveryChild, ChildAid, and Sense International.

Maggie has a passion for quality programming and sits on several boards, speaks at conferences and writes blog articles on project management, amongst other topics, within our sector. She says “my vision is for a strong international development sector that can rival and influence our private and public sector counterparts when it comes to excellence and grace under fire in the very complex environments we work in!

Maggie is half Brazilian and half Scottish and graduated from the LSE with a MSc in Development Studies. She lives in Rwanda with her husband and their two children.

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How to create a Work Breakdown Structure

How to create a Work Breakdown Structure

Project DPro, Project Management, Tools

The Work Breakdown Structure maps out the scope of the project, the work required to complete the project’s deliverables and the project management work required. It is a hierarchical decomposition of the project’s work. The WBS helps you to divide project work into smaller pieces.

Please note that this is a resource available at the DPro+ platform. In order to access the DPro+ you must be Project DPro or Program DPro certified.

Click here to read this full guidance and access the series of “How to” guides available at the DPro+ platform.


The “How to” guides are booklets that present guidance and tips to develop some of the Project DPro and Program DPro tools. Some of the activities related to the project/program management routine are also included in the “How To” collection.

If you have an idea for a “How to” guide or you would like to write one, please contact our team and share your experience.

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How to create a Risk Register

How to create a Risk Register

Project DPro, Project Management, Tools

Creating a Risk Register is a key activity during project Set Up. During the Identification and Definition phase high-level risk analysis is performed, and during project set-up risks are analyzed and risk responses are put in place.

Please note that this is a resource available at the DPro+ platform. In order to access the DPro+ you must be Project DPro or Program DPro certified.

Click here to read this full guidance and access the series of “How to” guides available at the DPro+ platform.


The “How to” guides are booklets that present guidance and tips to develop some of the Project DPro and Program DPro tools. Some of the activities related to the project/program management routine are also included in the “How To” collection.

If you have an idea for a “How to” guide or you would like to write one, please contact our team and share your experience.

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How to create a RACI Diagram

How to create a RACI Diagram

Project DPro, Project Management, Tools

Creating a RACI Diagram is a key activity during project Planning and is a key output of this phase.

As the complexity of projects increases, the web of relationships expands until it could potentially include community groups, government ministries, suppliers, local non-governmental organizations, universities, faith-based organizations and others.

Due to this complexity it’s sometimes difficult to know who is in charge of performing different activities within the project, and who needs to be informed about the progress of those activities.

Please note that this is a resource available at the DPro+ platform. In order to access the DPro+ you must be Project DPro or Program DPro certified.

Click here to read this full guidance and access the series of “How to” guides available at the DPro+ platform.


The “How to” guides are booklets that present guidance and tips to develop some of the Project DPro and Program DPro tools. Some of the activities related to the project/program management routine are also included in the “How To” collection.

If you have an idea for a “How to” guide or you would like to write one, please contact our team and share your experience.

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How to create an Objectives Tree

How to create an Objectives Tree

Project DPro, Project Management, Tools

Creating an Objectives Tree is an activity performed during project Identification and Definition. It is the second step towards creating a logical framework for the project and enables you to consider a positive future state in the target community when your project has had beneficial results.

Please note that this is a resource available at the DPro+ platform. In order to access the DPro+ you must be Project DPro or Program DPro certified.

Click here to read this full guidance and access the series of “How to” guides available at the DPro+ platform.


The “How to” guides are booklets that present guidance and tips to develop some of the Project DPro and Program DPro tools. Some of the activities related to the project/program management routine are also included in the “How To” collection.

If you have an idea for a “How to” guide or you would like to write one, please contact our team and share your experience.

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How to create a Problem Tree

How to create a Problem Tree

Project DPro, Project Management, Tools

Creating a Problem Tree is an activity performed during project Identification and Definition. It is the first step towards creating a logical framework for the project, to be followed by the creation of an Objectives Tree.

Please note that this is a resource available at the DPro+ platform. In order to access the DPro+ you must be Project DPro or Program DPro certified.

Click here to read this full guidance and access the series of “How to” guides available at the DPro+ platform.


The “How to” guides are booklets that present guidance and tips to develop some of the Project DPro and Program DPro tools. Some of the activities related to the project/program management routine are also included in the “How To” collection.

If you have an idea for a “How to” guide or you would like to write one, please contact our team and share your experience.

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