Re: Pool table consensus
From: PattyMara (
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 20:55:01 -0500
In a message dated 98-06-26 20:08:38 EDT, Floriferous [at] 
In my opinion, the decision you mentioned about whether or not to have a pool 
 table in the game room is a classic example of misuse of large group meeting 
 time. This  should never have been on the agenda in the first place. This is
 small group decision. 

Rob, and list,
When the pool table discussion came up last week at the Tierra Nueva business
meeting it was a 10 minute agenda item.  The discussion was lively and
involved most of the members in attendance.  Because one member unexpectedly
disagreed it was taken to the common house furnishings committee for further
research.  We met, discussed it for 15 minutes, created a process to present
to the next business meeting one week later.  At the meeting we set up a felt
board scale model of the game room (which my daughter helped make), with the
pool table/ping pong table shown so that everyone could see clearly how much
of the room was "taken".  After a very short presentation, agreement was
reached that we would indeed welcome the table to the game room, for a 6 month
trial period.  This agenda item took less than 10 minutes total.  The interim
week between meetings held many opportunities for brainstorming, personal
interaction among many members with the new member who raised his objections,
and in the end the crafting of a very workable solution.

I do not believe it was wasted time to bring this issue to the whole group,
because now we have the support of everyone.  All who felt strongly, feel like
they have been heard.  Yes, there are more pressing issues, particularly at
this time in the construction process, but I believe that this gave us an
opportunity to practice the consensus skills that we cherish.  We learned
much, especially about the necessity of integrating new members into this kind
of decision-making.   We have now set up a task force to create a written
document about our decision making process.  It won't do the job entirely, but
it will be a good beginning. 

Rob continues:  >>Most  cohousing groups I visit use ineffective consensus 
 and meeting methods and have poor facilitation, which ends up at various
 tying the group up in knots over totally stupid issues which really should
 even be on the large group agenda. This is why groups have 4-6 hour meetings,
 where a few people are intense about a small issue while everybody else sits 
 on the sidelines. >>

I hope you have the opportunity to see one of our meetings, Rob.  The business
agenda items add up to 90 minutes or less.  The rest of the time  (45 minutes
or less) is personal check-ins/clearings, announcements and often a
celebration or two.   What might appear to you as a "totally studid issue" was
an opportunity for us to bring everyone (25 families now) into the discussion
to offer ideas and create a consensed solution.  We also learned (again) that
disagreement is healthy, bringing new energy, focussed attention and in the
end, a win/win solution.  In my opinion, it was time well spent.

Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva Cohousing on the Central CA Coast
Where our home's kitchen cabinets are installed, the tile crew is coming on
Monday and there are only 2 homes left to sell.
Visit our website:


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