When I came to this organization, my biggest bafflement was the organizational governance structure. Heck, I couldn’t even keep the meetings straight, which drove the Executive Director crazy (she probably wandered what kind of imbecile she had hired). There was the full Board, then the Executive Committee, which was not quite the full Board, but seemed at some times to have a lot more influence. Then there were lots of committees, both advisory committees (either bi-monthly or quarterly) and then other committees that just popped up on my schedule on an erratic schedule. And the prime puzzlement was that some people showed up at multiple meetings, while others came only to one kind of meeting and I guess would never come to some other meeting because that’s not their area of involvement. Even my staff colleagues confused me . . . “you should care about that, but that doesn’t involve you.” Whew!
I made a chart, and slowly got them in order in my mind. By the way, I’ve seen the same thing happen to everyone we’ve hired, and I’ve shared my chart with all of them. Even with the chart, it takes a loooooooong time to keep it all in order.
Part of my frustration with the governance-thing was that this was a whole new world for me. Having worked for Defense Department linked organizations for a large part of my adult life I was used to the chain of command structure, and was comfortable with it. There was a well-defined order. Someone was in charge. Sure, there would be committees, and we would discuss and advise. And we would always come to a decision, which would be in line with the position of appropriate rank (who was usually part of the process) to make the decided action happen, including making sure resources were appropriated. Some other person or group didn’t come back and question the decision, or possibly even create such a controversy that the decision was reconsidered, amended or possibly downright overthrown. And no one ever reached back into history to assess blame to a decided course of action that was jointly made and executed.
I understand our structure now, and I live with it. I even have come to believe in a representative governing structure that shares decision-making power. But I don’t think I’ll ever understand the propensity of fear that rears its ugly head all too often and manifests itself in the paralytic desire to second-guess, rehash, or analyze a proposed course of action to death and even more bewildering, to condemn past decisions and committees who made them.
I think it is important for everyone in a decision making position for a collaborative organizations, like ours, to keep in mind foremost the big picture. What is best for most is almost always best for all. If something hurts even one member, it is important to re-analyze and consider an alternative action. A proposed decision that expends a great amount of regional resources and benefits very few should be approached cautiously. And everyone should use the utmost diplomacy in controversial debate, and possibly agree to disagree – or even to support a conclusion that may benefit others far more than themselves.