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Sutyajnik Management Recommendation

In the fall 2004 Sutyajnik had cooperated with the International Senior Lawyers Project (www.islp.org). ISLP organized for two volunteers (retired attorney Douglas Kramer and Dr. Judith Ahrens) to work in Ekaterinburg pro bono for three months.  They helped to increase capacity and professionalism of NGO Sutyajnik to meet the needs of the Russian community, as well as to work on court cases and public relations.

Below are stated some assumptions and observations made by Douglas Kramer and Dr. Judith Ahrens

New Organizational Structure (Management System)


Project Framework: You want the organization to work in the framework of projects for which Sutyajnik has funding.  I assume any work which you think about doing which does not fall within a project’s funding definition is work which Sutyajnik will not accept.  I also assume, given the small number of lawyers available, that existing work and cases which do not fall within any project framework will be dropped and eliminated. 

Assignment of tasks: Every employee should accept work and supervision from one person only.  Employees do not like having different people ask them to do work.  This is true all over, not just at Sutyajnik.  This recommendation assumes that you are willing to give work assignment to one person who will distribute the work to others, and who will make the assignment decision based on task lists (see recommendations for weekly managers’ meetings) and the individual abilities of lawyers.  The person giving the work should be the head of the department in which the lawyer works.

Authority and responsibility: This is related to the assignment of tasks: There is a desire among your staff for you to define the lines of authority and responsibility such that managers are responsible for the work of their subordinates, and give the work to their subordinates.  Sometimes an assignment is not well-understood by a supervisor; if supervisors were responsible for their subordinates’ work, as they should be, they would be more careful.  In a complex assignment, both supervisor and the person doing the work should have the opportunity to hear from you what you want done.

  1. New Organizational Structure: A new organizational structure is needed.  One possible structure would be for two departments.  The first would be Public Relations and Academy, including interns and relations with mass media, web site, organization of trainings, mailing lists, and implementation of the strategic plan.  The second would be The Urals Center….  Anton would be the most qualified person to lead Public Relations and Academy, and Luda the Urals Center.  Reporting to Luda would be a coordinator for each project: MacArthur, European Union, Ford, OSI (possibly) and Monitoring.  One coordinator could coordinate more than one project.  Thus, Luda would know what work is being assigned to whom, and be in a position to manage the projects through their coordinators, thus giving her an opportunity to function at the middle management level.  When conflicts occur between projects, Luda would resolve them through the project coordinators, all of whom report to her.  Assuming implementation of assumption 1, the current Legal Services department could be eliminated, and Natasha would report to Luda as a staff position and continue her scheduling role and control the single Case Database, coordinate the most important legacy, non-human rights thematic cases until they are finished, and control the work of the administrative assistant. 
  1. New Administrative Assistant (AA).  The new administrative assistant will need a job description and one person from whom he or she accepts work.  All work  assigned to the administrative assistant should be done through one person, Natasha, and Natasha should train the person well enough so Natasha can offload several of the clerical responsibilities she now has.  After discussions with the staff, it is clear that the most annoying activity of every lawyer is to go to the post office.  Thus, the new AA should have post office responsibilities.  (question: can Sutyajnik purchase a postage meter so letters can be metered in the office and dropped in the post box without someone having to wait in line?).  Other responsibilities would include: photocopying, correspondence, filing, taking phone and other messages for lawyers, creating the weekly schedules, taking the minutes at the weekly managers meeting, and preparing routine management reports.

 Sutyajnik Management Recommendations – General

Productive team. You want a productive team working for you.  People get upset when they learn you have given the same task to more than one person, especially since they are not paid if you do not like their work.  If the purpose of giving the same task to more than one person is to have multiple ideas and approaches to consider, so you can select the best one, an alternative way which will accomplish the same thing, but also build teamwork, is brainstorming. 

·        In brainstorming, a problem is presented, and everyone “brainstorms”, thinks of possible solutions, whatever comes into their head.  One idea feeds off the other.  People get excited and interested in solving the problem and in working together.  Brainstorming consists of two sessions.  In the first session, the objective is to get as many creative ideas as possible, with no criticism.  Even the wildest idea is acceptable in this first stage.  In the second session, which should be at least an hour after the first, preferably longer, the group looks at all the ideas critically and selects the most reasonable.  Then, one person should be selected to write the proposal or the letter, and to pass it around to the others for comments.  Why do this?  Because it will encourage staff to think and share their ideas, and the ideas that are said and selected through brainstorming usually are better than those coming from an individual.  This should build teamwork and cooperation rather than competition.  Obviously, some items can be done with the full staff, others with more senior staff.  But the technique usually produces surprisingly productive results. 

·        Another alternative is to ask one person to produce a draft, and then ask others to comment on it and return it to the author.  This alternative may be more productive if one person is a specialist, but you would still like to see how the others think. 

·        If the purpose is to find out the relative merits of different employees, giving the same task to more than one person only builds resentment towards you and the other people involved, and an unhealthy competition among the staff, when cooperation and mutual respect should instead be the goal.

  • Management succession at Sutyajnik.  Borislav Petranov, Program Officer for Human Rights and Access to Justice at the Moscow office of the Ford Foundation noted that most NGOs in Russia are “thin” on middle management, and therefore have no one to succeed the original leader.  The staff of Sutyajnik says it cannot imagine Sutyajnik without Sergei. But Sergei acknowledged that nobody is interested in the responsibility of management.  What are some possible reasons for this? 
    1. Quality of communication between head and staff.  During strategic planning, the staff expressed their desire for better communication with Sergei. 
  1. When you get angry and impatient with your staff for not doing what you want or taking too long to finish their work, try to count to 10 slowly, then take 10 deep breaths, then ask the reason why the work was not done.  It may be that there was in fact insufficient time, resources, or knowledge. 
  2. If none of these, explain why the work needed to be done in this time period.  Did the person have a list of tasks with deadlines?  Was the person dependent upon another worker who was unable to provide needed information or to complete another task before this worker’s task could be completed?  If none of these things is the reason, then say how this work is holding up something else that needs to be done, and that the person will have to do better.  Explain that it is better to tell you ahead of time if something will not be completed in time than to surprise you on the date you expect the work to be complete (if this is how you would like people to behave).
  3.  Sometimes the problem is lack of understanding of priorities of the tasks assigned.  A task list with a deadline and priority might help. 
  4. Try not to be impatient or in too much of a hurry when giving an assignment.  Ask the person to repeat back to you what they will do.  Lack of understanding of the task interferes with its successful completion.  If you have a complex task you want someone to do, it may be better to explain both to the supervisor and to the person who will  do the work rather than relying on communication of complex requirements through  the supervisor.  Encourage questions and discussion at this time; you may hear something that you overlooked originally about the work.


  1. Suggestions for developing managerial skills in the staff


  • Management definition: The main functions of management are to plan, lead, organize, and control.  Essential managerial skills are the ability to make decisions and communicate effectively, and the ability to take risks.  
  • Develop the decision-making skills of the staff and respect the decisions they make.  To develop decision-making skills, as an alternative to telling a competent staff member what to do, tell them the problem and instead ask them what they would do.  The results may be pleasantly surprising.  At a minimum try not to belittle the opinions of staff members or their decisions, especially in an unconstructive manner. 
    1. Allow people to fail: Change the culture of Sutyajnik so that failure is viewed as a learning experience
    2. Share Information: Sharing information motivates and allows people to feel they are an important part of the organization.  The entire staff should know who is working on what projects, cases, and management issues.  Ask the staff to participate in helping make decisions on how to deal with problems.  Share the information about the problem with them.  Let them participate in developing a strategy for a solution.  We have heard comments that when people travel for training, the others do not benefit when they return.  Make it a requirement for training that the content is reported to the rest of the staff, through a presentation or a written report, or that the materials be made available to everyone.
    3. Develop a team culture based on cooperation rather than undisclosed competition and conflict
    4. Modify Pay Structure, reward management:  It is extremely important to examine whether the pay structure (which rewards discrete activities such as writing a letter, going to court) encourages or discourages taking additional responsibility and additional risks.  At the least, develop rewards for involvement in management and planning activities. 
    5. Consider promoting interns to management aides as well as lawyers aides.  Consider a dual career path for interns.  The culture of Sutyajnik is to promote lawyers trained in-house through the intern (stager) program.  Think about discussing a possible management role with interns when they are promoted to the position of lawyer’s aide.  Sergei is someone who has legal, management and strategic vision capabilities, a rare combination.  But in Sutyajnik, to be a manager you may not need to have all three as long as you have management skills.

 Team Meetings

 ·        Motivation:

    • The purpose of this recommendation is to offer suggestions that will make the meeting more productive and take less time.

 ·        Frequency: One per week

·        Attendance: Sergei, Managers, Coordinators, Administrative Assistant (to take minutes), lawyer reporting on cases, coordinator of strategic planning implementation

·        Minutes should be taken at each meeting.  They are a permanent record of meetings.  They include: 

  • A summary of the report of each person, including any questions asked, answers given, and decisions made
  • A list of new issues, problems, tasks, stating
    • - who was assigned the  responsibility for solving the problem or doing the task
    • - when the assigned problem solution or task should be completed

 Standard Agenda 

  • Distribute Minutes of last meeting (Administrative Assistant)
  • Old Business Reports to be given:
    • Lawyer’s Report given by Lawyer for the week
    • Legal Services Report given by Manager Legal Services
    • Project Reports given by Manager Urals Center
    • New: organizational development - Status of Strategic Planning goals and objectives
    • Public Relations (press releases, other mass media, web site updates) given by manager of PR


    • Reports on the previous week’s activities should be printed and be:
      • Given to Sergei at least 2 hours before the meeting.  We observe that each person reporting has a prepared report, yet Sergei does not have the report in front of him.  Instead, he takes notes in a tablet.  Better to take these notes on the report so he and the person reporting each have a record.  The report can be used by the Administrative Assistant taking the minutes, and filed with the minutes for future reference.  Also, for lawyers’ reports, if Sergei has the report in front of him, instead of having to listen to each case, he can pick only the cases that he needs or wants information about. 
      • Structured as a project plan.  That is to say: State what was done the previous week (the objectives and tasks).  Report on the status  (how far are they from completion).  State what will be done the next week.
        • While schedules of every court appearance, of public reception and office coverage are maintained, we have not seen a list of tasks each person is working on. 
        • We recommend that each manager create a list of tasks including the task name, number, date assigned, by whom assigned, due date, and status (not started, started, in progress, delayed, withdrawn, awaiting information, and completed), and date of the status. 
        • When a person reports, Sergei should have a copy of the task list in front of him.  In fact, it would be very good if each manager and coordinator had the list of what the others are working on to improve internal communication. 
        • These lists could be made available on the common files on the network. 
        • During the New Business portion of the meeting new assignments can be handed out, written down, and the tasks lists can be updated after the meeting.  When too many things must be completed at the same time, the manager or coordinator may ask Sergei for the priority of each item, with 1 being the highest and 3 being the lowest. 
      • Used to convey information, problems, and progress.  Managers and coordinators should be told that no manager likes surprises.  So, if they are unable to complete important tasks they should tell Sergei before the meeting to avoid the time-consuming process of explaining work that was not finished in front of everyone while Sergei voices his frustration and anger. 
      • After implementing the use of task lists, consider using exception reporting, rather than complete reporting as you do now.  In exception reporting, the manager sets up standards of what is normal or expected behavior.  If the values or experience of the items being reported on fall within this range, they are not highlighted.  Only the items that are outside the normal or acceptable range of behavior are brought to the manager’s attention.  This saves time and focuses the manager’s valuable time on important things that need his attention.
      • We recommend that Sergei evaluate the items he wants to hear a report on.  Is it really necessary to hear how many items of correspondence were received and how many were sent in a month?  Would it be more valuable to know how much of what type of correspondence was handled?  Is it necessary to know how many letters were handled at all?
      • Consider a management reporting strategy that consciously collects data about Sutyajnik’s activities that you know will be required by funding agencies, the annual report, government agencies, etc. 
      • Also, realize that what a person is asked to report on defines the work that they focus on and spend their time on, just as the things they get paid for motivate them to do the work they get paid for and ignore the work they don’t get paid for.  Management reporting is a very powerful organizational force that can steer people toward doing the work the manager wants, and toward common goals.
  • New Business
    • New Cases – presentation and evaluation of potential new case by a Lawyer including answers to these questions (from Strategic Case Selection and Management Seminar developed by Doug): 
      • Does the case fit the criteria developed for selection of HR cases, is there a strategy to win, is there a strategy for follow-up?
    • New work assignments by Sergei
    • Schedules for next period: Public Reception, court appearances, lawyer presentation, lawyer on-duty, etc. given by Administrative Assistant
    • Other issues for discussion


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 SUTYAJNIK, a non-governmental human rights organization founded in Yekaterinburg in 1994, is a resource center for many non-governmental public interest groups of the Ural region and provides free legal defense of the rights and interests of citizens and their associations. http://www.sutyajnik.ru


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