Oct 5, 2010

The importance of process and preventative measures

One of the most fundamental needs when working with others in a group setting is reasonable, well understood rules of engagement. Many committees set up what they call "house keeping rules," but those are usually only involving bodily functions, cell phone etiquette or eating opportunities. Most committees however miss the largest gorilla in the jungle, interpersonal relations.

We had our largest strategy meeting of this year that took place on a Saturday with many thanks to PNAIS for the facilities. It was a balmy, pleasant beginning of fall and the meeting was filled with food, coffee and many homemade treats. We began the day with rules regarding time management, restrooms and went over the schedule for the day. We even had a vote on the agenda with official "aye's" and "nays."

It was assumed that the facilitator would control the tone and we all dug into the day's work with our minds firing on all cylinders, or rather synapses. The day went well and smoothly talking about the main mission of Sustainable Seattle, our theme, our focus and the ways to better our financial standing. We got a ton of work done in regards to governance and strategy, but we missed one major component of any organization.

We were a factory producing shiny, new and improved goods until a snag in the belts almost ground production to a halt. You guessed it, it was interpersonal interference. We had never discussed how we would disagree. We never got around to talking about how we would resolve differences in opinion before the meeting had begun. This is an essential part of any meeting of more than two or three people. There needs to be a process involved to take the personal emotions if not completely out of the equation then at least deafen them to the point of a quiet whimper.

Conflict is inevitable and we have taken this example as a motivation to explore differing processes that allow us to remain true to our shared leadership, team building approach to management. Committees are where conflict should occur and we will be more mindful of the way we deal with it. We will not respond in the way most conflict is handled that of ignoring or tabling the discussion. We will face the conflict head on.

We are going to be trained in Dynamic Governance, a method to include people into difficult conversations without emotional ties that muddy the water.

"The name, dynamic governance, reflects the method’s roots in system dynamics and cybernetics. These principles are ingeniously combined with decision-making and governance to create a comprehensive and elegant feedback system that guides production and planning. This optimizes an organization’s ability to respond to internal and external pressures while maintaining security and stability." (Dynamic Governance)

It is also important as a committee to understand the needs for subcommittees, further discussion and in some events tabling discussions. We will be focusing our work as we move forward with our new mission and goals on bringing our core beliefs into every aspect of the organization. We've done so much this year and we still have plenty of time left.

Let's get to work.

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