Sutyajnik Management Recommendation
the fall 2004 Sutyajnik had cooperated with the International Senior Lawyers
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.
New Organizational Structure
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.
- 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
- 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.
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?
- Quality of
communication between head and staff. During strategic planning,
the staff expressed their desire for better communication with Sergei.
- 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.
- 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).
- Sometimes the problem is
lack of understanding of priorities of the tasks assigned. A task list with
a deadline and priority might help.
- 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
- 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.
- Allow people to
fail: Change the culture of Sutyajnik so that failure is viewed as a
- 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.
- Develop a team
culture based on cooperation rather than undisclosed competition and
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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
- Schedules for next
period: Public Reception, court appearances, lawyer presentation, lawyer
on-duty, etc. given by Administrative Assistant
- Other issues for
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