Functional review: Advising senior UN leaders on optimal organizational design

The client

The partnerships division of a major development bank, headquartered in Europe, manages a range of partnerships including Member States, civil society, mandate-related think tanks and academia, sister organizations in the IFI and UN systems.

The challenge

The Bank’s regional office covering north, central and South America based in Washington D.C. wished to develop a vision for a future regional office that had the capability to fulfil the strategic intent it had been given. The challenge was made more complex by the broad range of responsibilities and the number of both internal and external stakeholder groups it was responsible for.

Antylles was asked to perform a functional review of the office and its parent organisation in an effort to guide senior management’s decision making.

The assessment report

The functional review and the subsequent report conducted a mixed-method analysis of the current state of play. After a desk review of strategic documents, our expert interviewed a range of internal stakeholders both in HQ and in the field. This was complemented by a benchmarking exercise where sister IFIs and UN agencies were interviewed to identify common organizational design themes such as partner engagement approaches, staffing and support requirements.

The review culminated in a 60-page report, which structured the advice in three main sections: (1) review of the current state, (2) design considerations for a future state, and (3) next steps and road map. The current state review included identification of the principal factors driving the observed problems, identification of the organizational culture factors, and factors that were derived from structural and staffing factors. It also included an in-depth analysis of the current opportunities and challenges facing the organization’s partnership with the current US administration.

The second section covering design considerations for a future state included a comprehensive discussion on what was working well, what were the ‘must change’ organizational design elements, as well as advice on how to structure the organization around key resource mobilization (RM) and non-RM partnerships.

The final section identified a number of ‘quick win’ and triage decisions that could be considered/taken by the organization’s leaders to create some immediate performance improvements. The section also provided management with a roadmap on how to move the complex issue facing the organization forward, as well as some decision-making tools to help focus discussions.

The results

The report enabled senior leaders to review the range of options that were open to them and give them the confidence to select the best course of action that balances desired outcomes, other institutional priorities and an available budget. With the help of the report, the office was able to focus its operations on it top priority stakeholders, while accepting trade-offs that could be addressed in the medium term.

Want to conduct a functional review? Let us help. If you are considering undertaking a functional review of one or more business units within your organization we recommend planning for 40-60 days for a 1-2 person team of senior organizational design experts. The time required is not usually linked to the size of the organization being reviewed, but rather the complexity of the organization’s TOR and its relationships with other internal and external organizations. Contact Antylles to help plan for your next review.


Contact our expert with direct experience in this case study: Edward Carroll.

About edwardcarroll

I help build and grow better-performing, more results-oriented organisations and operations in the international public sector and the public sector in developing countries.