World Bank reforms found ineffective, bank shuffles senior staff

Former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Photo by: REUTERS/Mike Blake

WASHINGTON — The World Bank’s current organizational model — introduced by former President Jim Kim as part of a controversial reform package — risks jeopardizing the institution’s ability to deliver for its clients, according to the bank’s watchdog, the Independent Evaluation Group.

IEG issued its findings just last week, but the bank has already taken some steps to reverse some of Kim’s reforms, announcing a senior level shake-up just as the World Bank Spring Meetings started.

The report looks at the effectiveness of the institution’s current operating model in the wake of a major reform initiated in 2014. Its centerpiece involved reorganizing staff into 13 “global practices” and five “global themes” focused on policy areas, as opposed to the original matrix which grouped expertise under six regions.

The move was intended to break down regional silos and encourage cross-sectoral collaboration, but critics complained the changes made the bank overly centralized and less client-facing.

The IEG report finds that although the new structure led to some improvements — around the flow of knowledge across the institution, for example — the changes also created major problems.

“The model’s structure and processes tend to inhibit collaboration and cause inefficiency, fragmentation, and internal competition,” the report finds, warning that, “if left unaddressed, these issues can jeopardize the World Bank’s ability to deliver for clients.”

As part of the reform effort, the role of regional senior director was scrapped and this contributed to challenges around “operational collaboration,” according to IEG. In response, one of the report’s five recommendations involves giving “region-facing” managers more responsibility and authority.

The bank has already taken steps to make this happen, according to an internal note sent to staff by Kristalina Georgieva and seen by Devex. In one of her final moves as interim president, Georgieva unveiled plans to reshuffle the bank’s senior managers, saying:

“[T]he [IEG] report … points out the need to realign the senior responsibilities within the Global Practice Groups in a way that preserves the benefits of the GP structure while strengthening links and cooperation between GPs and Regions. With these considerations in mind, we have agreed to redefine the management roles in the Practice Groups (PG), moving towards two senior roles: Global Directors and Regional Directors.”

The report comes at an auspicious time for the development finance institution which underwent a leadership crisis after Kim’s shock resignation earlier this year, and has just welcomed a new president — David Malpass — who took up the reins after a controversial appointment process.

Internal bank sources described the changes, due to come into effect July 1, as a “tweak,” explaining that no one is set to be hired or fired as part of the process, staff will still report to the same managers, and budgets will be unaffected.

Others described the move as a major reversal of Kim’s reform package and said the changes marked a return to the old organizational structure but with different job titles. “This is one more nail in the coffin of Kim’s reforms,” one bank staffer told Devex, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The structural reforms aren’t the only part of Kim’s legacy that is being dismantled. The 12th floor of the bank’s main building, which Kim famously turned into an open plan office, reminiscent of a “press room,” according to one bank staffer, has been returned to its former state and will be once again used as a general function room.

About the author

  • Edwards sopie

    Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.