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Story 07: Managing the Organization

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The Individual Solutions

Written by Elaine Heumann Gurian

Given our meeting culture, it seems an oxymoron to say that independent decision-making was expected and encouraged. It was understood that every person worked within a framework of aligned institutional values and it was assumed that one could and should make decisions that fit entirely within his/her job description. All were encouraged to take on as much as they felt comfortable with without prior permission. Checking in with one's supervisor led to further encouragement. Timidity was not a cultural value. However, there were unspoken limits that sometimes got violated and then we would need to get someone to slow down.

There was almost no prescribed way of doing anything. We believed in and often quoted from Howard Gardner's book on multiple intelligences. Many routes led to getting things done and all were accorded respect. It was the act of accomplishing that had value, and all methodology was fair game and potentially interesting.

That said, work was done within a framework of parameters. If you were in a service-providing category (phone answering, floor manager, front of house staff, etc.), you were expected to show up at a regular time. Everyone was expected to be friendly when delivering service, yet what friendliness meant might be more expansive for some and subtler for others. We had systems of supportive training but did not demand uniformity.

It was expected that if individual decisions impinged on others' work, it would be noticed and brought back to the group. Since there was a system of weekly review at every level, individuals could triumphantly bring back solutions they had invented and share what they had crafted with others.

Staff was encouraged to ask others for help. If you didn't spell well and someone else did, then having them do the spelling was just fine. There was no internal proprietary information, and even individual authorship was seen as the result of group effort.

There was recognition of talents that had nothing to do with job description or hierarchy. So, asking the Recycle truck driver, Jim Roher a question about music was expected because it was known that he was a good musician, and inviting him to an exhibition team on musical instruments would also be expected.

Next: Recognition