Sunday, 12 May 2013

Decision Making

It's not the first time that my slightly semi-detached relationship with formal institutions becomes a traffic route for people to express feelings and views that are deemed 'unofficial' and beyond a believed 'official line'. Thus it is that I receive conversations that can contrast with formal arenas and decision making.

These cannot be interpreted as forms of deception or being underhand or acting in a sideways manner. Nor can they be sidelined as trying to recognise the views of 'members' against the views of 'non-members' - which only goes to embed the informality and byways of contrary discussions.

There is an ongoing project that has been explained along the way and decisions have been made to proceed. But to my ears the volume of a different viewpoint had grown, grown indeed as practical realities of making changes dawned on people. But, in formal settings, the concerned view, the worried view, even the 'anti' view, was relatively quiet as those 'in charge' were being left to get on with it.

Those in charge thus did not realise that there was not the consensus they expected. The plans for the future have real benefits and tackle restrictive issues that have to be tackled. The down side is temporary and limited, and no more than has been so for a long time. Would that all problems could be solved, but some can be. There is a cost involved, and costs raise either/ or questions, although there can be both (in this case) and one does facilitate the other.

The person who's pushed the project via hard work and explanation first introduced that I'd passed on what I'd heard, and then I spoke and made the points being raised explicit. I don't win friends easily! The result was, having gone 'over the top' the people who'd spoken informally now also spoke into the formal democratic session.

All this perceived 'opposition' of course came as a surprise to those who thought the plans were going ahead nicely. The objections now raised and specific were answered (rather well, I thought) with information, and the matter drawn to the necessary head. The result is that the project is still alive and well; indeed, the project will be better for the airing of views and the information.

As to talk that 'We've said all this before', regarding the information, I had a simple reply. I said I used to teach and find no one knew what I was talking about. I'd told them, but then another teacher came along and asked me if I'd checked whether anyone had been actually listening (and learning - they call this feedback loop 'assessment').

It simply isn't good enough to rely on formal, democratic means of decision making. In groups you must have ways and means of picking up informal conversations that find their own routes. At one point in the meeting I said these chats were not 'underhand' or a form of deception but "genuine conversation" and you ignore it at your peril, because if you do it leads to fracture.

Now there will be no fracture because the conversation has spilt out and it is understood. And it will need checking again that it is understood: no harm in repeating matters. But eyes and ears should be more sensitive. The joke goes that in the Roman Catholic Church the Pope is the last one to know anything. Decision making must involve tapping into the informal routes as well as the formal ones.

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