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Source: (consider it) Thread: church meeting blues
cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Dal Segno:
Most training courses these days involve breaking into small groups so that you can share your ignorance with one another, with a plenary session afterwards to share the ignorance more widely.

If all the participants are truly ignorant of the subject matter and are there to be trained, then this is pointless. It would be better for the trainer to train them. However, if the participants bring different types of expertise to the meeting, it can be helpful, as they will jointly know much more than one trainer.

To some degree this reflects a cultural value, and not a particularly good one. I teach university, and find the students' assumption is always that there input and perspectives are as valuable as anyone else's-- including experts in the field. Any instructor who doesn't devote large quantities of class time to this kind of group discussion is considered a poor teacher. Students expect reflection papers, not research papers. I was even called in to adjudicate a student complaint against a colleague who had the audacity to challenge some of her statements in a paper because it was "unfair" to counter her perspective. I would say he was doing his job.

When I was teaching in Africa, otoh, I really did feel my students had as much to bring to the table as I did. Unlike my particular US classroom, most of my students in Africa were older adults who had been active in ministry for 10 or more years, under difficult circumstances. I was also keenly aware that I didn't know the culture and couldn't speak knowledgably about how to apply the material in their particular setting. So I tried breaking them into groups for the kind of discussion described above. They would have none of it. They had sacrificed greatly to come to this class, and they wanted to get their money's worth. They could talk to each other any time.

Interesting shift in perspective, and a beautiful modeling of humility.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Dal Segno:

[*]Have starred items. These are things that are on the agenda but which are approved with no discussion. Ensure that there is an item early on to "approve all starred items" during which people can unstar things. Ensure that the chair skips the starred items rather than saying "Item 8 is starred..." followed by a five minute monologue on item 8.
[/list]

This is the "consent agenda" paradigm I've discussed earlier-- except in the consent agenda paradigm everything is initially "starred".



[*]If there is something contentious, the chair or secretary should ideally discuss it with everyone beforehand to avoid instinctive reactions (we've never done that before) from dominating over considered reactions (we've never done that before but, on reflection, it might be worth a try).
[/list]
[/QUOTE]

I'm assuming you don't mean discuss privately? That would be disastrous. But with contentious items it can indeed be a good idea to present them to the group as a whole first as an "information item"-- a heads up that at the next meeting we're going to be discussing this. You can allow some questions but no time-sucking debate. Just questions for the group making the motion to make note of and be prepared to answer at the next meeting. That can become the outline then for the kind of document I described earlier that outlines the known pros and cons for an issue in advance so they don't need to be restated. Then you can being the meeting where the decision will actually be made with those as a "given"-- no need to restate-- so that discussion involves bringing up only new pros/cons not previously mentioned. That helps cut down on the bandwagon effect, where a lot of people speaking up to say nothing more than "I agree with the last speaker" builds a false sense of consensus that steamrolls over any alternative pov. If you agree then that will be reflected in your vote.

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Pyx_e

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justlooking; none taken.

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leo
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I am notorious for the way I chair meetings. I adhere strictly to a timed agenda, insist on one major item for detailed discussion and finish on time even bf business is still pending. I ask those who agree on basic issues to signify BEFORE discussion - if there is agreement, then there is no need to discuss and we move to next business. I would like every chairperson to be like me and i often avoid meetings which i consider to be 'badly chaired' and where I am inwardly urging the chair to move on, like willing traffic lights to go green.

However, I know some who regard the chairing of meetings as a form of pastoral care or therapy - it is important for everyone to have a say, even if it is only to repeat what the last speaker said. They tend to leave time AFTER a vote and a decision for anyone who disagrees to be able to reopen the discussion.

Some are going to like one approach; some another.

I note that the person who took over chairing a group after my fixed term of office ended has the knack of being a mixture of both types. I really enjoy her meetings.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Balaam:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
But IME, working together does not automatically build connections. Often it becomes a crucible for highlighting differences of personality and outlook. Working together is just as likely to create emnity as harmony.

IME team building exercises can build enmity too.
Also true. I could tell you some stories. Competition and co-operation make uneasy bedfellows.

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sebby
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For some`reason I am frequently asked to join various committees and attend seemingly endless meetings. When I retire, the thing I look foward to most of all is my intention never, ever, to attend any meeting whatesoever ever again.

It's absurd asking me anyway, as I have a 12 minute concentration span and just sit there looking at Facebook or other apps on my phone until the meeting is over.

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sebhyatt

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leo
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Please stick to that. When I retired I took on even more meetings to fill the gap. Wish i hadn't and still trying to get out of them.

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Moo

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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
If an adult wanted to contribute by volunteering a drawing of something that is very different from all being sat down and given a piece of paper and a felt tip.

This reminds me of KenWritez' interpretive dance.

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mdijon
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A legendary post.

I have a terrible premonition that somewhere a meeting facilitator is planning an exercise involving interpretive dance to kick off a meeting I will attend.

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
ɯqıɿou uoɿıqɯ nojidm mdijon

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Baptist Trainfan
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Can my wife come? She'd love that - it would really speak her language!
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mdijon
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Only if she will cover for me while I head for the door.

In theory*, if someone wished to communicate in a meeting in interpretive dance I'd accept that. My problem is when it is enforced as some form of exercise on the meeting. This is what creates the circus-master/performing animals dynamic that I object to.

(I note that those running these sorts of meetings don't actually get their felt tip pens out or join in the activity bits).

* This is in theory. In practice I'd still cringe, but recognise that was my problem.

[ 27. July 2012, 08:51: Message edited by: mdijon ]

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Dal Segno

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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
quote:
Originally posted by Dal Segno:
If there is something contentious, the chair or secretary should ideally discuss it with everyone beforehand to avoid instinctive reactions (we've never done that before) from dominating over considered reactions (we've never done that before but, on reflection, it might be worth a try).

And who takes the minutes of these discussions?
Minutes should record decisions taken. They should not be a record of the discussion that led to the decision.

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mdijon
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While they don't usually give stenographic accounts, I think they should give a bit of detail regarding the discussion that took place to justify the decision, caveats raised, reassurances given etc.

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
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Dal Segno

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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
quote:
Originally posted by Dal Segno:

  • If there is something contentious, the chair or secretary should ideally discuss it with everyone beforehand to avoid instinctive reactions (we've never done that before) from dominating over considered reactions (we've never done that before but, on reflection, it might be worth a try).

I'm assuming you don't mean discuss privately? That would be disastrous. But with contentious items it can indeed be a good idea to present them to the group as a whole first as an "information item" -- a heads up that at the next meeting we're going to be discussing this.
I'm assuming that you do what works for your committee. I have seen this done in several ways:
  • The chair/secretary has a private chat to each member to say not much more than "this contentious issues is coming up, I'd like you to think about it beforehand" and to get an initial feel for how that person will react.
  • An e-mail is sent to everyone a few days before the meeting allowing both time to reflect and for any initial responses to be sent to the committee [1].
  • The matter is brought up "for information" at one meeting to be discussed at the next.
  • The chair ensures that he has, in advance, convinced each member separately to support the motion [2].
-DS

[1] This once had the effect causing a member of the committee to send a short but offensive e-mail to the whole committee saying how offensive he found the proposal. Had he done that in the meeting, it would have derailed the whole discussion. As he had done it a couple of days in advance, he'd had time to get over his offense and we had a good, open discussion.

[2] This may be considered immoral. [Biased]

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by Dal Segno:
Minutes should record decisions taken. They should not be a record of the discussion that led to the decision.

Apologies, I wasn't seriously suggesting that minutes were always necessary.

I was trying (and failing apparently) to draw attention to the fact that these distinctions are not always obvious or agreed by everyone. Equally it is not always possible to discuss things in advance. It might be ideal, but this thing called life gets in the way.

People are people. What is contentious to some will not be to others, and you can't always see it coming. There are ways of running meetings that help but there is no formal approach that is fool proof. (I choose my words carefully.)

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Dal Segno:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
quote:
Originally posted by Dal Segno:

  • If there is something contentious, the chair or secretary should ideally discuss it with everyone beforehand to avoid instinctive reactions (we've never done that before) from dominating over considered reactions (we've never done that before but, on reflection, it might be worth a try).

I'm assuming you don't mean discuss privately? That would be disastrous. But with contentious items it can indeed be a good idea to present them to the group as a whole first as an "information item" -- a heads up that at the next meeting we're going to be discussing this.
I'm assuming that you do what works for your committee. I have seen this done in several ways:
  • The chair/secretary has a private chat to each member to say not much more than "this contentious issues is coming up, I'd like you to think about it beforehand" and to get an initial feel for how that person will react.
  • An e-mail is sent to everyone a few days before the meeting allowing both time to reflect and for any initial responses to be sent to the committee [1].
  • The matter is brought up "for information" at one meeting to be discussed at the next.
  • The chair ensures that he has, in advance, convinced each member separately to support the motion [2].
-DS

[1] This once had the effect causing a member of the committee to send a short but offensive e-mail to the whole committee saying how offensive he found the proposal. Had he done that in the meeting, it would have derailed the whole discussion. As he had done it a couple of days in advance, he'd had time to get over his offense and we had a good, open discussion.

[2] This may be considered immoral. [Biased]

Not immoral, obviously, but unwise I think in any context to encourage private conversations outside of the formal meeting. It sets a bad precedent, looks manipulative, and undermines the very purpose of the committee itself. Opponents to the motion will rightly feel railroaded and disenfranchised. The goal of a committee system is to ensure a fair hearing to all sides, believing that wisdom arises from many counselors. The private premeetings completely undermine that. Some prediscussion is, of course, inevitable, but it should not be encouraged, particularly by the moderator or secretary (clerk, in my system). You might win the battle (get this motion though) but you will surely lose the war (create division).

Sending out an email in advance, otoh, is I think a good practice-- similar to the idea of presenting the proposal first for information. It gives time for people to think through something and gather there thoughts/ concerns/ questions in a reasonable way. Again, you might provide a channel for them to forward questions to the person/group bringing the motion so they can come prepared to address them-- but that should be done in an open and transparent way, w/o getting into a private debate but simply "here are things I'll want to discuss".

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mdijon
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I think it depends on the members and meeting.

Where one knows that certain members have particular expected and proper concerns, I think it makes sense to talk to them first in detail about proposals that are especially relevant to them. And then to gauge what changes to the proposal would be required to win their support.

This may be more efficient in requiring less discussion regarding individually-specific concerns in the meeting, and not wasting everyone's time with a proposal that won't fly because a key person isn't happy with it.

In a situation where the meeting is meant to have some quasi-electoral or quasi-judicial function then it may be more dubious to have private discussions before hand.

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
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Barnabas62
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"Minutes are written to protect people". A Sir Humphreyism which should never be overlooked.

Particularly if you remember that "people" may be taken to mean "some people, rather than others".

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
I think it depends on the members and meeting.

Where one knows that certain members have particular expected and proper concerns, I think it makes sense to talk to them first in detail about proposals that are especially relevant to them. And then to gauge what changes to the proposal would be required to win their support.

This may be more efficient in requiring less discussion regarding individually-specific concerns in the meeting, and not wasting everyone's time with a proposal that won't fly because a key person isn't happy with it.

In a situation where the meeting is meant to have some quasi-electoral or quasi-judicial function then it may be more dubious to have private discussions before hand.

Obviously I disagree. There is just too much history-- and temptation-- for such private meetings, no matter how innocent the initial intentions-- to become a means of political maneuvering to shut out a minority pov.

I'm Reformed enough to believe there are good, theological reasons for committees-- they're not just an inconvenient fact of life. All those good theological reasons are perverted by the backroom deal-making outside the light of day. Transparency and authenticity is essential, the backroom politicing subverts that.

Again, it will happen inevitably. The best of us will find ourselves engaged in discussing things "out of view" that really ought to be kept to the official meeting. But it's definitely (IMHO) not something to be encouraged.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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cliffdweller
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Let me add that it seems some of the motivation for private pre-discussion is to keep the meeting short and/or avoid awkward confrontation.

While I am a big fan of the efficient meeting (see my suggestions re: consent agenda), I don't think those goals are worth the cost of an open and transparent process. As we saw in the examples presented, the awkward emotional outbursts or inappropriate attacks will happen-- it is far better for them to happen in the light of day then behind closed doors, where they may cause enmity that lasts for years, long after the initial dispute has faded into obscurity.

Efficiency and reasonable civil debate are good tools, but not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to discern the will of God for this matter. We have to keep that foremost. The committee system is based on a particular set of beliefs about how we arrive at that-- how we engage in communal discernment. Again, pre-meeting private discussions subvert that.

If you don't believe in communal discernment, then don't have a committee system. Without that as a primary motivation, they are a bureaucratic waste of time.

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sebby
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I was once given this advice by someone who had a pathological dislike of meetings:

(1) Remember that voluntary meetings (like a PCC perhaps?) are often therapy sessions for either must-speaks, or people like bank managers who have spent their lives on committees and therefore miss it in retirement. For them it has a greater importance than may actually be the case.

(2) Never allow AOB (Any Other Business) unless it is submitted in writing the week before. This prevents unpleasant surprises and protracted meetings when people just want to get home.

(3) Don't offfer refreshments BEFORE the meeting, but AFTERWARDS. This means people might hurry up to get to the wine.

(4) Hold the meeting at a slightly difficult time (just before supper), again so to avoid lengthy proceedings.

This was all said to me by the incumbent of three country parishes. He would hold his meetings in the rectory usually at 6.00pm and a friend would bang the gong at 7.00pm. He could then smile and stand and say 'you will have to excuse me. We have dinner in the rectory at 7.'

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sebhyatt

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Jahlove
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quote:
Originally posted by Lucydog:
Is this unique to the CofE, or just our Diocese?

No, it's just peculiar to the *facilitators* of any such meetings who have an agenda to push, as ken says. At work, we have had *LEAN* meetings up to the back teeth. One of their tricks is to take a *temperature* reading at the start to see how enthusiastic people are initially and again at the end, hoping that the *temperature* will have risen as a result of having *awareness raised* of the inestimable benefits of the latest piece of popular bullshit offered up by some management consultancy appointed by a government crony. I like to start at zero and end at Absolute Zero.

To quote Barnabus out of context *There is no value*.

It's what Buzzword Bingo was invented for.

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mdijon
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
If you don't believe in communal discernment, then don't have a committee system. Without that as a primary motivation, they are a bureaucratic waste of time.

This might be too black and white.

For instance, imagine that the organ is wearing out and needs replacing. If I was on a PCC I would be surprised to find the organist placing a proposal on the table that he or she had not discussed already with the choir director. If 15mins are taken up with them having a chat about the merits of different options that others can't really contribute to then that doesn't seem helpful.

On the other hand, I see that if a few members have done a private deal on the basis of you support this and I'll support that undermines the process.

But I think one should be able to use judgement, otherwise the process can become very unwieldy.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
If you don't believe in communal discernment, then don't have a committee system. Without that as a primary motivation, they are a bureaucratic waste of time.

This might be too black and white.

For instance, imagine that the organ is wearing out and needs replacing. If I was on a PCC I would be surprised to find the organist placing a proposal on the table that he or she had not discussed already with the choir director. If 15mins are taken up with them having a chat about the merits of different options that others can't really contribute to then that doesn't seem helpful.

On the other hand, I see that if a few members have done a private deal on the basis of you support this and I'll support that undermines the process.

But I think one should be able to use judgement, otherwise the process can become very unwieldy.

Sure, the examples you give illustrate that difference well. Yes, if there's people that need to be consulted ahead of time for their professional expertise, that's useful-- and can be done in an upfront & transparent manner so no one is left feeling like there was a runaround. It's the backroom deals I'm wanting to avoid. And the distinction can be messy-- what starts out as the sort of sensible consultation you're describing in the first instance can quickly turn into the sort of political strongarming that can poison the process. As you say, good judgment is essential. Having as a principle no backroom deals, no kibbutzing outside of the meeting is helpful to keep that in check, but having the flexibility to openly call for the sort of prior consultation you're talking about is helpful too-- again, as long as it's transparent.

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justlooking
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quote:
Originally posted by sebby:
..... He would hold his meetings in the rectory usually at 6.00pm ...

But they weren't his meetings. If they involved the church's business they were the church's meetings. Some church meetings for the CofE are a statutory requirement and need to be held at a reasonable time and conducted in a reasonable way if the process is to be valid.
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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
"Minutes are written to protect people". A Sir Humphreyism which should never be overlooked.

Especially those which are written before the meeting takes place.

I've frequently been asked if I want to amend minutes of meetings that I have chaired. Sometimes the inference of the question put to me is not, "Is that an accurate record of what happened?" but "what do we want to say happened?"

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leo
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I used to write draft minutes before a departmental meeting because our agenda had to include material passed down from heads of departments' meetings. I made a response as to how these issues would affect my department.

If I left this to the meeting itself it would take up too much time which should go to our own issues rather than someone else's.

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sebby
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quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
quote:
Originally posted by sebby:
..... He would hold his meetings in the rectory usually at 6.00pm ...

But they weren't his meetings. If they involved the church's business they were the church's meetings. Some church meetings for the CofE are a statutory requirement and need to be held at a reasonable time and conducted in a reasonable way if the process is to be valid.
I mean the PCC meetings. I think he just wanted them to be over as quickly as possible to avoid mutual boredom.

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Ancilla
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Re open v one-on-one discussions, I think there’s a need to be sensitive to the culture of the church and the personalities who make it up. It seems to me that mdijon is not suggesting is talking to one’s own ‘supporters’ to stich it up, but on the contrary talking to those who are going to be negative anyway. Particularly if someone is (or feels themselves to be) personally involved in a certain aspect of church life, and is likely to react emotionally, you can show that you are aware of and respect their situation by doing them the courtesy of mentioning it privately.

For some people, a circular email to everyone on the committee is straightforward and transparent. It’s certainly my preference. But for others, perhaps particularly those of an older generation, it is impersonal. If something affecting them turns up on the agenda without warning, it may be a nasty shock and they may even feel that ‘going public’ with the suggestion is a way of steamrollering them (and they may be right). And, because you didn’t tell them one-on-one, it isn’t going to be you who hears all their objections before the meeting but all their friends and allies.

On the other hand, there are times when such people are treated with special deference and they shouldn’t be. It's a difficult judgement.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Wannabe Heretic:
Re open v one-on-one discussions, I think there’s a need to be sensitive to the culture of the church and the personalities who make it up. It seems to me that mdijon is not suggesting is talking to one’s own ‘supporters’ to stich it up, but on the contrary talking to those who are going to be negative anyway. Particularly if someone is (or feels themselves to be) personally involved in a certain aspect of church life, and is likely to react emotionally, you can show that you are aware of and respect their situation by doing them the courtesy of mentioning it privately.

Actually, that was precisely the sort of thing I was envisioning-- which can be perceived as trying to influence the vote in advance, to persuade others to join your side through backroom bargaining, etc. What it does it set up a situation where a proposal that would once have seemed "debatable" comes in looking like there's a consensus, so anyone who might otherwise have raised questions (those you didn't "get to" in advance) are disempowered and feel pressured to go along w/ the consensus.

I realize there's much more benign possibilities as you and mdjohn suggest, but in my experience, it goes badly more often than well. Again, the goal is not to avoid "emotional reactions", the goal is to allow full and transparent (and prayerful) debate to get to a good decision.


quote:
Originally posted by Wannabe Heretic:

For some people, a circular email to everyone on the committee is straightforward and transparent. It’s certainly my preference. But for others, perhaps particularly those of an older generation, it is impersonal. If something affecting them turns up on the agenda without warning, it may be a nasty shock and they may even feel that ‘going public’ with the suggestion is a way of steamrollering them (and they may be right). And, because you didn’t tell them one-on-one, it isn’t going to be you who hears all their objections before the meeting but all their friends and allies.

This is why I think the procedure needs to be a "rule"-- something that's known up front so there's no misinterpretation. If everyone knows there's no backroom bargaining premeeting, they won't be offended when they're not consulted (or if they are, it's a not a good sign). In the instances mentioned before where a premeeting consultation simply for information purposes seems prudent, then a circular email letting everyone know about the consultation helps avoid the appearance of backroom deal-making.

quote:
Originally posted by Wannabe Heretic:
On the other hand, there are times when such people are treated with special deference and they shouldn’t be. It's a difficult judgement.

If a subgroup of people feels they need special consultations outside of and in advance of the official meeting, that is very much a sign that something bad is going on. Again, advance notification of the entire committee on potentially contentious matters is prudent. Singling out special powerhouse people for special treatment only feeds an unhealthy imbalance of power.

There may be some cross-pond differences here, as Americans are said to favor directness more than some other cultures. But I've been working in and researching conflicted churches for the last 35 years and have gained a sort of grim expertise. This sort of backroom deal-making and power alliances separate from the official decision making group is pretty much always a key factor in the health of a congregation (hence my passion here). The small possibility of occasionally saving a bit of time or emotion is just not worth the far greater long-term risk of nurturing a very unhealthy abuse of power and undermining the very purpose of the committee system.

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justlooking
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quote:
Originally posted by sebby:
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
quote:
Originally posted by sebby:
..... He would hold his meetings in the rectory usually at 6.00pm ...

But they weren't his meetings. If they involved the church's business they were the church's meetings. Some church meetings for the CofE are a statutory requirement and need to be held at a reasonable time and conducted in a reasonable way if the process is to be valid.
I mean the PCC meetings. I think he just wanted them to be over as quickly as possible to avoid mutual boredom.
The PCC meetings are among those which are a statutory requirement and the members of the PCC are equally responsible for the decisions made. Much of the business may well come under the category of 'boring' but it is still essential. A major responsibility is in ensuring that the church's money and other assets are properly recorded along with all decisions about how any assets are used.

If a PCC meets at an inconvenient time or allows the incumbent to cut meetings short it is not taking responsibility and could be seen as prejudicing the church's business and undermining the right to effective representation. I became an ex-officio member of a PCC which held its meetings in the middle of the afternoon on the grounds that most of the elected members were pensioners. Since I was working full-time I wouldn't have been able to attend meetings so I asked that they meet when I could attend and the incumbent settled on 6.00pm. This was still a barrier to some working members of the congregation and one who was elected to the PCC could rarely make it to the meetings.

The incumbent's role is to chair the meetings effectively. I'm not sure if the incumbent has a legal obligation to chair the meetings since all PCCs have a lay chair too. These days in some areas parish reorganisation occupies much of a PCC's time and other members of a congregation may also want to contribute their views and be kept informed. The details may be boring but the decisions are important and affect everyone.

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ken
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Of course there are going to be backroom meetings and private discussions on contentious issues. Whatever the rules say. There always are, always have been, and always will be.

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by sebby:
I mean the PCC meetings. I think he just wanted them to be over as quickly as possible to avoid mutual boredom.

quote:

They told me in my training all the things I ought to do:
How to read the lessons clearly, and to give the hymns out too.
They said that every sermon the listeners should enthral,
With three clear points of doctrine and no long words at all.
I must never fall asleep if the PCC should be a bore,
And if I did, be very, very careful not to snore.

But seriously, if a parish regularly held PCC meetings at 6pm on weekdays there would sooner or later be complaints to archdeacons and bishops about the way they were excluding most people in full time employment from participation. 7pm at the earliest, and 8pm is better!

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
A legendary post.

I have a terrible premonition that somewhere a meeting facilitator is planning an exercise involving interpretive dance to kick off a meeting I will attend.

It's been done. We, all 900 of us, had to attened 'workshops' with a bunch of otherwise unemployed performing arts graduates-cum-therapists. At the start we had to act out what we thought these to be then they showed us the benefit of their wisdom and did Q & A 'in role'. Not so bad in itself, but afterwards, nothing was done.

And that's the problem with meetings. Little is done at the meeting but worse still, as a consequence of inadequate minutes and action lists, nothing is done afterwards. Excvcept for setting the date and time for the next meeting.

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Anselmina
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Of course there are going to be backroom meetings and private discussions on contentious issues. Whatever the rules say. There always are, always have been, and always will be.

Ah, you mean the 'pub revisionists' after the meeting's finished [Big Grin] ?

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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by Anselmina:
quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Of course there are going to be backroom meetings and private discussions on contentious issues. Whatever the rules say. There always are, always have been, and always will be.

Ah, you mean the 'pub revisionists' after the meeting's finished [Big Grin] ?
I think ken means those who get together beforehand and go through the agenda working out a 'party line', ie who speaks and which way to vote. It saves any amount of buggering about at the meeting and afterwards, believe me.

[ 28. July 2012, 17:32: Message edited by: Sioni Sais ]

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Ancilla
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Cliffdweller – I think you misunderstand me. I’m not talking about saving time or avoiding emotion – absolutely the opposite. I think an enormous amount of harm is caused in churches (and any organisation) by informal power structures and I think proper processes are an essential part of the solution.

But I think harm can also be caused by leaders hiding behind processes rather than engaging with people. That only pushes dissent underground in exactly the way you’re saying. I’ve been at one meeting where the organisation I worked at was considering a restructure. I could see one woman studying the organisation chart, gradually realising that her team wasn’t on there, and dissolving into tears. That was open, all right – open humiliation.

I’m a very bureaucratic type of person myself, and very confident speaking my mind, and completely useless at ‘church politics’ [Projectile] . I’d love to be in a church where everybody who was affected by a decision knew about and attended the meetings, and where they all felt enough confidence and trust to voice their honest opinions. I’d like to hope that over time a church could move in that direction. But as a church we also have to defend the vulnerable – part of which is about having procedures and part of which is about recognising that procedures can intimidate and exclude, too.

I can understand why you want to forbid people from discussing things outside the meeting, because you want an open debate within the meeting. Unfortunately I think the opposite could happen. I would be very suspicious of a leader who only wanted debate where he could see it and control it! Those who are elected representatives need to be able to consult with those they represent. And sometimes several people are all sitting there not saying anything because they each think they’re in a minority of one – so you get a false consensus.

I think a better process would be to say that all agendas are published to the whole church, and that those who would be directly affected by a proposal should also be notified individually and should have the opportunity either to attend the meeting or to submit their opinions in another way.

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formerly Wannabe Heretic
Vocational musings

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Of course there are going to be backroom meetings and private discussions on contentious issues. Whatever the rules say. There always are, always have been, and always will be.

Yes, I've said that-- twice. But it is something we should strive to avoid. Having a rule in place that reflects our value of transparency helps overcome the natural tendency to be politicking outside the meeting.

[ 28. July 2012, 19:26: Message edited by: cliffdweller ]

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Wannabe Heretic:
Cliffdweller – I think you misunderstand me. I’m not talking about saving time or avoiding emotion – absolutely the opposite. I think an enormous amount of harm is caused in churches (and any organisation) by informal power structures and I think proper processes are an essential part of the solution.

But I think harm can also be caused by leaders hiding behind processes rather than engaging with people. That only pushes dissent underground in exactly the way you’re saying. I’ve been at one meeting where the organisation I worked at was considering a restructure. I could see one woman studying the organisation chart, gradually realising that her team wasn’t on there, and dissolving into tears. That was open, all right – open humiliation.

I absolutely agree with what you said about hiding behind processes rather than engaging people. The suggestions I'm making (based on too many years of experience) are intended to discourage that, although as we all know, subversive people will find a way around things.

I'm having trouble understanding what you are talking about specifically though-- and how requiring debate to be open and transparent would lead to shoving debate underground. I can see how some people might be shy about speaking up in the general meeting, but in my experience that's more likely to happen if someone has worked behind the scenes to build a false consensus rather than in an open meeting itself.

Similarly, I'm having trouble understanding what happened in your meeting-- why the woman wasn't part of that discussion and the reorganization if, as I'm assuming your ex. is meant to show, it was an open and transparent process. It sounds rather like it was what I'm arguing against-- a decision that was made behind closed doors and presented to her as a very much unwanted fait accomplis.

I'm not really disagreeing with as just asking for clarity cuz I'm not really getting what you're describing. It may be because we're talking about two (possibly very different) committee systems-- Reformed & Anglican.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Wannabe Heretic:

I think a better process would be to say that all agendas are published to the whole church, and that those who would be directly affected by a proposal should also be notified individually and should have the opportunity either to attend the meeting or to submit their opinions in another way.

I do think having a published agenda and open meetings whenever possible (personnel issues are the usual exception) is a good policy, and not at all antithetical to the process I'm talking about. Again, I think contacting people ahead of time leads to precisely the false consensus you're worried about. But one of the differences between our two theologies may be how you understand the role of those committee members. In the Reformed tradition, an elder is not a "representative" who's job is to represent a particular group. An elder is someone charged to prayerfully discern the will of Christ for this congregation, and then lead the flock in it. If you understand the committee members to be representatives though I can see why you'd want them to poll their constituents. But that would undermine the discussion part of the meeting-- the part where you're discussing the pros and cons of the proposal-- all of which the constituents polled would not have been privvy to. Better to invite them to the meeting if they're interested IMHO.

[ 28. July 2012, 19:50: Message edited by: cliffdweller ]

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Sober Preacher's Kid

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What clifdweller said.

My congregation recently changed its governance model. We went from a Session/Stewards model, which is great for small churches or churches that have very stable circumstances, but terrible for churches that are larger, want to change or introduce new things. The old model doesn't conform to current ideas about organizational behaviour. It's a bottom-up model, not a top-down model. It disempowers managers and doers.

So we changed to a Church Council, or as I call it a Mission-shaped Session. We have twelve council members who our team leaders. The teams are whoever volunteers from the congregation.

Certain teams like Finance are very formal and have monthly minutes, business meetings and procedures. Of course, it's money. Other teams like Pastoral Care just submit visiting reports, its a very informal, warm & caring activity.

The best thing is that under the Manual, Elders in the old Session model have a responsibility to have districts and do pastoral visiting. Most sessions don't do this anymore. Pastoral visiting is an emotional skill that I just don't have. But visitation is a Reformed distinctive and can be a great strength. So we created a Pastoral Care Team (don't ask the Finance Chair to go visiting!) and are very happy with the result.

Organization should serve the mission.

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NDP Federal Convention Ottawa 2018: A random assortment of Prots and Trots.

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Jolly Jape
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The problem with that approach, cliffdweller, is that it doesn't allow those who are not necessarily expert in the area under discussion to do enough research to be able to take an informed position. A consequence of this is that they are at a disadvantage when compared with those who are leading the meeting, whence follows all the evils outlined in ken's peerless and all too accurate post above.

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To those who have never seen the flow and ebb of God's grace in their lives, it means nothing. To those who have seen it, even fleetingly, even only once - it is life itself. (Adeodatus)

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Jolly Jape
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quote:
originally posted by Sober Preacher's Kid

The old model doesn't conform to current ideas about organizational behaviour. It's a bottom-up model, not a top-down model. It disempowers managers and doers.


If there is anything that spells death to a missional outlook, in my view, it is the managerial, top down approach that you seem to find so attractive. People don't need to be managed, they need to be released to do the things to which God is calling them.

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To those who have never seen the flow and ebb of God's grace in their lives, it means nothing. To those who have seen it, even fleetingly, even only once - it is life itself. (Adeodatus)

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Jolly Jape:
The problem with that approach, cliffdweller, is that it doesn't allow those who are not necessarily expert in the area under discussion to do enough research to be able to take an informed position. A consequence of this is that they are at a disadvantage when compared with those who are leading the meeting, whence follows all the evils outlined in ken's peerless and all too accurate post above.

Not true. They can do all the research they want, and bring in all the experts they want. What is to be avoided is the backroom deal making-- trying to build a consensus before the meeting is ever held.

If you present the item first as a non-voting info. item (as suggested above) that's a good time to identify what further information/ input is needed before the final decision is made at the next meeting (or later, if necessary). The committee itself can decide how they want to obtain that. They might form a task force. They might contact experts and ask for a written or verbal consultation. They might (as a group) decide to invite particular members of the congregation with a vested interest that they want to hear from directly. They might hold an open all-church forum to allow free discussion. The point is to avoid private off-the-record conversations and deal-making, but to encourage all the information gathering possible, but to do so in an open and transparent fashion.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Sober Preacher's Kid

Presbymethegationalist
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quote:
Originally posted by Jolly Jape:
quote:
originally posted by Sober Preacher's Kid

The old model doesn't conform to current ideas about organizational behaviour. It's a bottom-up model, not a top-down model. It disempowers managers and doers.


If there is anything that spells death to a missional outlook, in my view, it is the managerial, top down approach that you seem to find so attractive. People don't need to be managed, they need to be released to do the things to which God is calling them.
Perhaps I wasn't clear. The old model was encumbered with statutory Manual rules out who can do what, there had to be umpteen committees and if something crossed boundaries there had to be a million consultations. It was death by meeting. That's not missional.

When I say top-down, I mean that plenary authority rests with the council to set a vision, find people to carry out that mission and then the council sits backs and sees that it is carried out. If there is a new and pressing matter, it can be assigned by the council to one committee, or a new committee created. When that job is done, the committee can be disbanded. Our old model didn't allow that.

The Session and Stewards had joint plenary authority and sat together as the Official Board for a few specific things. The theory is that Session deals with spiritual matters and the Stewards deal with temporal matters. Except try anything new spiritually that doesn't require money or space booking or try some construction project that doesn't require fundraising and sacrifice in other things.

The old model was death by meeting and we hated it. The new model has far less meetings, far more doing and we like it a lot more.

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NDP Federal Convention Ottawa 2018: A random assortment of Prots and Trots.

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Ancilla
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Cliffdweller – I think we may have the opposite of false consensus here, false disagreement! [Smile] We’re both in favour of an open and transparent debate. We’re both against anyone (whether the leader or others) trying to build factions. We’re both in favour of having a formal process for decision-making rather than decisions which are (in practice even if not in theory) taken by informal power groups.

What I was suggesting was precisely NOT trying to ‘build consensus’ but trying to make sure that those who may disagree or challenge a suggestion are kept ‘in the loop’ and also that leaders take pastoral responsibility for minimising the human fallout of controversial decisions. Whereas it seemed to me that you were saying only committee members should know anything about a discussion, even if the person most affected wasn’t on the committee. Apologies if that isn’t what you meant.

I think what I’m trying to say is that processes don’t in themselves substitute for humility and integrity in the leadership. You can’t legislate for open and honest debate – a committee meeting with an overbearing chair or alternatively one who is weak and lets other individuals dominate may produce a false consensus without anybody having to ‘build’ it backstage.

I do wish sometimes that the C of E had more of an elder model, with more sense of it being a call and a task of prayerful discernment. Some churches do view their PCC that way but I don’t think that’s general. The PCC is elected, although in practice there are not always enough people willing to do it for an actual election to be needed, and in law they are charitable trustees. Committees vary, but usually consist of some PCC members and then others who are ‘co-opted’ as willing volunteers. My experience is that those committees can be very effective, but part of their role is precisely to come up with proposals which will need minimal debate at PCC. So you can have the same effect as your ‘backstage consensus building’ through official and theoretically transparent channels.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Wannabe Heretic:
Cliffdweller – I think we may have the opposite of false consensus here, false disagreement! [Smile] We’re both in favour of an open and transparent debate. We’re both against anyone (whether the leader or others) trying to build factions. We’re both in favour of having a formal process for decision-making rather than decisions which are (in practice even if not in theory) taken by informal power groups.

What I was suggesting was precisely NOT trying to ‘build consensus’ but trying to make sure that those who may disagree or challenge a suggestion are kept ‘in the loop’ and also that leaders take pastoral responsibility for minimising the human fallout of controversial decisions. Whereas it seemed to me that you were saying only committee members should know anything about a discussion, even if the person most affected wasn’t on the committee. Apologies if that isn’t what you meant.

Yes to the first, which is no to the 2nd (huh?). iow, yes, you're right-- false disagreement is what we have! I very much did not mean to shut non-committee members out of the discussion (except in cases like personnel matters where confidentiality is needed). Just, as you said, that the process for doing that be open and transparent w/o a lot of backroom deal-making (which can be done by non-committee members just as easily-- sometimes more-- than the ones with supposed institutional power).

quote:
Originally posted by Wannabe Heretic:

I think what I’m trying to say is that processes don’t in themselves substitute for humility and integrity in the leadership. You can’t legislate for open and honest debate – a committee meeting with an overbearing chair or alternatively one who is weak and lets other individuals dominate may produce a false consensus without anybody having to ‘build’ it backstage.

Sadly, very true. An argument for choosing leadership carefully, and for looking for those qualities (humility & Integrity) first & foremost over other things that more often win the day.


quote:
Originally posted by Wannabe Heretic:

I do wish sometimes that the C of E had more of an elder model, with more sense of it being a call and a task of prayerful discernment.... So you can have the same effect as your ‘backstage consensus building’ through official and theoretically transparent channels.

that can happen in Presbyterian churches, too, of course. As you say, there's no way you can legislate integrity and humility. But at least with an official policy for communal discernment and a theological rationale behind it, you have something to appeal to when you have to slap down someone's power grab.

[ 28. July 2012, 21:41: Message edited by: cliffdweller ]

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Jahlove
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quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
A legendary post.

I have a terrible premonition that somewhere a meeting facilitator is planning an exercise involving interpretive dance to kick off a meeting I will attend.

It's been done. We, all 900 of us, had to attened 'workshops' with a bunch of otherwise unemployed performing arts graduates-cum-therapists. At the start we had to act out what we thought these to be then they showed us the benefit of their wisdom and did Q & A 'in role'. Not so bad in itself, but afterwards, nothing was done.

And that's the problem with meetings. Little is done at the meeting but worse still, as a consequence of inadequate minutes and action lists, nothing is done afterwards. Excvcept for setting the date and time for the next meeting.

B-Ark to warp factor 9, mr sulu

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“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth.” - Mark Twain

Posts: 6477 | From: Alice's Restaurant (UK Franchise) | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged



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