Sunday, November 18, 2007

Who sets the vision?

First is a series of posts following discussion with the Pacific Central District Board

The UUA Board is in the process of moving to policy-based governance, currently establishing executive limitations (which we are calling “Global Leadership Covenant and Expectations”) and expecting to fully operate in this mode by 2009. One of the major changes in the standard Carver model from the current view is that the Board, not the President, is responsible for setting the vision, working with the congregations to do so. This vision is then codified into a set of statements generally referred to as "ends". This is a very different model than that of traditional business institutions, where a CEO is often hired because of his or her "vision" of what the company should be, and is expected to inspire employees, investors, and often customers to implement it successfully.

A fundamental difference with non-profits (including churches) is that "customers", "investors", and "employees" become very muddy terms that do not translate well to a non-profit model. It may be totally realistic for a CEO to take a light bulb company and turn it into a multinational conglomerate selling everything from entertainment to jet engines (as General Electric has evolved) but member congregations (an amalgamation of "customers", "investors", and "employees/volunteers") might not feel the UUA should be branching out beyond its core mission - however that is defined.

In many ways the UUA has already acted in a "carveresque" manner through the various proposals, resolutions and study groups that are passed or created at the General Assembly - input that comes directly from the congregational delegates that can create a shift in policy and/or direction. The Board is expected to provide resources for these resolutions, and the President and Staff to see that they are implemented, which is in line with pure "Carver", though the Board's role in the detail of the numbers may not be. The Board began a more deliberate visioning process at Portland GA with the “open space” technology sessions which began to create the ends under which we will operate.

Is this realistic? To what degree are our congregations served by a "strong president" who may bring his or her own visions of what the UUA should be? How much flexibility should be inherent in the "ends"? How should the Board engage with congregations to further this kind of work? Do we start with a blank sheet of paper (as the open space technology did) or utilize the "best and brightest" of our lay and ministerial leaders to create ends that could be debated and revised by our congregations?

Next post: do we need to be part of a larger movement?

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