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A Day in the Life – An EWB Field Professional experience in Phnom Penh – Part 2

By Lachlan Guthrie – originally published on his blog. 

This week I will hopefully try to complete the first output of my placement. I will be running a survey with the staff as the key part of a capacity assessment. It’s really the first time that I will be trying to achieve something in country, so I’m pretty nervous. At the same time trying to temper my expectations so it’s okay if I fail.

The main goal of my placement is to build the capacity of both individuals and management structures at RainWater Cambodia. So one of the first things that I need to do is an assessment of the current capacity. The assessment will then be able to inform what skills I will need to cover in workshops and what systems I will try to implement during the rest of my time. Also, I might not get another chance to do it in the short term, in that case, I would have to find a more difficult work-around. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s a pretty big deal.

The survey itself will involve two parts, one about the organisation’s capacity and the second to discover individuals’ capacity. The organisation capacity assessment is based on a Mckinsey tool which will determine both the organisation’s capacity and the consensus of opinions amongst staff in a range of measures. I will use this information to prioritise management system changes and inform a five-year strategic plan.

The second survey uses both the gap analysis and incremental approaches to capacity assessments. I have identified 19 project management, leadership, interpersonal, and technical skills. For each skill staff will be asked to rate their current capacity, their desired capacity, and the capacity they believe is required for their job. I will use this information to prioritise and plan skills workshops.

However, it is by no means the first thing I need to do. If I just give someone a survey to complete there could be a myriad of reasons that I wouldn’t get usable information, the same is true in Australia, but it’s more complicated here. I’ve spent (and really enjoyed) two months of building relationships and understanding the culture and I feel I might be ready to assess the capacity. I’ve also spent so much time planning and talking to more experienced colleagues. That being said there are so many reasons this might not work.

I’m performing two interesting balancing acts at the moment. I have to complete the assessment to be able to start achieving objectives but the longer I leave it and the better my relationships and cultural understanding are, the higher chance of success.  Therefore, choosing the right time to undertake the assessment is critical. Also, I want this to be successful but I have to temper my expectations so I’m not too disappointed if it fails.

I’m going to use the “give it a crack” principle I mentioned here in an earlier post. I’m not sure if I will be successful or if this will be a huge mistake, but I need to give it a crack and it’s okay if I stuff up doing so. I’ll let you know how it goes in the coming weeks!