Lessons Learned

Posted on: December 16, 2008 Posted by: Kaia Smith Comments: 0

Lessons Learned

KidsBy Daniela Papi

Internally at PEPY, we are constantly debating and discussing our impact, our model, and ways to improve our work.  The energy put into these dynamic discussions often makes our office seem more like a heated courtroom than the home of an NGO/Responsible Tourism Operator.  The dynamic of our team shifts with every person who joins us, as each brings valuable, new opinions and ideas to our organization.

Our current team embodies the following quote from Marcus Buckingham, which Michael just passed around the office:  “Leaders can’t help but change the present, because the present isn’t good enough.”  Nothing escapes discussion and scrutiny– everything from what holidays are appropriate to print on our PEPY Calendar to how we monitor the impact of each program.  Even the word “impact” in the last sentence will likely be a point of contention for our vigorous editing team, who often debate the word’s significance and overuse.

At first glance, this constant effort to improve even the minutia can perhaps seem frustrating and  inefficient.  Overall though, the passion for improvement and change is what makes me proud of our self-reflective group.  We recognize that “good” is not always good enough—it is this mindset of continuous learning and improvement that makes our team so strong.

One of our newsletter readers pointed out that we often recognize our successes, but perhaps have not spent enough time discussing our mistakes and what lessons we have learned.  This is something we discuss here in the office on a daily basis and while we try to share these lessons as often as possible on our Team Journal and NING, he is indeed right, we can do a better job of discussing those things with you here in our newsletter.  Thank you, Vuthy!

The new “Lessons Learned” feature in our newsletter will highlight some of these internal debates, or at least the important ones–we  will spare you the dictionary flinging discussions about word usage and the placement of commas.  One of the most important lessons we have learned is in regards to the people who are holding these debates:  we must hire people who believe in our model, people who believe in the synergy of our team, and people who are willing to share their thoughts and opinions in a critically constructive way.  Overall, they need to believe in our mission and invest in the idea that education is indeed the key to change for both individuals and societies.

While we often must look for employees with certain skills, we have found that it is much more important to find people with a passion for improvement, education, and hard work. Our recently hired accountant Kimline said in her interview that if she could afford to continue on in school for the rest of her life, she would.  Our new bio-diesel truck driver said he wants to help improve his country, especially in the rural areas of Cambodia.  Both have shown so far that they are hard workers and believe in PEPY’s mission.  These are the type of people we want on our team and I’m so glad that we have learned that passion and mission-alignment are often more important in our work than skills and experience.  Skills can be learned.  A belief in education and a willingness to continually strive for improvements are harder to teach.

In future “Lessons Learned” features, we will delve into past mistakes and how the development of our programs and policies are changing. We continue to learn from our mistakes and strive to be better at what we do and we appreciate YOU keeping us in line and reminding us what information you want to hear and be a part of.  Thanks for being part of the PEPY team!