How capacity building in India can benefit from the Means, Motives, Opportunity (MMO) approach


An online survey conducted by the Times of India recently, on citizens' experiences accessing government services, threw up a host of significant albeit concerning issues. These included delay in services, lack of clarity on documents needed, and lack of transparency about the officials responsible. The report elaborates how thousands of senior citizens and women line up at taluk offices every day, to get any updates on their pensions and other services.

Citizens’ everyday interactions with the bureaucracy in India are often fraught with challenges, highlighting an important aspect of everyday governance – the ability of the public official to effectively perform their tasks. For this, they need the right combination of attitude, skills and knowledge, i.e. competencies. Civil servants are an important part of the Indian state – they are both the agents of policy making and the executive hand that delivers on the ground. Given the enormity of their role it is necessary to tackle issues of state capacity starting at the level of individual officials.

Means, motives and opportunity framework

And this is exactly what the means, motives, and opportunity (MMO) framework does, by focusing  on developing capable, future-ready civil servants. According to  John, Newton-Lewis, and Srinivasan (2019) -

  • Means relate to whether an individual is capable of  performing, i.e. their competencies. This refers to what a ministry intends to do to bridge competency gaps i.e how they plan to equip their officials to perform their job.
  • Motives relate to whether an individual wants to perform,  i.e. their attitudes and beliefs (intrinsic motivation), and the norms, system of incentives and disincentives to perform, and how accountability is established (extrinsic motivations). 
  • Opportunity relates to whether an individual has the chance to perform. This relates to the circumstances to use means and motive to deliver on government priorities.

The MMO approach can be applied to any state capacity problem. It enables a department or organisation to identify the constraints that individual officials are facing, as well as identify a course of action that can help address the issues in an  innovative, context-specific manner.

Competency-based approaches have been  used by governments across the world to identify skills, knowledge and behaviours that drive successful performance of public officials – incorporating elements of the MMO framework. A noteworthy instance  is the Greater London Authority (GLA)’s competency framework. The GLA is responsible for the strategic administration of London, encompassing a range of policy areas such as transport, economic development, and fire and emergency planning.

As a means to identify competency gaps among its staff, GLA conducted a series of workshops, and interviews to understand the behaviours essential for successful performance across the organisation. They used the results to identify competencies including strategic thinking, research and analysis and organisational awareness among others; that were then mapped against all the roles within the GLA. To equip officials with the required/ missing competencies a training needs analysis is conducted, and training is then tailored so officials can begin their competency-building journey.  These competencies would go on to serve as a baseline for recruitment processes. It’s an effective practice that not only aids the GLA in better service delivery, but also motivates public officials at the helm, since the identified competencies are used to track performance as well as solicit  critical feedback.

The MMO framework can have far-reaching implications in Indian bureaucracy too, with its myriad execution challenges. A step in this direction is the ambitious Mission Karmayogi initiative, launched in 2020, which aims to reform the current capacity building apparatus by placing individual learning and development at the heart of the process. Here’s how ministries, departments and organisations (MDOs) can reduce the intensity of the competency gaps of their officials, and provide them with the knowledge and skills to perform their jobs (i.e. means) effectively -

  • Identifying the roles, activities and competencies of an individual official.
  • Assessing the official on each of these identified competencies, so any gaps in competencies required can be identified.
  • Translating these gaps into concerted capacity building efforts through targeted learning for each official.

The motives component focuses on how ministries will contribute to the motivation and engagement of their officials, and devise solutions to tackle the problem areas.

At the heart of Mission Karmayogi is iGOT Karmayogi – a comprehensive online solutioning space with a gamut of resources for online, face-to-face and blended learning. It provides officials not only with the opportunity to develop their competencies, but also learn, network, and collaborate with their peers. This approach puts agency and responsibility back into an individual official’s hands, aiding overall reform efforts.



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