Standard 11: Evidence based, action-oriented project management.
Make collaborative, timely, and informed decisions to ensure that project activities deliver intended impact to participants within the approved time, scope, and budget.
Organize cross-disciplinary, evidence-based project review and planning meetings, in line with CRS MEAL policies and procedures.
Periodically reviewing, analyzing and conducting participatory interpretation of comprehensive project data, and making decisions based on this information, is essential to effective project management. Formal, cross-disciplinary project review and planning meetings complement and leverage other project management activities, such as regular meetings of the project programming team (see Standard 11, key action 1), budget comparison review meetings, and ongoing coordination around supply chain management. Bringing together project team members from CRS and partner organizations for formal quarterly and annual project review and planning meetings:
- Provides an opportunity for the project team to take a step back from the day-to-day of project implementation and reflect on project progress, challenges, and opportunities.
- Provides a structured forum for the project team to jointly review MEAL data and assess project progress toward the higher-level changes it aims to bring about, and to make course corrections as needed.
- Facilitates identification and analysis of changes in the project operating context that may impact the project, including critical assumptions, risks and issues, and to plan appropriate project adaptations (both tactical and strategic) in light of this context.
- Creates an opportunity for a range of project stakeholders to jointly identify actions that may be needed to keep the project in scope, on schedule, and on budget, and to improve project management effectiveness.
- Primary responsible: Project manager (PM)/chief of party (CoP) and project MEAL coordinator
- The PM/CoP is responsible for planning and leadingAs appropriate, the PM/CoP may request support from other colleagues with overall facilitation of the review and planning meeting, or facilitation of specific sessions. the quarterly and annual meetings.
- The project MEAL coordinator plays a critical role in meeting preparation.
- Others involved: CRS and partner project team members (program and operations); sectoral technical advisors; country program senior management team (SMT) and partner senior management as needed; any other members of the project governance structure
- CRS and partner project team members (program and operations staff), in collaboration with the PM/CoP, prepare and analyze other relevant information for the meeting and participate in review and interpretation of information and follow-up action planning during meetings.
- Members of the SMT and partner senior management often participate in annual review meetings (as well as quarterly meetings where appropriate) and contribute to decision-making.
- Members of the project governance structure and other stakeholders participate in annual review meetings as appropriate.
- QuarterlyMEAL Procedure 2.4: Reflect on a quarterly basis with partners on monitoring data and community feedback, to inform ongoing and adaptive decision-making and action planning (or other regular frequency) review and planning meetings: Organize 1- to 3- day meetings focused on lower-level project results (activities, output, possibly intermediate results), community feedback and changes in context, to inform quarterly planning and reporting.
- Annual review and planning meetings: Organize 3- to 5-day annual meetings focused on higher-level project results (e.g. intermediate results (IRs) and strategic objectives (SOs)), progress and lessons learned, to inform strategic decisions and longer-term planning, and update the MEAL system as needed. Use the annual review and planning meeting heading into the project’s final year to begin developing the comprehensive project close-out plan (see Standard 16).
For externally-funded projects, organize quarterly and annual project review meetings a few weeks prior to donor reporting deadlines so that reports document interpretation of results, meeting decisions and other relevant information.
Annual review meetings and mid-term evaluations: Projects which conduct a mid-term evaluation (refer to CRS MEAL Procedure 3.4Procedure 3.4: Conduct a midterm review or evaluation as appropriate to the project scope and information needs. ) should consider combining the annual review meeting with the reflection on the mid-term evaluation results (refer to CRS MEAL Procedure 3.7Procedure 3.7: Reflect on evaluation findings with partners and other stakeholders to generate appropriate recommendations and inform agency learning ).
Follow these steps to ensure that quarterly and annual review and planning meetings are well-organized, well-managed, and properly documented, and lead to appropriate decisions and action:
Before the meeting
- Using the Ready Reference: Quarterly & Annual Project Review and Planning Meetings tool, the PM/CoP develops the meeting agenda and shares with participants in advance so they can prepare for the discussions.
- Click here for a summary of Tips for Developing the Meeting Agenda and Helping Participants to Prepare.
- Use the project learning questions or key assumptions and the meeting topics listed under “During the meeting” (below) as a guide when preparing the meeting agenda.
- Remind staff to familiarize themselves with the project’s Theory of Change (ToC) (or other logical planning model).
- Tailor the meeting agenda to the specific “moment” in project implementation – e.g., the project has just completed intensive training on newly-introduced practices and the project team needs to review plans for post-training accompaniment; the project team is preparing for or has recently completed a project review or evaluation, a donor visit, etc.
- For annual meetings, include additional time to review the ToC (or other logical planning model) and to develop the annual DIP (see Standard 7, key action 3, for DIP workshop guidance).
- See the “Partnership” section below for guidance on working with partners as needed to organize partner-level review and planning meetings prior to the project-level meeting.
Learning from project start-up: The first quarterly project meeting should include a formal after-action review of the project start-up process: what went well, what could have been improved, and general lessons learned. Document this reflection and share within the country program and beyond as appropriate, to contribute to improved CRS start-up practices.
- The project MEAL coordinator (or equivalent) compiles and analyzes monitoring data and feedback received to identify key points and issues for interpretation during the review meeting.
- Update the Indicator Performance Tracking Table (IPTT) or project equivalent (e.g., Indicator Tracking Table, quarterly reporting table) with recent dataFor quarterly meetings, this will most likely be output-level data with some initial IR-level data; for annual meetings, include IR- and SO-level data. to use as a reference during meeting discussions. The IPTT is at the core of the project monitoring system and should be a key trigger for discussions.
- Analyze all available monitoring data per the project MEAL system and prepare data visualizations that will support participatory interpretation of the results. At a minimum, disaggregate the data by the relevant comparison groups (e.g. gender, disability, location, type of respondent) noted in the project MEAL plan; run trends over time; compare results to baseline and target; identify ranges and averages, identify outlying results, etc. Work with the PM/CoP to identify additional relevant analyses to present to meeting participants.
- Prepare a summary of feedback received through the various feedback channels, as well as trends in feedback over time, disaggregating by gender or other characteristics as applicable. Calculate the response rate and time taken to respond to various categories of feedback received.
- Note the limitations of monitoring methods used so that data are appropriately interpreted and not overly generalized, and be prepared to share these during the meeting as reference.
- The PM/CoP prepares (or ensures other colleagues prepare) other key project information for the meeting, including:
- Most up-to-date DIP
- Observations and recommendations from technical support visits to the project (by programming and operations technical advisors, consultants, DRDs, etc.)
- Project financial information, including budget projections (see Standard 13, key action 1) and analysis of the most recent budget comparison report (see Standard 13, key action 2)
- Project supply chain management information, e.g. procurement, dispatch and distribution plans (see Standard 12)
- Donor feedback (as applicable)
- The PM/CoP develops a facilitation plan to ensure an engaging, participatory meeting intentionally designed to promote learning.
- Reach out to others with experience facilitating such learning-focused meetings for tips, suggestions on facilitation techniques, etc.
- Use participatory discussions and small group exchanges as appropriate to ensure opportunities for all participants to have a voice.
- Reference the questions in the project’s learning plan.
- Consider involving other project team members or colleagues to facilitate the meeting or specific meeting sessions, to enable PM/CoP participation and meeting oversight.
- Plan for good documentation of key discussion points and meeting outputs.
- Incorporate the visuals (graphs, charts, etc.) developed under step 2.
Foster Learning and Critical Thinking: To ensure maximum meeting benefit, the PM/CoP must model and foster an environment that encourages all participants to discuss challenges and weaknesses in an open manner, before, during, and after meetings. See the section on fostering learning and critical thinking in the Getting Started Guide: Practical Learning at CRS and incorporate suggested practices in the meeting facilitation plan as appropriate.
During the meeting
- Using the facilitation plan, the PM/CoP or other facilitator leads and supports the participants in interpreting results and analyzing progress, to identify key actions required for effective project implementation going forward. Use the following as a starting point and see the Ready Reference: Quarterly & Annual Project Review and Planning Meetings tool for more detailed guidance:
- Review the project DIP for the period just completed: compare plans versus activities completed (including activities carried out in the period that were not planned in the DIP), analyze reasons for deviations from the plan, and identify the implications of the same on the project budget, schedule, and scope.
- Review progress against any follow-up actions identified in the last review and planning meeting which were not incorporated in the revised DIP.
- Review the updated project IPTT and surface reasons for any differences between targets and actuals. If appropriate, allow staff to express uncertainty if the reasons are not immediately clear as that may open the possibility of other follow-up options.
- Reflect on data summaries and visuals, keeping in mind project data limitations. Discuss similarities and differences between comparison groups, emerging trends, outliers, and the possible reasons for these.
- Discuss the project’s response rate to different types of beneficiary feedback received, as well as trends; identify potential actions that may be required to address pending issues.
- Address the project learning questions, updating the questions in the learning plan to probe further as needed during future meetings.
- Determine whether any improvements in the monitoring data collection process are needed based on findings from light checks on data quality.
- Review the current project operating environment (internal and external risks, issues, and opportunities), and identify/refine actions to appropriately manage the same.
- Update the project DIP, and financial forecast and supply chain management plans as applicable.
- Document key discussion points, decisions,Be sure to document decisions that affect the project budget/financial projections: As per the project management “triple constraint”, decisions related to the project scope and/or schedule will impact the project budget, and vice versa. The “paper trail” for project budget changes is particularly important, particularly in the case of transitions in project leadership. Be sure to document decisions made during review that affect the project budget, and include follow-up actions to reflect the implications of these changes in the project budget and financial projections (after seeking necessary approvals, as applicable). and follow-up actionsFollow-up actions documented here would include actions related to donor follow-up, human resource-related actions, technical assistance-related actions, or follow-up with the project governance structure or other stakeholders, or other management issues that would not be captured in the DIP or updated supply chain management plans. (provide explanation/justification of decisions made).
Consortium and governance review linked to annual meetings: For projects where CRS leads a consortium, consider taking advantage of senior leaders’ presence at the annual review meeting to organize a consortium review using CRS’ Consortium Alliance Framework for Excellence (CAFE) guidance. For all projects, take advantage of the annual meeting to convene a meeting of the project governance structure, to review the governance structure’s engagement in project leadership and decision-making, and to make prompt decisions on issues requiring the approval of members of the governance structure.
After the meeting
- The PM/CoP or delegate finalizes and shares meeting documentation and final outputs.
- Circulate meeting notes including key discussion points and actions planned, the final updated project DIP, issues log, risk register,The project risk register and issues log may contain sensitive information. Use discretion in sharing these documents outside of the project governance structure. The PM/CoP may also want to consider filtering out confidential information. One approach would be to share the filtered version (e.g. a PDF of the register or log with the “confidential” column hidden) with the wider project team, and save the complete issues log and risk register as “private” files on Gateway or in a project OneDrive folder. and updated supply chain management plans (as applicable) to meeting participants and post these to Gateway.
- Update financial projections as needed (see Standard 13, key action 1 for guidance).
- For externally-funded projects, the PM/CoP uses the notes and outputs of the review meeting, including interpretation of project results, progress, and adaptations, to guide the preparation of donor reports.
- As needed, the PM/CoP works with country program senior management and IDEA staff (as applicable) to communicate significant changes and/or changes requiring donor approval (see Standard 15, key action 2 for guidance).
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- Partner participation in quarterly and annual project review and planning meetings is essential to ensuring the quality of these events (see MEAL Procedure 2.4MEAL Procedure 2.4: Reflect on a quarterly basis with partners on monitoring data and community feedback, to inform ongoing and adaptive decision-making and action planning ).
- For projects with multiple partners, support partners as needed to organize partner-level reflections following the same content outline described under step 5 above. Organizing these partner-level meetings prior to the project-level review and planning meeting provides an opportunity to involve the full partner team in analysis of project progress, results, risks, issues, and resources related to their project responsibilities. The partner participants in the project-level review and planning meeting bring the outputs from these partner-level meetings for wider consideration and further analysis during the project-level meeting.
- The partner PM typically leads the partner-level meeting; CRS project or MEAL staff may support the partner in preparing for or conducting these reflection meetings as needed to ensure a quality and consistent process across organizations.
- For guidance on partnership-focused annual reflections, see Standard 11, key action 5.
- Follow the same process for the project components CRS manages.
- The prime may also organize project-level review and planning meetings. CRS and partners should conduct their meetings if possible prior to the project-level meetings organized by the prime, so that CRS participants in the prime-led meeting can contribute inputs from the full CRS and partner project team.
- Review meetings are held much more frequently. This may be on a weekly basis during the initial phases of an emergency response. Meeting frequency decreases as the context and response stabilize.
- Monitoring in emergencies relies primarily on output-level quantitative data counts, light IR-level data checks“Light” refers to using a small data sample or less rigorous methods. While information from light checks cannot be generalized to the wider beneficiary group, these checks help identify potential issues and immediately address them. on use of outputs, and accountability mechanisms for satisfaction with the response and any protection issues (see Standard 11, key action 3 for guidance). Data disaggregation by gender, disability, vulnerability and any other relevant characteristic is particularly critical to identify and mitigate any protection risks.
- Review meetings provide an opportunity to discuss changes in the operating environment, including information about other actors’ plans obtained from individual agency meetings and/or formal cluster meetings, as well as staff or partner field observations that may have implications for the response.
- Document and share decisions and other updates immediately following the meeting.
- Use the review and planning meeting to discuss the findings of the Real Time Evaluation, which the project team should conduct 2-3 months after the start of an emergency response (or a significant change in the response strategy).
Tools and templates
Quarterly meeting registry and action plan (see MEAL Procedure 2.4)
Policies and procedures
CRS Guidance on monitoring and evaluation, reflection events, pages 100-103; data analysis and interpretation, pages 91–99
Facilitating Intentional Group Learning: A Practical Guide to 21 Learning Activities (FSG)
Getting Started Guide: Practical Learning at CRS (exercises)
Guidance for Learning Events in an Emergency Response (from CRS' MEAL in Emergencies Resource Pack)
Resources for MEAL Policy 2: Monitoring
- Primary responsible: Project manager (PM)/chief of party (CoP) and project MEAL coordinator