Lost opportunity is the underlying theme of the final report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. $60 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars, and billions more in Iraqi funds, was spent across more than nine years of stabilization and reconstruction operations. An estimated $8 billion was wasted, in part due to poor program management. A few reported lessons for next time your project:

Plan Ahead

Plan in advance, plan comprehensively and in an integrated fashion, and have backup plans ready to go. In retrospect, the Iraq reconstruction experience looks like nine one-year programs rather than one nine-year program.

Set Accountability

Require robust oversight from the operation’s inception. Establish clear ownership, roles and responsibilities. Ensure unity of command and unity of effort. Your project organization chart should not look like this:


Align with Location

Develop a comprehensive understanding of the society, culture, governance and institutions of the host location. Ensure full host-country engagement in program and project selection, securing commitments to share costs and agreements to sustain completed projects after their transfer. Define what is needed for sustainability at the program start.

Share Information

Establish uniform contracting, personnel and information management systems that all participants use. Coordinate, share information and clearly communicate across all involved parties.

Start Small

Begin rebuilding only after establishing sufficient security, and focus first on small programs and projects. The more unstable the situation, the smaller the project should be. A positive, proven record of experience helps garner support for future efforts. Preserve and refine programs that produced success.

And, since it apparently doesn’t go without saying, don’t pay more than 1000% markup: