11 questions to… Angela Oberholzer

September 27, 2011 | LND | SDC Experiences |


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11.09.28_Angela_OberholzerIn 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 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!

Today: Angela Oberholzer, Finance Officer, SDC Division of Corporate Financial Planning and Consulting.

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

Maybe I would first like to give a short insight into my work, and as every day is different, in my case I can hardly talk about “daily” tasks… In fact, our organisational unit deals with the development of financial systems and instruments, it also supports the users in the utilisation of these tools and therefore I’m constantly confronted with questions and enjoy finding solutions together with the concerned people.
An example of what, I assume, makes me efficient in my tasks is the organisation of my office space in order to avoid time consuming search operations in the paper jungle and electronic archives. For me it begins with a consistent archive system throughout the different tools (outlook, explorer, electronic data management system, transparent file jackets, folders etc.). I also work a lot with colours, so if I’m looking for something, I know exactly that a certain colour is linked to a specific task or working group etc. I also like to collect or print meeting documents right away as soon as I get an invitation or if I organise a meeting myself, so that everything is at hand when time’s short.

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

I guess I should sometimes try to stick a bit more to the priorities I fixed in the morning and rather gather the smaller things and concentrate on the bigger tasks without letting me distract or interrupt all the time.

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

I participate in a few working groups and usually we work efficiently. But sometimes there are other long and inefficient meetings and this is something that annoys me. It’s regretful if there is no clear objective and no one who sets a tight time table and then sticks to it… On the other hand, I would like to have more time to prepare important meetings and for reading background documentation. What’s more, if there are periods where I’m only sporadically in the office, I’d like to have more time to be able to archive e-mails and paperwork regularly in order to keep the overview of the pending tasks.

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

Obviously Outlook, SDC IntraWeb, Google, etc…. Naturally also our document management system (DMS), where internal people can all work on the same documents. A quite new experience is the sharepoint file system where we can share a folder structure for a specific project group (internal and external people). And, last but not least, my notebook including full network access through VPN during duty trips or when I’m working from home.

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

I try to absorb and share experiences every day, especially in an informal way during coffee or lunch breaks. Another example is a brainstorming I had this morning with three colleagues about SDC processes to be reflected in the “to-be analysis” of a new accounting software tool. It was very enriching and every time somebody had an idea, there was a discussion and further ideas could be selected…

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

In addition to our short bilateral meetings with my boss once a week, we have arranged informal business lunches every two weeks to exchange a bit more in detail about the current and forthcoming tasks. These moments are really precious as we’ve got time to discuss other subjects and talk about things that are going on beyond our daily work.

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

In-house knowledge from more experienced colleagues in my division, in the F+S net and from colleagues in the field offices, who are able to explain me their situation. At head office we’re sometimes focussed too much on our own problems without thinking what’s happening in the field. On a private basis I continue to learn very much from my father who works in the private sector and has a great experience in many domains. From time to time his stories and anecdotes make me smile about the bureaucracy we have here as a federal office – it could be even worse!

Which document impressed or surprised you in a particularly strong way? Why?

Actually not a document, but the whole initialisation process (including project documentation) of a new internal project called “Harmonisation of the accounting systems in field offices and representations of the FDFA”. The head of project is doing a very good job and it’s a pleasure to participate in this working group. What’s more, the project is far more efficient if everything is well planned from the beginning (we’re using the HERMES-project management method).

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

Last week I participated in the regional Reo II workshop of the division East and Southern Africa in Burundi as a resource person for finances. Although it was not foreseen in the initial programme, together with a colleague of the Quality Assurance network we tried to link finances with the operational project cycle management training about the new Reo II instruments. During the feedback round at the end of the week, it came out clearly that this link was highly appreciated. Several operational people found it interesting to see the why they are actually writing credit proposals and see once the global aspects of the financial architecture of SDC as a part of the Swiss Confederation.

What does organizational learning mean to you?

This is the crucial issue of any organisation of our size. I think it’s important to have a strategy with regard to knowledge management and that experience sharing is cultivated actively. Actually the way we do it with this Learning & Networking Blog is a good example, but also ordinary things like handing over a dossier in case of personal changes (including rotation) are to be well prepared and documented if we want to do it successfully.

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

In general I think that SDC has started improving its efficiency in the last few years. The new instruments which have been elaborated during the reorganisation are certainly one reason for this, but now it’s important to consolidate the new procedures. However, what I would appreciate personally: shorter and more result oriented meetings in general and more colleagues who are able to write short and meaningful texts. For example, I always struggle with e-mails which I have to read 3 times before I get the point – so maybe a training offer in this matter would help.

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