Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How do you eat an elephant?

Second in a series of posts about the October 2009 UUA Board meeting

I spent nearly five years creating monitoring reports as part of the Coordinating (Executive) Team for my home congregation, so one would think I knew a lot about how to write monitoring reports.

I didn’t.

What the UUA Board and staff are learning (together) is a very different methodology that I find really exciting. It has tremendous potential for providing the kind of clarity and accountability promised by Policy Governance(R), the Carver model that has been adopted by the UUA Board, over half of our Districts, and scores of congregations. This methodology is also a relatively new development in the discipline of “Carver-land”, so few of us in Districts or congregations are actually doing it this way.

This approach to monitoring reports has four components: an interpretation by the President of what a particular end or executive limitation means, the rationale for why that interpretation is reasonable, how he intends to measure progress on whatever he has identified, and then the results of that measurement. The “ahas” for me were the realizations that a) “less is more” – you really do not need long reports, b) there is a good reason that the discipline around structure and format is a key part of the Carver model, and c) a reasonable interpretation could potentially be the steps that one takes to even get started on something.

Which leads me to the elephant. I am constantly reminded of a joke from my grade school days that starts with the question “how do you eat an elephant?”. This is probably because I often worked on projects over the ensuing decades that attempted to do so (symbolically). So what if the “end” was to eat an elephant? Forgetting beneficiaries for a moment (for all the PG junkies), it might be totally appropriate to point out that we have to catch one first and prepare it in a way that makes it edible before we can even start eating. If the President provided an interpretation that reminded us we really didn’t have an elephant yet, laid out the plans for trapping, with some supporting documentation on the prevalence of elephants and trapping experience, and a timeline that addressed roasting and eating, I would be highly likely as a board member to accept the interpretation and rationale as reasonable – and the report as compliant even though not a single bite was taken. The next year I am going to want to know how he is progressing on the plan he has laid out.

This is an important point, since presumably we do not yet have systems in place to measure many of the outcomes we want to make as an Association. I would expect our creative staff in the short term can come up with surrogate measurements that give a good sense of direction when an exact measurement is not possible. I also think there is a real market out there for some consultant to come up with a system of surrogate measures that congregations under policy governance can easily incorporate and use as part of their monitoring. I would love comments from any of you who have developed such measures.

And why are we doing this again? So that we (the Board) can be accountable to our member congregations and other "sources of authority and accountability" for progress toward the outcomes they worked with us over the past few years to establish.

And why was the elephant in the refrigerator?????

Next post: So many policies, so little time...

1 comment:

Robin Edgar said...

"And why was the elephant in the refrigerator?????"

Presumably because it was a corpse-cold Unitarian elephant? :-)