In 2006, politics and procedures hobbled Bangladesh’s civil service. As divisions hardened between the country’s two main political parties, civil servants were routinely transferred or dismissed at the whim of the government in power. Hierarchical reporting and decision-making structures discouraged innovation and the exchange of ideas. Moreover, many high-level civil servants lacked substantial experience in managing projects. To address these problems, the Ministry of Public Administration collaborated with the U.K. Department for International Development to launch a seven-year reform program called Managing At The Top 2, or MATT 2. Building on an initial three-year stage that ended in 2002, MATT 2 aimed to develop skills, foster networks and gradually reshape the incentives for senior civil servants to make their units more effective. As part of the program, senior civil servants designed and implemented small-scale projects. Ministry officials and project consultants strengthened support for MATT 2 by asking secretaries, the administrative heads of ministries, to endorse the pilot projects every year. During the next several years, about 1,300 reform-minded civil servants operated in teams to design and implement more than 200 innovative projects using a model similar to the Rapid Results approach, a results-focused learning process that some other countries adopted at about the same time. The intended benefits emerged gradually, as more civil servants participated and the public began to see results. MATT 2 did not alter transfer and promotion policies, nor did it take steps to depoliticize the civil service. The case offers an alternative to traditional methods of building government, and explores both the potential and the limits of this distinctive strategy.
Rushda Majeed drafted this case on the basis of interviews conducted in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in June 2011, as well as interviews conducted in Bangladesh by Andrew Schalkwyk in February 2009. Case published October 2011.
Performance Improvement Plan
Managing at the Top
commitment & leadership
Building a Reform Team and Staff
Eliminating Markets for Public Office
Civil service corruption
Performance management system
Ranks and grades
Capacity (capability traps)
Country of Reform: