The 9-12 Project of Central PA

"You Are NOT Alone!"

Kris sent the following message to the entire group this morning. I think it warrants a discussion for the larger group of (hopefully) interested people. Since it will be difficult to discuss this question via email, and not everyone has the ability to send an email to the entire group. I am posting it in a forum here, so that we can discuss this:

From Kris:

"I am concerned we are not moving quickly enough and have gotten bogged down in administrative and leadership management. First, please forgive my lack of proper terminology, I will be the first to admit that I do not have the business background nor the strategic planning background or the project management background to speak with any authority or clout, but that has never stopped my from saying what I think so why stop now?

"As I reflect on the type of decision making model or how we are building this organization, it seems to me have adopted a linear model for growth. It feels to me that we make one decision at a time and then move on to the next decision. Such as the bylaws. It seemed we could not continue with other dialogs or planning or action items until that was finalized. Now we have moved on to committees. And then we will move on to the next area. Maybe it is my adhd that kicks in too often, but it seems that as an organization we can multitask and accomplish several goals at once. Last night I was on the conference call with the Unite PA group and other groups are moving so much more quickly than we are. Several groups in one area of PA have established focus groups where each group takes a topic or area of growth (membership, events, advocacy, education, etc,) and work on those at the same time.

"I know people do not like to work in small groups, so maybe if we call them focus groups, where people focus on specific topics we can move things more quickly plus involve more people at one time.

"Another example is the survey. I have had the survey opportunity for about a month and still we have not gotten together and out to the public. It's going now, but having to everything in one large group one issue at a time will bog things down to a snails pace (which is sort of where we are now!). For a lack of a better term, I see more of a starburst approach to planning.And, of course, this program is telling me I am out of words. other thoughts?"

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Anything we have accomplished to date has been spearheaded by small groups of people, who have organized themselves to get something done. These accomplishments include the Tea Party, the Memorial Day Parade, and the Bylaws. (I know, some don't see that last as an accomplishment).

I think it is simply a fact of human nature, that the larger the group of people, the more difficult it is to get something accomplished. Thus, every organization eventually forms itself into small, specialized units, which are trusted by the larger organization to perform a particular task. Whether you call those small units "Small Groups", "Focus Groups", or "Committees" doesn't matter, the point is that those small units can normally accomplish something more quickly than the larger group can.

I continue to believe that most of the work and decision making of this organization will continue to take place in small units. By creating a formal organization (the Bylaws), we have set up a structure in which those "committees" can exist, in which they make their plans and suggestions known to the larger group, in which the larger group has a say as to whether those plans get implemented, and a mechanism to coordinate the activities of the committees.

I see three factors that are impeding our progress right now:

1. The entire group doesn't seem to have a clear picture of our ultimate goal.

2. Each of us have lives, careers, hobbies, and families outside this group, which limits the time we can spend on this group's activities.

3. The need for us to meet physically, in person, in order to accomplish anything.

The first of these factors will be addressed in the Membership Survey which Kris referenced in her email. I hope we can post a link to that survey soon, it might help the group form a clearer picture as to our goals, and how we should accomplish them. It will also help to establish better times for either committees or the larger group to meet.

I would like to suggest another course of action, which might speed up progress, and which might also allow for more members to participate in the group. This is just an idea at this point, and needs work.

Rather than have the committees meet, and then have to wait for the next general meeting to present their findings to the larger group - instead we have the committee reports posted on the site. We then setup a mechanism (which might have to exist outside ning.com, but maybe can happen here) by which the membership can discuss, and then vote on those things.

For each item, there would be a fixed period of time for discussion in a forum environment (like this one). There would be a mechanism to propose changes, and vote on them, and a mechanism to vote for the final outcome.

The discussions and voting would take place over several days, but I still think it would mean that the group could move more quickly, because we wouldn't have to wait for the next monthly meeting. It would also allow everyone to participate, not just those who are able to show up for general meetings.

Note that I am not suggesting the elimination of general meetings altogether - just a way in which we could get things accomplished without having to wait for or attend a general meeting.

Finally, I wanted to apologize that I have not been very active this past week. I had a major project due at work, that consumed nearly all of my time. However, I spent most of the day yesterday, reviewing the list of suggestions for the group, that we compiled at the last meeting. I have put together an agenda for the next/first Strategic Planning committee meeting, and I contacted a few individuals to invite them to participate in some new committees, and I will be doing a few more things for the group today.

-Peter
Peter,

Thanks for jumping on this and taking leadership.

I have to agree on all points. I do think we have some of the small groups (committees), and, as I've suggested others, I believe more are needed. These groups need clearly defined roles, and this must come from the Exec Board.

As an illustration, suppose the board determines that we should place at least two poll workers at each polling place on election day. Say there are 30 polling places x 2 workers, or 60 people required. Assume that perhaps 2.5% of membership can be expected to participate. This would require the membership committee to develop and implement a plan to sign up at least 1200 members. So, the Board might assign the Committee the task of enlisting 1200 members before the next election. This is a hypothetical example but is meant to illustrate the Exec. Board's role, the logic in setting a goal, and the necessity of setting dates.

We can meet, discuss, and poll our members until the hammer and cycle are hoisted over the White House, but I believe the Exec Board needs to lead by setting goals and assigning tasks to the committees ASAP. For this, the support of the Strategic Planning Committee should be invoked (or it should be dissolved). So why don't we meet? Just say when.

Some decisions made in this way will be wrong, but adjustments can be made. The crucial point is to make the best decisions quickly and get the gears turning.

Assigning roles to the committees are just what they need. We've got lots of good people. Given a bit of direction, I believe they'll dig in and make things happen.
I have been remiss in not setting a date. I will fix this now. Go see the Strategic Planning Committee group, which I just added.
Theresa, I want your honest opinion.

I am afraid of people losing interest and passion for the group. I am trying to get a bunch of things set up right now, and Kris is as well.

Please don't quit. I am new to this, and, quite honestly, I don't know what I am doing yet. If you have constructive ideas, PLEASE contribute.
Hi Theresa.

I think a lot of us share your concerns. It does take time to get perople organized, especially in a new endeavor that is unfamiliar to most. Some difficult decisions have to be taken such as the proper legal framework for the group, not to mention deciding what it is that we should be doing to be effective. Hang in there 'cause I think you will shortly see these efforts bearing fruit.

But don't stop the pressure!
Hi Theresa,

Sorry, but I am having trouble understanding your 3rd sentence. Could you please expand on it? Or perhaps it would just be simpler to chat about this in a different setting.

I do understand the 4th sentence, but it seems to suggest that you don't understand me. My point was not to say you don't know these things, but to highlight the problems of bringing together a group of people who don't know or trust one another. For this group to work on issues that may be very emotionally charged and to not just reach a consensus, but to make the right decisons, is a quite a challenge.

On top of this, some of us are all adjusting our lives to accomodate this process, and this has meant far too few meaningful meetings which actually contribute to organization building. Consequently, progress has been painfully slow.
Theresa,

Thanks for your words. I agree about the limitations of this medium and the limits of time.

Standying by.

Over...

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