Tuesday, May 12, 2009
In Which I Ask My Readers For Wisdom
And just to make things interesting, let's say that the target date for the reorg to actually hit the ground is in a little over a year, so there's time to deliberate. But any change in 'terms and conditions of employment' – like, say, reporting lines -- requires 'impact bargaining.' And some people have improbably well-developed fears of almost any change at all, for reasons of their own.
I've been wracking my brain – and the brains of everyone around me – trying to figure out the mechanics of a process for public discussion.
To clarify: I'm not looking for the substance of the reorg plan. I'm looking for an inclusive process to develop a plan. At this stage, I'm fairly certain that any plan I develop on my own would be summarily shot down, simply because of the 'on my own' part. The goal here is to come up with a reasonable process that satisfies a few criteria:
- Affected parties have a chance for informed input. By 'informed' I mean having a sense of institutional context, legal constraints, and the bounds of the possible.
- Input is iterative. That is, instead of happening once and abstractly, it can happen repeatedly as ideas take shape. I've walked into the old “that's not what I agreed to!” trick too many times not to have the process circle back.
- Proxy issues are hard to sustain. This probably involves unusual mixes of people, so when person A starts in with his code words, person Q can ask “what the *(&%#^( are you talking about?” This is a key step, much too often neglected. Forcing clarity can make it easier to distinguish real battles from shadow boxing.
- It's possible to actually move from 'discussion' to 'decision.' Left unchecked, these processes can go on until people forget the original question. I have no use for that. The point is not discussion for its own sake; it's discussion to forge an actual decision. Ideally, even folks who aren't happy with the result will at least grudgingly acknowledge the legitimacy of the process. If I hear “that's a boneheaded plan” when it's over, I can live with that. But I want to put a sock in the usual “how was this decision made?”
So, since folks on my campus are tiring of me pestering them for ideas, I turn my wise and worldly readers. Have you seen a process that fit these criteria (or that came close)? How, exactly, did it work?