Employing Differences

Employing Differences, Episode 29: What's your take (on delegation)?

December 01, 2020 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 29: What's your take (on delegation)?
Chapters
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 29: What's your take (on delegation)?
Dec 01, 2020
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"This is the delegation game, right? Where you say, 'Yeah, okay, committee, go do that thing.' Sometimes it's a pretty straightforward thing. 'Hey, go sign up for a bank account.' Okay, that's probably going to go pretty well because there's not a lot to that. But 'Hey, dive into these documents and rewrite them...' Well, there was a reason they needed to be rewritten. [...] When you get deeply into the work, you start thinking. You see things, and you notice things, and you have awarenesses, and you sort of confront the problems. Like, this is what wasn't working. So if the voting procedure wasn't working before, we start thinking about it. We start noticing. And that process can happen for that subgroup over many hours or many weeks, often. So there's this sort of development that happens, and processing that happens. And they've done all the work. And each piece for them sort of fell like dominoes, right like this leads to this leads to this. There weren't any big steps for them. And the obvious conclusion is here. And so okay, we've done our work now, just like you asked us to, and we're bringing it back to the group. And the group is like, from here to here with none of the dominoes. Just this huge jump and the group is like, 'Whoa, what happened here?' Partly because they haven't thought deeply about it – because they weren't asked to, that wasn't their role. And partly because the group that did the work didn't notice sort of how many steps they were taking and bring everybody along."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript

"This is the delegation game, right? Where you say, 'Yeah, okay, committee, go do that thing.' Sometimes it's a pretty straightforward thing. 'Hey, go sign up for a bank account.' Okay, that's probably going to go pretty well because there's not a lot to that. But 'Hey, dive into these documents and rewrite them...' Well, there was a reason they needed to be rewritten. [...] When you get deeply into the work, you start thinking. You see things, and you notice things, and you have awarenesses, and you sort of confront the problems. Like, this is what wasn't working. So if the voting procedure wasn't working before, we start thinking about it. We start noticing. And that process can happen for that subgroup over many hours or many weeks, often. So there's this sort of development that happens, and processing that happens. And they've done all the work. And each piece for them sort of fell like dominoes, right like this leads to this leads to this. There weren't any big steps for them. And the obvious conclusion is here. And so okay, we've done our work now, just like you asked us to, and we're bringing it back to the group. And the group is like, from here to here with none of the dominoes. Just this huge jump and the group is like, 'Whoa, what happened here?' Partly because they haven't thought deeply about it – because they weren't asked to, that wasn't their role. And partly because the group that did the work didn't notice sort of how many steps they were taking and bring everybody along."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Paul:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation about exploring the collaborative space between individuals.

Karen:

I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

And I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

Each episode, we start with a question and see where it takes us. This week's question is, "What's your take?"

Paul:

So this is a little bit of a different episode for us. I've got a situation that I'm working with in a group that I'm part of, and I would love to know Karen's perspective and Karen's take on the situation. So I'm gonna frame up a little bit of a case here and then ask Karen what she thinks about it. So are you good with that, Karen?

Karen:

I'm good.

Paul:

Awesome. So here is my situation. I'm part of a volunteer group that has sort of a set of governing documents that describes sort of how they work, some policy stuff, and how meetings are run, and how votes work and the agenda gets built in some of these sorts of things. And these have not been updated in a little while. It's really clear that they need to be updated because of some things that have happened. And so the group basically meets twice a year, like every six months or so. And at the last meeting which was the first one we ever met online, and that was exciting someone pointed out, hey, this really needs to happen. And so a group of people volunteered, a committee volunteered to make some revisions, and then share those out. And so what happened was those got the proposed edits got shared out, and the sort of chair said, you know, please give me any feedback that you would have about this. I happen to be talking with the chair a couple of weeks later, because we were working on something else together. And she said, Yeah, I'm really surprised. I've only gotten like, one comment, like, one set of written comments from any from anybody. And, and, and what I said was, well, you know, it really wasn't clear to me how feedback was gonna be taken, or what people are going to do with it. Like, she was like, I really want to be able to have a vote on this at our next meeting. And if like, and, and just move on, and be done with it. And so, so I said, Well, how might you do that? Now, we'll talk a little bit about what is actually happening now. But hearing what you've heard so far, Karen, what's your take on what's going on? And what might be happening and what we might do a little bit better?

Karen:

Yeah, I mean, I think this is one of those things that like rewriting policies and procedures and core documents, mission statements, vision statements, what have you, is one of those things like nobody actually wants to do it. Because it's, you know, it's wordsmithing. And it's drafting, and it's documents. And that is not the like, really fun and exciting work of the community. And its core values work. And so it's this like, really fundamental there's a reason that we do some of that stuff. And there's a reason we don't like doing it, which I think is because we often don't do it very well. And so rather than having it start with, okay, so, so we wrote those a while ago, they don't really fit us any more. Let's have a conversation about like, clearly we've changed, right? If they were working 10 years ago, and they're not working now, then what's new, what's different and having a like, broader conversation? Because I think if I'm guessing what was going on in that group, it was like, yeah, we all we all know, we're not that we're a new thing. But didn't pause to realize that the new thing that this person thinks and the new person that that person thinks and the new person that that person thinks actually aren't all the same thing. So it's not necessarily just our old documents need to get caught up with where we are, it's also we need to get caught up with where we are.

Paul:

So now I'll give you part two, which is the really fun part. So I suggested to the chair, if you want, you know, if you want to make sure that this is actually going to pass when we vote on it, then probably you want to do some straw polls around it like right now and just be like, hey, and this is the thing I do with groups a lot where I say we've got a proposal, I'm not calling for a vote, but I want to get the the feeling of the group. You know, is this something you're totally on board with? Right? Thumbs up, you're like, I think this is great. Absolutely. Yes. I'll often do thumbs sideways is you know, this is good enough, I can move forward with it. And then thumbs down is I can't support this right now. And then what happens is, the protocol is we then ask for anybody who has thumbs down what would need to change in order to get you to a thumbs sideways, at least right to get you to the point where you can support it. So I was like, is there a way that you can poll the group because if you've got too many thumbs downs, you need to know that now. And it sounds like your current way of getting feedback on on can we move forward with this is insufficient. So that was the suggestion. And so kind of a poll went out. And now this whole brouhaha, because now people are actually reading the changes and going, wait a minute, because there is kind of a big thing in there that's a fundamental change to the way that some of the voting procedures work, and that and that would have some impacts. And now people are going like, why is this happening? Is the committee trying to pull something on us like what's going on here? So, so it's been interesting, like, hearing about kind of how that has gone? I'm wondering if there were, I'm sure there were ways where this reaction might not have been quite so emphatic, so strong. What might be going on here, in this, you know, there's basically nothing, and then we try to do a poll around something, and then some discussion starts to happen. And then finger pointing starts.

Karen:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, this is the delegation game, right? Where you say, "Yeah, okay committee, go do that thing " Sometimes it's a pretty straig tforward thing. "Hey, go sign u for a bank account." Okay, that's probably going to go pr tty well, because there's not a lot to that. But "Hey, dive into these documents and rewrite them .." Well, there was a reason t ey needed to be rewritten. And I think one thing that happens i that the group that goes d ep, so they're going to go deep n it. And the rest of us are go ng to sit over here and not do a ything which this is especiall common volunteer organiz tions where everybody's got b sy lives, and they're just tryi g to carve out some pieces. So y y, you're going to do that ou're going to take care of that that's not going to be great Well, when you get deeply in o the work, you start thinkin . You see things, and you n tice things, and you have awaren sses, and you sort of confron the problems. Like, this is hat wasn't working. So i the voting procedure was 't working before, we start thin ing about it. We start noticin . And that process can happen for that subgroup over many hou s or many weeks, often. So there s this sort of development t at happens, and processing t at happens. And they've done ll the work. And each piece or them sort of fell like domi oes, right like this leads to th s leads to this. There weren't ny big steps for them. And th obvious conclusion is here. An so okay, we've done our work now, just like you asked us t , and we're bringing it bac to the group. And the group is like, from here to here with one of the dominoes. Just this h ge jump and the group is l ke, "Whoa, what happened here?" artly because they haven't t ought deeply about it be ause they weren't asked to, hat wasn't their role. And pa tly because the group that di the work didn't notice how ma y steps they were taking an bring everybody along.

Paul:

Yeah. One of the things that that's pointing to that, I think, would certainly help from the questions that are kind of being asked in the situation right now is the larger group is asking, why did you make some of these changes? What's the reasoning behind these sorts of things? And that, you know, that wasn't established from the beginning. Oh, sorry, there are two things. One is bringing back here is what we are proposing. And here was our thought process that led to it. Like showing your work, if you're the delegated to group, when you come back. Explaining what was the process you went through, and asking, like, what do you think about that? Is that reasonable? Okay, then based on that, here's where we led to kind of, yeah, you do have to connect the dots in some way for the people who weren't in the room when all the dominoes were falling over. I think it's also important. There was never... in this situation, it was never made clear what the process for this was going to be. Right, it was just a group is going to go off and do it. And then at some point, we were gonna have something to vote on. And and particularly when these sorts of things happen, there needs to be this information flow back and forth between the two groups. And I think there was an assumption of how that would happen, or probably lots of assumptions about how that would happen. But that was never really made explicit. And what we're noticing now is what happens when there isn't that iterative flow back and forth between the the larger group and the sub group. And that when people aren't clear how to and this a big thing around change that I see a lot when people aren't clear how to give feedback, how their input will be used, how the decision will be made, these sorts of things get really hard.

Karen:

Yep, yeah. So I think two pieces and I want to add one more so that you I'm hearing you point to one is the group that's been delegated to can do a better job of being transparent about what their internal thinking was, why they got there, what were the dominoes that all sort of tip to the next to the next. So they can do a better job of communicating that. And you're pointing to sort of organizationally, you can do a better job at the beginning as part of your delegation piece of delegating clearly what's expected and and being aware that okay, as a group, we aren't going to just go from, we need to make a change, here's a new draft, approval. That we need to think about the input process, and what's the group going to need to get there. I think the third piece I want to name because I think it gets missed a lot is for the people who weren't delegated who didn't do the work to really hold an assumption of good intent, which I'm hearing didn't happen in your group. That those people did a lot of work. They tried hard. I think there needs to be an appreciation and validation and a recognition piece that can go with the "We know you worked really hard on this. We're sure you had good reasons, but man, I can't see them. And I need to." So that the feedback so it's the both and of, yes, they can be transparent about the steps, but also the people who need the transparency can ask for the transparency without the finger pointing and accusations.

Paul:

Yeah, yeah. Cool. Well, I appreciate your take on this. It gives me some things to think about and things to ponder and advice that I might give to the chair when the chair comes back to me and says "What do we do? I did what you asked. What do we do now?"

Karen:

That sounds great. And I think that's gonna wrap us up for today. Until next time, I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

And I'm Paul Tevis. And this has been Employing Differences.