Question
“What are the key success factors to scaling up successful programs?”
Top Answer
Larry Cooley President Emeritus Management Systems International
Top Answer

The factors that best predict successful scaling fit broadly into four categories – characteristics of the intervention, characteristics of the organizations expected to play critical roles in the scaling, characteristics of the enabling environment, and contextual factors such as the degree of homogeneity among the intended users or beneficiaries.

The following 32-item checklist developed by Management Systems International offers a more detailed set of factors that simplify or complicate scalability.

It should be noted that the factors that lie behind most scaling successes go well beyond the quality or efficacy of the technical solution or product being provided.  In fact, some have observed that technological factors are responsible for less than 10% of the variation in scaling success.  More important in most cases are issues related to the business model, the delivery platform, the presence of prominent champions, and the regulatory environment.

Successful and sustainable scaling almost always depend on changes in government policies and priorities and/or changes in business incentives.  Unless an intervention has a credible strategy for shifting the behavior of governments and/or markets, its prospects are likely limited.  For this reason, successful scaling is usually led by individuals or organizations that enjoy credibility with these actors or have a solid strategy for gaining it.

Also critical is the way the scaling process is managed.  Very few innovations scale in an linear way in accordance with a detailed plan.  More commonly, the pathway to scale is circuitous and unpredictable.  For that reason, the most successful scaling strategies involve rapid experimentation and feedback loops, along with a willingness and ability to pivot in response to that evidence.

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