Saturday, May 8, 2010

WFP: Creation of feedback mechanism in administrative and procedural structure of the organization to improve its efficiency and effectiveness

Organizational Overview:

The World Food Program (WFP) was established in 1962 with a vision of the world in which every man, woman and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life and it is a part of the United Nations system. It is a voluntarily funded set-up. The WFP works towards that vision with its sister UN agencies in Rome -- the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) -- as well as other governments, UN and NGO partners. The WFP is governed by the WFP Executive Board, which consists of 36 Member States. The organization is headed by an Executive Director who is appointed jointly by the UN Secretary General and the Director-General of FAO for a fixed term of five-years. It is now the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide and it aims to bring food assistance to more than 90 million people in 73 countries in 2010.

Key Roles:

The WFP works basically in five areas: 1) Save lives and protect livelihoods in emergencies. 2) Prepare for emergencies. 3) Restore and rebuild lives after emergencies. 4) Reduce chronic hunger and under-nutrition everywhere. 5) Strengthen the capacity of countries to reduce hunger.

The WFP helps communities become more food secure and has developed expertise in a range of areas including Food Security Analysis, Nutrition, Food Procurement and Logistics to ensure the best solutions for the world's hungry. In emergencies, we get food to where it is needed, saving the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. After emergencies, WFP uses food to help communities rebuild their shattered lives.


The WFP relies solely on voluntary contributions to finance its humanitarian and development projects. In general, donations are taken in three different ways: 1) Cash. 2) Food such as flour, beans, oil, salt and sugar. 3) Items necessary to grow, store and cook food - kitchen utensils, agricultural tools, warehouses. Since WFP has no independent source of funds, all donations either in cash or in-kind must be accompanied by the cash needed to move, manage and monitor WFP food assistance.

The WFP's funding comes from: 1) Governments. 2) Corporations. 3) Individuals

Organizational Structure of the World Food Program:

The present WFP structure which is effective from 18th May 2009 has four deputy executive director level positions. They are: 1) Office of the hunger solutions. 2) Resource management and accountability department. 3) Operations departments. 4) External relations department. Per organizational chart these are directly connected and interact with Executive Director (ED). The functional structures under them don’t have any mechanism to interact with ED and they have more than one organizational unit. If they need to meet the ED to provide feedback and suggestions for improvements, they have to go through their respective Dy. ED as per the established hierarchal norms and etiquettes. If anyone dares to meet the ED bypassing their bosses it may annoy them. One of the inherent weaknesses of the WFP is not having a build-in feedback mechanism. The earlier organizational chart of WFP which was effective from 1st March 2008 also didn’t have any build-in feedback mechanism. To improve efficiency and effectiveness of the organizations and to be aware of ongoing performance, results, public opinions a built-in administrative feedback mechanism is required to avoid ad-hoc approach on this issue. In some organizations, a sealed box is kept in the offices for getting suggestions and feedback from the employees and public. This approach is not always effective and result oriented. Therefore, feedback should be an integral part of the organizational system and procedures. If it will be build-in then ED and others can’t avoid this even if they don’t like the feedback.

Why feedback is needed:

Often people assess themselves differently, either more positively or more negatively, than do their subordinates, peers, and superiors. This is why it is important. The feedback from others is indeed powerful. Lepsinger and Lucia (1997) says that in recent years, many companies have instituted 360 degree feedback which provides managers with an assessment from his or her employees, peers, and managers. Quinn et. al in their book Becoming a Master Manager explains that “If you are a manager, you might ask your human resources management department whether they have considered instituting such a process in your organization”. Chaleff (1995) says that once you get the feedback, however, it is important that you be willing to reflect on what you have heard and show appreciation to those who have been willing to provide feedback. When one gets feedback that comes as a surprise, use it as a springboard for honest exploration and discussion. Marshall Goldsmith (1996) argues that one key characteristic that differentiates leaders of tomorrow from the leaders of yesterday is their willingness to “ask, learn, follow up and grow.” The feedback can take three forms: informational, corrective, or reinforcing. Informational feedback is nonevaluative response that simply provides additional facts to the sender. Corrective feedback involves a challenge to, or correction of, the original message. Reinforcing feedback is a clear acknowledgement of the message that was sent.

The literature on organizational feedback shows that it improves the overall performance of the organization. Since WFP is a voluntary funded set-up we need to prove to donors our efficiency, effectiveness and the best utilization of the donated money to satisfy them. To achieve this and to improve our current performance further, WFP needs build- in organizational feedback mechanism at all levels of the organizational structure. The feedback system will increase its reputation and help in gaining the confidence of the donors as well as public.

Current situation in WFP:

This “Review of Management and Administration in the World Food Program” (WFP) is part of a series of reviews of participating organizations undertaken by the Joint Inspection Unit in 2009. This is done to find out the areas for improvement focusing on governance, executive management, administration, strategic planning, budgeting, human resources management and oversight, among others. Based on the findings, 12 recommendations were made; nine to the Executive Director and three to the Executive Board. It was found that WFP has a positive image in the international community and in terms of management and administration it is an active and self-improving organization committed to adapting to changing environments and improving its effectiveness and efficiency. It is an emergency-focused organization and operating in a volatile environment with robust corporate tools to reinforce strategic planning and management capacities, sustained by results-based management (RBM). It is wholly voluntary-funded and has no predictable income for its program support and administrative functions and also has no secured funds for the implementation of operational activities as approved by the Executive Board. Ensuring predictability and stability of funding is crucial for WFP to perform its mandate. It is a welcome step that WFP took an initiative to review its financial framework in 2009. The high percentage of earmarked contributions remains another challenge for WFP.

The WFP was engaged in decentralization process for more than a decade. Despite so many achievements, there is still room for improvement. Streamlining the three-tier structure is necessary to avoid bypassing, overlapping, duplication or conflicting requests and advice.

The Program has obviously always been results-oriented; so WFP formally adopted a results-based management approach in the late 1990s. WFP created a RBM Division to develop its RBM framework, which laid out principles, tools, orientation guides and training for staff across the Program in 2003, but as a consequence of financial constraints, the Division was closed in 2006. The concept of mainstreaming RBM was introduced instead, leaving the responsibility of RBM implementation to project managers across the organization. Based on experience, WFP realized that a centralized level of organizational support was indeed needed to strengthen the RBM agenda. The loss of momentum following the closure of the RBM Division was noticed both by staff and delegates. We concur with WFP views that RBM has already produced a number of positive results. There is consensus among senior managers that RBM contributed to reinforcing country office capacities not only for planning and performance monitoring, but also for understanding the corporate mission. As a result, RBM created better awareness and comprehension among donors of project implementation and their outcomes, thereby enhancing relationships which are crucial to voluntary-based funding. One Basic and important ingredient of the RBM is feedback. To maintain the performance momentum set in by RBM, it is imperative to implement the feedback component of the RBM into the organization.


Country representatives should develop a system of taking written and verbal feedback secretly or openly twice a year, compulsorily, in person. There should be an effort to promote this culture at country level. At regional level, the regional directors should take such feedback twice a year with their respective country office heads. It should be known to all that any employee can give any suggestions and feedback to their supervisors, at any point of time. Like wise ED should take suggestions and feedback form country and regional heads twice a year.

When Country representative visit field offices, project sites, programs he/she should talk to a few workers personally- selected randomly-to know their suggestions and feedback. This process should be followed by the Regional Managers and ED too. This approach will create goodwill and send the message that all officials can approach higher authorities at any point of time. This will help in removal of mischief done by the supervisor on the assumption that subordinates have no access to higher authorities. This system will help prevent misuse of authority and result in improving the morale of employees. As a result performance will improve. This feedback will be in addition to the regular feedback taken twice a year. A clear order in this regard should be issued by the ED with the approval of EB. To ensure proper implementation, monitoring at all three levels should be made compulsory and an officer should be made in-charge at all three levels for this purpose.


  1. Yishan Zhang, Nikolay Chulkov (2009), Joint Inspection Unit “Review of Management and Administration in the World Food Program”, JIU/REP/2009/7