- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

The un-reachable workforce. What NGOs with remote operations teach us about organising work

Many years ago, I learnt from the UNHCR, the UN refugee Agency based in Denmark, that many global NGOs of that kind, had invented the art of employee engagement at a distance.

We were discussing organizational models and a Director of UNHCR was with us. The conversation evolved towards decentralized operations, the pros and cons of ‘control’, and the challenges of managing a workforce that’s remote and that you don’t see. The director looked at us with an incredulous look and said: “This is what we do all the time.”  So the formula was (paraphrasing), clear directions, lots of trust, get reports when you can, send feed back.

That organization, and similar ones of this sort, did not have the time or opportunity to ponder about levels of control (on the ground): control was near zero in some instances.

It has always fascinated me how, if business was smart enough to look for models outside their mental frameworks, there would be constant learning. I have written here before about ‘the movie model’ [1], one of many examples we could benefit from digging into.

Large, field based NGOs are also a good start. Not just for organizational models per se, but also for learnings about leadership, employee engagement, decision making.