When meeting agenda becomes a recipe for shit

In my meeting yesterday, I witnessed how shit was going to happen. The meeting went on smoothly. But when the facilitator was already calling for the adjournment, a participant raised his voice and called everyone’s attention. In an emphatic tone, he said that there were problems not brought up by the head of staff. He provided everyone with a paper containing all problems and concerns that he talked about in general. In summary, the paper points out questions on accountability, processes, staff representation, among others.

Based on the actual agenda of the meeting, and the way this was discussed and acted upon by the meeting’s participants, there was a sense that the organization is proceeding in the right track, despite the need to raise more funds to keep it going. Until that pal stood up as if he was spoiling the party. Most of the members questioned the way he raised the issues in that he failed to come up with clearly written arguments and actions requested. I hope that aside from that technicality or ethical issue, they learned two things: a. Not all agenda cannot be accepted as a working snapshot of the reality, so the meeting participants must be critical and inquisitive as to the real score and b. “Other matters” must be a constant item to provide more space for urgent and important stuff not included in the preset items.

That situation reminded me of “The Plan” story:

In the beginning was the Plan. And then came the Assumptions.
And the Assumptions were without form. And the Plan was without substance.

And darkness was upon the face of the Workers.

And they spoke amongst themselves, saying:
“It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh.”

And the workers went unto their Supervisors and said:
“It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odor thereof.”

And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying:
“It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong,
such that none may abide by it.”

And the Managers went unto their Directors, saying:
“It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength.”

And the Directors spoke amongst themselves, saying to one another:
“It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very powerful.”

And the Vice Presidents went unto the President, saying unto him:
“This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of the
company, with powerful effects.”

And the President looked upon the Plan, and saw that it was good.

And the Plan became Policy.

This is how shit happens.

Civil society organizations are no different from government as far as decision-making process is concerned. We’ve been critical of the way government is crafting its development agenda, yet we tend to formulate meeting agenda that do not capture or address the real situation. And we’re not even speaking here of our own development agenda.

To avoid shit like that to happen, there is really a need to fiscalize the process of decision-making at the top level, to make sure that the voice of every affected stakeholder is heard and considered. This is easier said than done, I’m sure. But there are ways that attempt to address that. One is to broaden or create a mechanism aside from a management committee so that staff concerns are really addressed.

What else would you suggest?

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