Strides is a service to increase the return on investment in research and innovation in agricultural and natural resources to stimulate economic growth. This service is particularly relevant to low income countries. Strides delivers targeted in-service training and supplies the operational tools to identify and quantify stakeholder needs, optimise project design and manage the implementation of the whole project cycle.

Small teams of researchers face a range of challenges including the need to apply efficient design of both research actions and the projects that support them. They need to handle a range of disciplines that extend beyond their collective capabilities and they need to take effective decisions to adapt to changing conditions during project implementation. Strides aims to improve the resilience of teams by increasing the capabilities and capacity of small teams to manage projects with a higher likelihood of successful outcomes.

Strides uses a due diligence project design procedure which sets out the specific required information for a good project design covering gaps and needs analysis with stakeholder involvement and a detailed constraints analysis to identify the feasible envelope within which project actions need to operate.

Based on the specific range of qualifications and experience of a research team, the due diligence procedure topics help identify the likely gaps in team capabilities in managing the information concerned. This helps establish where in-service training needs to be focused.

The identification of the feasible envelope for project actions leads to a prioritization of feasible objectives and a baseline project structure to address these consisting of a set of proposed feasible actions each with input and output specifications and an estimated budget and timeline. This baseline "design" is then subjected to analysis to optimise the project package with respect to costs, timing, quantities and qualities of output and risk analysis.

Assuming a project implementation will follow what is contained within the optimised solution or in a Log Frame is not realistic; the probability of change is usually high. Small research teams need to be able to take what can be complex decisions to react to change in a timely manner. Decisions taken need to prevent the strategic objectives of a project being undermined. This requires a tactical approach that is based on:

Project memory1 is the accumulated knowledge within a group (donor, donor agents, executing agency, team and stakeholders) concerned with any aspect of a project and its cycle. Project memory requires common access to this knowledge so that it is shared.

Accumulated project knowledge is built up as a useful source for explaining why a project has its current form and why the adopted activities take up their current forms in terms of technology and technique. Project memory requires the careful preservation of data but also good analytical skills are required to make effective use of this knowledge within the organization.

An understanding of the importance of project memory is that it is the foundation of the project structure which determines the training requirements and expectations of behaviour associated with various personnel roles. This is part of the implicit institutional knowledge. Access to this knowledge by all levels of a project group is essential for coherent operations.

A common occurrence during project implementatins is for key personnel to move to takeup work in another activity or organization. Without newcomers or monitoring and evaluation perosnnel having access to this knowledge, project progress and perfomance can be significantly undermined. This is particularly true in the case of projects based on small teams.
1  Project memory is that part of institutional memory that relates to a specific project

  • the establishment of a permanent project memory
  • the development of capabilities to understand the impact of change and identification of the best solutions

The Navatec cloud information management system provides facilities for the recording of all of the details of gaps and needs analysis and constraints and the results of simulation to optimise the baseline project. This provides a knowledge base that can be accessed 24/7 in terms of an ability to secure information on activities as they occur or to look at the records of all due diligence information. This comprehensive documentation represents an incremental accumulation of documented project knowledge as a permanent project memory (see box on the right).

In the case of small teams, and complexities of agricultural and natural resources projects, the likelihood of changes in conditions is high. Therefore it is important for small teams to understand the likely impacts of change so as to take appropriate decisions.

The information management system permits the analysis of the impacts of change on the optimised project design through simulation. There is therefore, as a result of the optimization effort, and the design team probing different scenarios, a very extensive range of documented information on the sensitivity of each project to specific types of change. As a direct result of this analytical approach and instructional simulation, a team can build up a detailed appreciation of the strengths and vulnerabilities of their project.

When key staff move from a project group, there is no loss of project memory and disruption is minimised because of the availability of the project memory in an easily accessible documentation. Strides helps fine tune the project memory with information that is vital for taking informed, optimised and rapid decisions to avoid performance erosion.

The outcome is that the Strides approach contributes to an enhanced team capability and management capacity through a resilience that minimises the impacts of change. As a result, the likelihood of projects being more efficient and effective is higher, leading to more success in achieving objectives.
The STRIDES Foundation Limited