Managing performance in NGOs

Policy makers need simple ideas; but Tom chose the wrong one.

In the 2007 film ‘Lions for Lambs’, Tom Cruise plays a slick US senator pushing new military tactics in Afghanistan. Meryl Streep is a sceptical journalist. At a central moment, he stands over her and asks: “Do you want a win in the war on terror?  Yes or no?”

It’s impossible to answer. The idea of ‘war’ gets people thinking the wrong way about tackling terror – setting up the idea of military conflict and battlefield victory. The idea is good for winning public support and making complex social issues seem simple. But it’s bad for doing much about them.

In the same way, the idea of ‘impact’ is not much use for managing the performance of NGOs or holding them to account. Continue reading