Re: How's Your Process/Committee?
From: Berrins (
Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 01:29:05 -0600 (MDT)
We had a process committee a while ago.  It did a great job of addressing 
several issues and making recommendations for tweaking the way we hold 
meetings.  As a result of their work, we haven't felt the need to analyze our 
group process for many moons.  

That said, I would say the biggest change we have had in group process has 
come with the changeover from the development phase to being here.  The types 
of decisions we need to make and their urgency has changed radically, as well 
as the amount of time and energy people are willing to give up from their 
personal lives for community work (the fun stuff is no problem!!).  We were 
told this would happen, fairly early on, by our development coordinator, John 
Ryan of Pioneer Cohousing (thanks John!) and began to think and talk about 
the way we would need to change our meetings before we moved in.  The process 
committee helped a lot here, but being aware of it also allowed us to begin 
to consciously alter our meeting formats.

In the development phase we had a lot of relatively straight forward 
decisions to make and we often had to make them in a hurry.  The process for 
these decisions favored the highly pragmatic type of decision makers, the 
action-oriented folks.  I suspect that most cohousers, by an evolutionary 
process of elimination, must have at least adequate degrees of pragmatism; 
those that don't never get their projects off the ground (or is that on the 

Now that we're living here (2 weeks ago we had the first-year anniversary of 
everyone being here), we have the time to hold longer, multiple discussions 
on various topics.  We don't need to make nearly as many decisions, nor as 
quickly, as we did during development.  However, it has taken some time to 
ratchet down from the pace we set for ourselves previously.  Also, we are 
doing a lot more work in committees.  Finding a balance between how much 
decision making a committee can do and what needs to be done in a general 
meeting is taking some time to feel out but I think, with experience, we are 
getting better.

Other problems I see developing now are personal dynamics issues.  The 
action-oriented folks tend to do a lot of work, often on their own, but get 
frustrated when the group is unable to come to a decision and when others 
either don't get the work done they said they would or take a longer time 
doing it than the action-oriented folks think it should take.  Other folks 
show up for a lot of the work groups and/or general meetings and are 
frustrated that more people don't show up.  The policy wonks love to create 
guidelines and regulations every time they identify what seems to be a 
problem, while others are so laid back they don't see a problem, so why have 
guidelines?  Some folks feel they have a handle on other's strengths and 
weaknesses and tend to try to assign tasks based on this (facilitating group 
meetings is a classic example- people have volunteered to facilitate but get 
ignored by the "assigners", who continue to look for another volunteer).  
Some folks are well-spoken, able to crystallize their thoughts into pithy 
comments that magically elucidate issues while suggesting solutions, others 
may take a while to get their point across but its worth the wait, if you're 
patient, while others seem to be 5 minutes behind the discussion, repeating 
previous comments or missing the point someone else was making.  With time I 
see individual relationships being affected by these elements.  Fortunately, 
I don't see any cliques forming.

The interesting thing is that we are all probably all of these people, at 
least some of the time.  It's mostly a matter of degree.  This would be a 
great topic for a process committee to work on.  Maybe it's time to get ours 
back together....

    Roger Berman
    Pathways Cohousing
    Northampton, MA

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