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Update on Project Delphi

Executive Committee Meetings

Update on Project Delphi

9 April 1997

9 April 1997

7th Meeting


1. At its sixth meeting on 30-31 January 1997, the Standing Committee postponed consideration of the Update on Project Delphi (EC/47/SC/CRP.13) due to time constraints. This conference room paper, which should be read in conjunction with the January paper, provides a further update on progress in the Delphi process. Further, Annex I of this paper contains the now completed Delphi Implementation Plan.


2. As indicated in the January paper, Delphi activities from January to March 1997 focused on a number of priority initiatives, which are described below and which form part of the Delphi Implementation Plan.

A. Operations Management System (OMS)

3. One of the most important priorities is to design the OMS, through which the Office will carry-out a wide range of budgetary, financial, human resource, and other key management and administrative functions. A Project Team was formed in January 1997 and began Phase 1 of the design of a new OMS. The Team was composed of officers with expertise in protection, programming and operations, and was led by a senior UNHCR Field Representative. A first report was completed and presented to the Senior Management Committee (SMC) in early March 1997.

4. The OMS design seeks to incorporate the key principles which have emerged from Project Delphi into all UNHCR operational activities. It focuses operations on: strategic policy objectives and durable solutions; integrating protection and assistance in planning and implementation; streamlining resource allocation and reporting; and delegates increased management authority and flexibility to the Field within the context of an accountability framework.

5. Major changes in current practices would include:

(i) a greater focus on the needs of the manager responsible for implementation by providing access to relevant information and management tools;

(ii) as set out in the Delphi Plan of Action (paragraphs 19-27 of document EC/46/SC/CRP.48), UNHCR operations would assume a greater strategic orientation towards protection and durable solutions, embodied within a "situational approach" that would require measurable objectives, regular self-evaluation and monitoring, flexibility in the management of resources, and moves decision making as close as possible to the point of delivery; and

(iii) the development of an "on-line" integrated database, which can be used by managers at all levels to facilitate decision making. Recent developments in information technology will now permit Headquarters and Field Offices to put selected management information into the database on a regular and "single entry" basis and in a format which could be retrieved by other users according to their information or reporting requirements. In place of the periodic paper reports currently in use, information in the database would be comprehensive and management oriented and would include components of annual planning exercises, monthly updates on progress towards objectives, financial data between Field and Headquarters, statistics and information on other operational developments.

6. A review of the OMS design outline will be completed by senior managers by mid-April 1997. Following this, a reconstituted OMS Team will begin Phase 2 of its work, which aims at drawing up sufficiently detailed design specifications on which systems development will be based. This will involve further refinement of the design, followed by field testing in a number of selected Field Offices.

B. Delphi Focal Points

7. Focal points have been designated in all Operations and Divisions. These focal points have assisted the Directors in planning Delphi change initiatives, in facilitating dialogue on related actions between units, and in acting as a link to Field Offices. In the months ahead, the focal points' primary responsibility will be to assist their respective Directors in implementing and monitoring the actions outlined in the Delphi Implementation Plan. Focal points in Field Offices will strive to ensure good communication on Delphi issues to all staff in the Field and, under the supervision of Heads of Offices, facilitate implementation of Delphi changes as they affect their offices.

C. Internal communications

8. As mentioned in paragraph 23 of the January paper, a Communications Review Board was established by the High Commissioner in early February and has met on several occasions to review and assign responsibility for implementing the recommendations of the Working Group on Internal Communications. These fall into two broad categories of objectives: an improvement in the frequency and management of internal communications; and the effective use of communications as a management tool. The first objective will be achieved mainly by improving the methods used for the circulation of written communications. The goal will be to ensure that sufficient information reaches the appropriate staff, whilst at the same time seeking to ensure that they do not receive unnecessary information. Through a more effective use of the e-mail system, the introduction of an intranet service, and enabling wide access to electronic information systems for all staff in the Field and at Headquarters, the volume of paper flow is expected to be significantly reduced. The second objective will be achieved through sharing information more frequently on changes taking place within the Organization and through the creation of different fora where discussion and debate on key issues can take place between management and the staff at large.

9. In this context, the "Delphi News" information newsletters are now being issued monthly. In addition, interim information is provided regularly through all-staff e-mail messages. This has ensured regular flow of information to staff. Efforts are also being intensified to make all Delphi communications available in both English and French.

10. "Delphi Sessions" (described in paragraph 26 of the January paper) have continued to be held for staff at Headquarters, providing a forum for briefing staff as well as gaining feedback on staff perceptions. The emphasis of these sessions will be changed in the months ahead in order to brief staff on the Implementation Plan and enhance their participation in the change process. In addition, a Delphi electronic discussion page (bulletin board) was established in March 1997. This provides a forum for staff to share their ideas and concerns, and to discuss Delphi related matters.

D. Career Management System (CMS)

11. Implementation training for CMS commenced in September 1996, with a workshop for the SMC, led by the High Commissioner. A network of Implementation Managers, primarily selected from line management, was established to manage a cascade of training through all levels of staff, with support from the Division of Human Resources Management (DHRM). To date, all staff at the P-5 level, and above and most staff at other levels, have received CMS training. Operational imperatives and a delay in the completion of French language materials have delayed some training, but plans are in place to complete this shortly. The training has focused on developing the skills of both supervisors and staff members to discuss and agree on performance objectives in concrete and measurable terms, as well as the competencies required to achieve these objectives. The training has been generally well received. The training process has also identified questions, concerns and areas in need of improvement or simplification, all of which are being examined for necessary follow-up action.

12. The implementation of CMS also requires consultation between management and staff representatives, and a recommendation to the High Commissioner from the Joint Staff-Management Advisory Committee. While generally supportive of the objectives and intent of CMS, staff representatives have raised a number of questions and issues, particularly related to redress procedures, use of data, and the complexity and completeness of the System. These questions have not yet been adequately addressed by management. CMS represents a significant change in both the content and periodicity of performance appraisal, and will affect many aspects of a staff member's career in UNHCR; promotions, postings, training, career counselling, etc. Support of the staff will be essential. Accordingly, it is considered important to take the time necessary to respond to the concerns already raised. DHRM is giving this task priority and will complete the consultation process as quickly as possible.

E. Delphi Implementation Plan

13. As indicated in paragraph 33 of the January paper, the transformation of the Project Delphi Plan of Action into a detailed, comprehensive implementation plan has been the main focus of attention over the first quarter of 1997. The Implementation Plan is based upon the Project Delphi Plan of Action and the components, for the most part, follow the sections therein. This is also evident from the cover page of the Plan which provides an outline similar to a "table of contents".

14. Each of the 12 components are cross-referenced to the Plan of Action and indicate overall responsibility for all actions listed for each component. Information is then provided for each activity and task as follows:

(i) summary description of the action to be undertaken;

(ii) desired output;

(iii) unit responsible for implementation;

(iv) time frame for implementation;

(v) resource implications; and

(vi) linkages to other activities/tasks.

15. The actions and tasks envisaged under the Implementation Plan were identified by the substantive units responsible for implementation of change initiatives. The Plan was reviewed by the SMC during a one day meeting on 5 February 1997 and was then further refined in discussions with the substantive units. Some of the main activities which are listed in the Plan cover:

(i) design of the new OMS as described above;

(ii) establishment of a protection database as part of an integrated database for all managers;

(iii) creation of a global supply chain from procurement to asset management;

(iv) development of a new integrated budget and finance system;

(v) delegation of additional human resources functions to the Field;

(vi) development of a medium to longer term information and communications systems strategy;

(vii) reorientation and expansion of training activities to take account of needs and priorities identified as part of the Delphi process; and

(viii) strengthening of the internal oversight mechanisms.

16. The implementation of a number of actions described in the Plan began in 1996 and some initiatives have been completed. The terms of reference for four of the five primary management committees have been finalized and approved by the High Commissioner. These committees, which have already begun meeting, consist of the SMC, the Policy Committee, the Operations Review Board and the Oversight Committee. The terms of reference of the existing Joint Staff-Management Advisory Committee are currently being reviewed. As mentioned above, major work is underway on the design of the new OMS.

17. The Implementation Plan represents a catalogue of all the change activities currently agreed upon for implementation and will allow the High Commissioner and senior management to monitor progress as the implementation of Project Delphi proceeds. It will be modified and updated as the need arises. Responsibility for overall coordination of the listed actions rests with the Change Management Support and Coordination Unit (CMSCU), which will liaise with substantive units to ensure that detailed implementation plans are prepared and maintained. The Standing Committee will be informed of any significant changes to the Implementation Plan and of progress achieved.


18. As also indicated in the January paper, a comprehensive review of resource requirements at Headquarters, both in terms of funding and posts, took place at the end of February 1997. This review had to address both the currently projected decrease in the volume of activities in 1997, including the consequences on administrative overhead costs, and the changes in resource requirements as a result of the implementation of efficiencies in administrative procedures and other changes.

19. Comprehensive budgetary details will be provided in the annual reports to the Executive Committee. Delphi related information on the projected changes in post levels at Headquarters, however, are listed below as a preliminary opportunity for the Standing Committee to examine the staffing implications of Project Delphi. Financial implications of these changes are provided in part V of this document. With regard to posts, when the Project Delphi Plan of Action was completed at the end of August 1996, there were a total of 861 posts established at Headquarters. This number served as the starting point for the recent review, which took into account post changes already implemented between August and December 1996 and then focused on requirements currently envisaged for 1997 and 1998. The review identified a net reduction of posts as follows:

General Net Service Professional Reduction Total

Number of HQs posts at 31 August 1996 478 383 861

Net reduction of posts implemented Aug - Dec 1996 (7) 1 (6) 855

Net reduction of posts scheduled Jan - Dec 1997 (45) (21) (66) 789

Net reduction of posts scheduled Jan - Dec 1998 (35) (21) (56) 733

Total net reduction (87) (41)(128)

Number of HQs posts currently projected on 1 Jan 1999 391 342 733

20. The net reduction of 128 posts so far identified and which will be implemented over a 28 month period, is the result of 140 post discontinuations, 24 post creations and 12 redeployments to the Field. Another comprehensive review of post requirements at Headquarters will be held before the end of the year, at which time the implementation of the various Delphi initiatives will be further assessed.

21. As the overall number of posts at Headquarters declines, there will be a gradual financial impact. Budgetary savings from the post reductions so far identified, however, can be estimated at approximately $ 13.0 million annually in salaries and common staff costs once implemented.


22. The High Commissioner has stated her commitment to fairness and transparency in the process of reducing staff, and that separation decisions should be based on comparative reviews with due regard to the main criteria of contractual status, performance and seniority. In this respect, a human resources transition strategy has now been approved by the High Commissioner following extensive discussions between staff representatives and DHRM. The Strategy defines the process to be used in identifying which staff should be retained in service, as well as measures to minimize the number of involuntary separations, including:

(i) a freeze on external recruitment;

(ii) the possibility for special leave without pay;

(iii) post sharing;

(iv) voluntary separation; and

(v) the possibility for suitably qualified general service staff to move into the professional category.

23. The aim of voluntary separation is to provide eligible staff members, who may wish to consider leaving the Organization, with an incentive to do so, thereby increasing the number of vacant posts and reducing the potential number of involuntary separations. To ensure the interests of the Organization are maintained, voluntary separation will be directed primarily towards staff most affected by post reductions. A time limit of 9 May 1997 has been set for staff members to express an interest in voluntary separation within 1997, which will enable UNHCR to more fully assess the financial implications and to seek an adjustments in budgetary provisions as appropriate. The Standing Committee will be informed of these implications in greater detail at its next session.


24. UNHCR's management remains committed to the continuation of the implementation of Delphi change initiatives and, to the greatest extent possible, with its own staff and within the parameters of current budget provisions. As indicated in the Delphi Implementation Plan, many of the initiatives listed can be carried out with "existing resources", as foreseen in the initial 1997 budget. As implementation of Project Delphi has proceeded, budgets have been revised and will continue to be kept under review. Although more detailed assessments and updates for a number of tasks and projects are required, it has now been possible to estimate the cost in 1997 for the following major activities: (Delphi Implementation Plan in Annex I refers).

$ (millions) Revised 97

Division of Operational Support 1.5

5.5 Create global supply chain system

Division of Financial and Information Services 3.6

2.3 Design new programming, budget & financial processes

2.6 Consolidate Operations Management System design

6.6 Streamline income recording process as component of OMS

8.1 Standardize software in all UNHCR offices

8.3 Initiate Intranet development

8.4 Introduce digital radio communications to the Field

8.5 Introduce Windows-based interfaces to existing mainframe systems

8.9 Implement PIOUS Browse in the Field

8.10 Implement FMIS Browse and Update in the Field

11.5 Identify new software for Records Management

DHRM 2.4

7.2 Provide the Field with capacity to assume personnel management functions

7.6 Implement CMS

7.7 Implement human resources transition strategy

Training 5.2

9.3 Programme/process implementation (learning tools, training programmes, etc.)

Internal Oversight 0.6

6.10 Review internal audit function

10.3 Finalize restructuring of Inspection & Evaluation Service

Total 13.3

25. The initial 1997 budget provided a total of $ 9.3 million for the above activities. Given the anticipated overall savings at Headquarters in dollar terms on account of Swiss franc/US dollar exchange rate gains, it is proposed to absorb the additional costs of $ 4.0 million within the current 1997 budgets. All adjustments to the initial 1997 budgetary provision will be presented to the forty-eighth Session of the Executive Committee.


26. With the Implementation Plan established, implementation will be supported and facilitated by the following steps:

(i) It will be essential that staff at large have not only an understanding of the activities and tasks ahead, but that their broadest possible involvement in the actual implementation is assured. To this end, and in recognition of the importance of maintaining momentum and achieving agreed time frames, a series of meetings are scheduled during April 1997 with senior managers and staff at Headquarters to ensure an in-depth understanding of the implementation arrangements currently underway. Renewed efforts will also be directed toward maximizing participation by the field;

(ii) These forthcoming consultations will also centre on how best to monitor progress as work proceeds, as well as further define and structure the coordination of the various changes planned both within the context of the Operations Management System and in other areas. The CMSCU will undertake an advisory and monitoring role for those involved in leading the change initiatives;

(iii) There will be a systematic collection and recording of concrete results achieved through Project Delphi and of related benefits. This information will be communicated on a regular basis, both to UNHCR staff and Member Governments through the Standing Committee;

(iv) Through close monitoring by staff leading the change initiatives and assisted by the CMSCU, efforts will focus on ensuring early identification and resolution of critical problem areas as they appear during implementation;

(v) A strong focus on all human resource management aspects of the Delphi process will be maintained as implementation proceeds; and

(vi) Senior management, led by the High Commissioner, will take stock and review the rate and content of implementation in a two-day workshop provisionally scheduled for the second half of June 1997.

27. The Standing Committee will be provided with a further update on Project Delphi at its next meeting in June 1997.

(Note: Tabular Annex I not included in this online version. See your nearest UN Depository Library.)

ANNEX II: Draft Decision: Implementation Plan for Project Delphi

The Standing Committee,

OP1 Welcomes the issuance of the Delphi Implementation Plan and takes note that the additional costs envisaged in 1997 can be absorbed within the current budget provisions;

OP2 Requests the High Commissioner to provide the usual detailed budgetary breakdown in the documentation to be submitted to the forty-eighth session of the Executive Committee;

OP3 Asks to be kept informed at its future meetings of progress achieved in the implementation of Project Delphi.