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11 questions to…Anandsaikhan Nyamdavaa

August 09, 2011 | bit-wartung | SDC Experiences |

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Blog Foto Anand NYA blackwhiteIn our interview series “11 Questions to…” we ask people from in and around SDC and the KM world the same 11 questions.
Our goal is to offer insight 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! Today: Anandsaikhan Nyamdavaa, National Programme Officer (NPO), Swiss Cooperation Office Mongolia.

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

Probably, personal communication with colleagues from projects is important. It makes our work smoother, and more efficient. It is easier to talk with somebody face to face than sending long  emails. One of our projects is located downstairs, so I can just go downstairs and talk with our colleagues if there is some kind of uncertainties or misunderstanding. Within half an hour we can agree, decide on whatever issues are pending. It is important for everybody to have the same line of sight. Everybody – from CD to all the way down – should clearly know what the mission is, and more importantly why it is important.

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

Some kind of web platform that enables chatting and exchange of information (think “Facebook for organizations” ).  Also with possibility of mobile access.

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

Definitely reduce paperwork. A significant part of work is reading reports and giving comments. To make it worse, not all reports are directly related. A lot of times partner organizations ask us to read their reports and give comments. I would probably spend more time working with our projects.  We have been working here on reducing the page number and improving the quality of the annual reports. Our projects have been adding infographics, simple graphics. Also we have asked our projects to write on outcome basis, without writing exclusively on activities.  There has been various progress among projects, but reporting has improved quite a lot in general. Please, check our website on the SDC annual report 2010 (http://www.swiss-cooperation.admin.ch/mongolia/, editor’s note).
4. Which electronic tools for information and exchange are indispensable for your work?

Blackberry is indispensible. In our work today, email and calendar are indispensable. Computers are also key to work. When we have power outages, life literally stops. Also, when our IT guy is not around, life becomes miserable, as machines suddenly decide to break down.

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

Just recently we had a small meeting in my office. There were 3-4 people (all NPOs) and we were discussing on how to improve reporting. One of the most effective means of communication and often underutilized is photography. We often say:” It’s better to see once than to hear thousand times”. Usually the projects send us pictures that do not best describe their work. We have decided to have some kind of trainings on how to use digital cameras and how to take good pictures. We have started with the trainings and so far response has been really positive.

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

Written exchange of information is not the best way to transfer the knowledge, therefore  we have been trying different practices. Usually NPOs go on the fieldtrips together with project personnel. Starting from last year we have been adding finance staff from our office, and also  NPOs responsible for other projects. These kinds of joint trips really help in having single line of sight. Our finance colleagues tell us that it was very useful and an eye opener to see activities in the field. Usually, our finance staff see contracts and numbers whole day, therefore it gives more meaning to work if they can see “live” what numbers represent. Also, it was interesting for other NPOs as well. Usually NPOs are locked in their own world, therefore seeing other projects was also refreshing.

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

Probably no single person. It is always different things from different people. It might sound cliché but talking to herders and local people really brings new perspectives. Also, it is important to talk to people outside of your own development circle. People in the same circle tend to talk the same things. Therefore, one should always talk to new people with completely different background.

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

The recent article by former head of USAID that you have posted in your blog. It was interesting, because it was quite relevant to our work. We have been trying to introduce the outcome based monitoring practices to our work. So it was interesting to see what were pitfalls and weaknesses in the system.
Also, I have been reading on interesting articles by MIT researchers on poverty. Their website Innovation in Poverty Action (http://www.poverty-action.org/) raises a lot of questions that I have been thinking for quite a long time but was not able to answer. Some of the questions such as  why poor buy nonessential items such as TV, even though they cannot buy food for their children? They did extensive research on questions such as this.  There were also two books published by the authors of the webpage, I have ordered them from Amazon.

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

Last year, one of our projects has invited Ray Rist to provide trainings to Government M&E (Monitoring & Evaluation, editor’s note) specialists. It was based on the IPDET training (International Program for Development Evaluation, editor’s note) that he conducts in Carleton University, Canada. I really liked the training, because the outcome based M&E method that he has been championing is a powerful tool to improve our work. What I also really liked about the training was that it was conducted with a lot of stories and interesting cases. Even after one week, the attendance (we had around 80 participants) was very high.

10. What does organizational learning mean to you?

Organizational learning, I think, should be decentralized. Meaning the type of trainings and requests should come from the staff. Therefore, the staff should be encouraged to bring on new ideas. Also, it is important to bring in external people for trainings. They bring different perspectives.

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

Nothing significant, but the two points I have been mentioning above.: Always strive to improve the line-of-sight and improve communication between staff. Even in our technological world, nothing beats the face-to-face meetings.

Thank you, Anand, for this interview.

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