Re: team culture, committees
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 16:07:06 -0700 (MST)
>The best teams will have people 
>who fill all the roles -- an instigator or nudger who reminds people to 
>reach decisions, take action, etc. A person who soothes feelings. Some 
>one who can keep records and write those reports. A balance of 
>conservative and radical thinkers, etc. On this there is lots of 

All our committees are based on volunteerism. Even our Steering Committee 
of 5 "elected" members is challenged to find people willing to accept 
nomination to the 2 or 3 slots that need to be filled each year, for a 2 
year term. We sometimes have no more candidates than slots to be filled. 

What happens is that certain types of people tend to gravitate to certain 
types of work. The Finance Committee for example attracts a whole 
different crowd than Landscape; ditto for Common House Operations, 
Kitchen, Facilitation. There is very little overlap. The people who love 
to mow with the tractor aren't the meeting facilitators; the number 
crunchers aren't the issue sorters. 

At RoseWind we've been working on our process for many years. We used to 
hear a lot of impatience: "Just empower the committees!" Problem was, our 
diversity was rarely represented on a given committee. Yes, someone more 
willing to take notes, someone more conciliatory, but not the 
conservative/radical sort of range. As a result, if committees are given 
too much free rein, they end up working hard on something that the larger 
community then rejects or hugely modifies. This results in committee 
members feeling unappreciated and unwilling to pour themselves into 
future projects. 

The solution is being very clear about a committee or task force's 
mandate, both globally and specifically. Their expectations won't be 
dashed if they know that they have accepted a job like "Find out the 
legal and insurance implications and make a recommendation, or outline 
the options as you see them." "Get a mower that meets these 
specifications and doesn't cost more than $9000; come back for more 
input, if that turns out not to be possible." "Go ahead with that shed as 
long as you can find something that meets Rose's concern." So committees 
often do research, report, and recommend. Email may circulate, to get 
initial input.

The usual next step, on action items, is a discussion circle. Email 
outlines the situation, and a draft proposal or options, and then a 
discussion circle is held, usually 7-830pm after a meal. This gives 
enough input that the proponents of an action can either move forward 
with a sense that many concerns have been addressed (which, if seconded 
by Steering and Facilitation, gets it on a monthly meeting agenda), or if 
big changes are necessary it goes back to the committee or task force or 
proponent (or occasionally is just withdrawn). 

The net result of this seasoning process is that committees are useful, 
but are kept in touch with the concerns and priorities of the larger 
community, and so are less likely to put their energy into something 
unsuccessful. We all end up feeling better. Except for a few people who 
still want us to be "efficient" like a top-down corporation. 

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature) (very active peace movement here- see our 
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