Getting Best Fit in Development Projects is like buying a new suit

written by Matt Andrews

I often hear talk of moving from best practice to best fit in development. When I ask what people mean by this I seldom get the same answer. But the basic idea is that multiple solutions are considered  instead of a one-best-way solution. I like the idea in concept and have written on it as a way of ensuring that we get past the tyranny of one-best-way. But I don’t think having multiple solutions to choose from is enough.

Getting Best fit is not simply about looking at a variety of options and deciding which one works best in the place one is working. This is because it is really hard to know what led to and informed the ideas being considered, and it is hard to know what the contextual realities are in the place where one is doing the fitting. So: One may think that an idea from South Africa will work in Botswana, because there are contextual similarities, but one does not know if the South African idea depends on very localized political or capacity issues that are not present in Botswana.

The only way one truly does best fit is by trying stuff out and learning what works, hopefully why, and then adapting. Try the South African example in Botswana, ask where it is working and why, and then chisel the idea into a shape that fits Botswana better — simultaneously building some new capacities in Botswana to make the fit work.

It is not, therefore, about getting best fit in some conceptual manner, but about ‘fitting’ in practice. Kind of like being a tailor to someone looking for a new suit. How might it work? Let’s think of buying a new suit….

  • Identify the general type of suite that interests you…
  • Choose a variety of potential suites off-the-shelf
  • Try them on…with the tailor advising on their fit…
  • Learn what kinds of cuts and styles work best for your look (you may be surprised and find your assumptions were incorrect)
  • Decide on the style and cut and color you want (and other characteristics)
  • See what you can take off-the-shelf (you may have the entire suite, or a jacket, or a jacket with sleeves that need shortening, etc.)
  • Get the tailor to make alterations you need… as many as required
  • try it on again
  • make more alterations
  • pay that tailor and leave, to impress the world with your best fitted suit!

One thought on “Getting Best Fit in Development Projects is like buying a new suit

  1. This is a very thoughtful suggestion. Doing development differently requires just such an effort especially if working at the local level.

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