11 Questions for… Lukas Frey

February 02, 2011 | bit-wartung | SDC Experiences |


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Lukas FreyIn our recently launched series “11 Questions for…” we ask people from in and around SDC and the KM world the same 11 questions. Our goal is to offer insights into different working methods, different ways of looking at individual and institutional learning, and different ideas and opinions on how to make organisations more efficient… And, along the way, to hear interesting stories and experiences our interviewees have in store!

Our third interviewee is Lukas Frey, Programme Officer for Mozambique and Madagascar at SDC’s East and Southern Africa Division. Enjoy!


Which of your daily tasks do you carry out with particular efficiency? What makes you so efficient in these tasks?

Many of my daily tasks have to do with coordination, consultations and exchanges among different administrative entities, colleagues and partners. I try to do this whenever possible in a face to face manner, i.e. seeing people in their offices, talking to them over the phone, sitting together when needed. My experience is that – despite the apparent extra effort of going beyond a simple e-mail exchange – the result of this kind of interaction is much more substantial and ultimately also more efficient.


What would help you to carry out your daily tasks more efficiently?

On a very personal level I should more often – at least once a day – take a step back, get a moment of distance for just a minute or two, and re-think priorities and energy invested in the everyday business. Unfortunately I don’t apply this personal experience systematically and frequently enough – despite the fact that it always helps to increase my personal efficiency.


What part of your daily work would you like to reduce? What would you like to spend more time with?

It’s probably not astonishing that I would like to reduce the over-formalized bureaucratic work which is increasingly absorbing significant portions of my time. I guess it is not only a nostalgic view at “former times” when a criterion like “meaningfulness” did count more than today. On the other hand I would like to be able to spend more time following state-of-the-art debates around themes of my professional concern. Too often I have the impression that we’re always a step behind…


Which electronic tools for information and exchange are indispensable for your work?

E-mail, internet and telephone. With a clear priority for the phone whenever it comes to real exchanges between people.


When have you last exchanged experiences with a colleague? What was it about?

Today. It was about my experiences in applying the new guidelines for the elaboration of Cooperation Strategies. I’m just coming back from Mozambique where we held a 3-days workshop with the whole team. I talked with the colleague responsible for these guidelines and we made sort of a reality check, i.e. how the guidelines are applicable in practice.


What practice or tool for exchanging experiences used in your team would you recommend to others?

At the beginning of our weekly team meeting we have a slot of 15-30 min which can be used  as a true window of opportunity: For example a colleague brings up an idea he wants to test in a very informal manner (e.g. a very preliminary project idea),  or someone brings up a publication which is worthwhile to be presented, or somebody else reports back the main findings of an evaluation he was involved with, and so on.  We keep a list of the upcoming weekly meetings and one can simply put his name on that list and announce what the slot will be about. This practice is appreciated and considered useful – and people make use of the opportunity.


From whom do you think you learn the most for your work?

Senior colleagues, no doubt.


Which document impressed or surprised you recently, and why?

The Clash of the Counter-Bureaucracy and Development by Andrew Natsios. It entirely questions a tendency where the drive for measuring and reporting  has become that obsessive that in fact it becomes preventing transformational development. Extremely worthwhile to read! It very directly has implications on where I stand regarding the elaboration of the Cooperation Strategy for Mozambique… [Editor’s note: Read Adrian Gnägi’s reflection on Natsios’ article from two weeks ago.] 


Which recent (learning) event influenced you in a particularly strong way? Why?

I generally appreciate SDC’s in-house event series Traverse where I get stimulating perspectives I would not get elsewhere that easily.


What does organizational learning mean to you?

Not being afraid of failure, daring to bring up (personal) bad practices. I would appreciate if the institution would encourage a systematic dealing with these experiences as well – and not just concentrate on good or even best practices.


What would you change about the organization you work for to make it more efficient?

It might seem paradox but I would strengthen an enabling environment for true debates on content, values, and convictions. I’m sure that investing time and energy in substantial discussions and debates would in the end highly increase clarity and orientation – which would greatly contribute to efficiency because we would know what, why and how we do or don’t do things.


Many thanks, Lukas!



Comments to“11 Questions for… Lukas Frey”

  1. Thanks a lot Lukas, great reflections. I especially like your last paragraph – we need to disagree and negotiate to find our way again.


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