Success factors for applying what has been learned?

Jan 14, 2020

In October 2019 I attended AFROSAI-E’s Technical Update in Cape Town, a knowledge sharing- and networking event for the English-speaking countries of the African region, with close to 180 participants. The event offered the participants guidance on new technical material and shared insights through a marketplace, presentations and discussions. However, once back home at the Netherlands Court of Audit (NCA) it appeared a challenge to share and apply what had been learnt due to structural-organizational learning barriers, such as  lack of staff resources and a high workload. Do you recognize this? In this blog I would like to highlight some success factors that could contribute to actually apply what has been learned from engagements with peers, from either network events or peer-to-peer cooperation.

I finished my dissertation on “Organizational learning and network performance” in 2013. Although the field research investigated success factors for applying what has been learned from others at a municipal level, I believe that some of the conclusions and suggestions can benefit our SAI community as well (or at least trigger some thoughts). Let me focus on three success factors that helped the municipalities to apply what they had learned from their peers and relate this to our own SAI environment:

  1. Understanding the desired development and the intended uses of learnings from peers

A SAI looking to learn from its peers will be more successful if it has a good insight into its own desired development and learning needs. This allows collection of information and reaching out to others in a more focused way. The results of a SAI Performance Management Framework Self-Assessment or a peer review can be a good starting point, while the strategic or annual plan of a SAI can also give direction. In addition, a conversation with a peer can help formulating what is actually needed to reach the desired development.

  1. Combining hierarchical approaches with deliberate information-sharing

It is important that someone feels responsible for feeding forward the learnings from peer engagements at individual SAI level. This can be a department head, or in some cases the Auditor-General. Combining this with more deliberate forms of information-sharing (e.g. sharing through intranet, blogs) and the organization of training for employees (e.g. lunch presentations, training events) appears to be even more effective.

  1. Promote communication skills and interaction between individuals

My research suggests that intrinsic motivation and communication skills matter for applying what has been learned from peers, supported by a high level of teamwork, a flat organizational structure and interactions between individuals. This suggests that more attention should be paid to the quality of relationships, conversations and interactions taking place between SAIs, but also within the individual SAI.

There are other conclusions and suggestions on success factors that I could mention here. With this blog I intend to trigger thinking about how best to apply what we learn from the valuable engagements with our colleagues, from either network events or more established peer-to-peer cooperation.

The INTOSAI Capacity Building Committee recently initiated a new workstream focusing on peer-to-peer cooperation. The Netherlands Court of Audit (NCA) is chair and coordinator of this work stream from 2020 to 2022. With this workstream we would like to identify good practice in peer-to-peer cooperation, but as well increase the number of SAIs engaged in peer-to peer cooperation. Please contact me if you would like to contribute to this work (m.noordhoek@rekenkamer.nl).

Marike Noordhoek

International Project Manager, Netherlands Court of Audit (NCA)