11 Questions to … Manuel Etter

May 18, 2011 | Manuel Flury | SDC Experiences |


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manuel_etters-wIn our interview 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 fifth interviewee is Manuel Etter, Swiss Country Director in Kiew and designated Head of the Learning and Networking Division from 1  October 2011.

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

Screening through new information, messages, requests, task lists and setting clear priorities for the day. I guess the options to be selective or to drown in the daily flood information forces me to be efficient. Liking to take decisions and to be able and at ease to say “NO” to non-priority tasks helps a lot.

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

The work load often doesn’t leave much of a choice but to be highly efficient and also fast. But it is sometimes a challenge to keep the quality aspects high at the same time. I have to force myself sometimes to remember to consult with a colleague (e.g. on a message to be sent) before doing so.

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

My daily work involves moving within the city and within the country. Traffic jam can be horrible in Kyiv, and even though I take the metro or walk whenever I can, sometimes you cannot avoid to spend hours in the jam. This is unpleasant but actually it provides sometimes rare space to read some background documents…wonderful moments!

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

The usual suspects: laptop and smart phone, with all possible access options to internet, and a satphone in case of a crisis. 

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

I appreciate exchanging experiences every day, during coffee breaks or lunches. This informal way of sharing still seems to me one of the key learning tools. But in a structured way, may most recent experience was a capitalization exercise I conducted with the colleagues of SDC and SECO that were involved in designing our new Cooperation Strategy for Ukraine.

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

Within our Cooperation Office we have reserved one hour after the weekly staff meeting for special topics to be discussed. This space is not used every week, but only if somebody is ready to provide an input which may be relevant for the team. Sometimes it consists just in jointly viewing a video produced by one of our project. Such occasions are usually quite motivating and inspiring at the beginning of the working week.

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

It is difficult to single out somebody or a specific group of people. Recently I have been strongly impressed by the people in Egypt, who dare to stand up and for their rights and for change even though they face severe threats. It reminds me that one has to be very committed and ready for taking risks if change is the goal.

8. Which document impressed or surprised you recently, and why?

Adrian Gnägis contribution in the learning and networking blog on Capacity Works   ( ) has reminded me on my own “shock experience” when I first learnt about GTZ’s abandoning of the pure ZOPP path. I take the chance to enhance Adrian’s recommendation to get acquainted with the concept.

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

A few weeks ago I attended the 25 year Chernobyl conference in Kyiv. It was partially designed as a learning event in which the lessons learnt after 25 years of the Super GAU were discussed. One of the main points most agreed: as Fukushima shows, the lessons in regard to a culture of security, for which constant transparent learning is key, have not been learnt. I found this deeply worrying.

10. What does organizational learning mean to you?

It means observing in a structured way the performance and the degree of achieving results, analyzing them, draw conclusions improve or optimize processes and further build on peoples capacities. All this can happen well if there is an open and transparent way in dealing with successes and failures within an organization. – A big challenge for organizations under permanent pressure to prove their being successful.

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

My organizational unit – SCO Kyiv – has had to become constantly more efficient over the past years, due to the Reo, the decentralization process, the increase of the program volume. I don’t believe that there is currently room for more efficiency gains. The time seems now to be right, to rather balance it out and consider quality aspects.

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