There's More to Life Than Knitting!

Join Suna as she stops knitting long enough to ponder her life, share her joys and concerns, and comment on the goings on in the world.
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Friday, September 1, 2006

The Organization of the Organization

Hey, new friends, this will make no sense to you! But you can read it anyway. Old friends, this one's for you. And long overdue. I finally feel up to it.

For a moody post, here's a moody photo of the younger son. I can't believe this little baby who went to so many parenting support group meetings with me is a teenager.


The following is personal opinion that is being posted to a private blog (not searchable on the Internet), which is only intended for people to whom the author has sent a link. Please do not redistribute without written permission from the author.

My Thoughts about the Organization of the Organization

Since 2000 or so, the organization I was involved with or worked from 1991-2006 for has been on a path from a traditional hierarchical organizational structure to one that is flatter. A thing I am not at all un-fond of. Some of the larger donors, including the Biggest Donor, have a lot of business background and obviously do a lot of reading of those pop-culture level business books that push untested but intriguing new ideas. And though very intelligent, they are nonetheless very open to charismatic speakers who make alternative ways of doing things appear to be panaceas, because they WANT to make things wonderful for the organization. Some of those new ideas, by the way, really ARE good ideas, or could be, if handled right. And organizations/businesses truly DO need to change to make it today, since philanthropy is changing, communications channels are changing, technology is advancing rapidly, and the world is “flattening.” Change or die--that's the hard facts.

Hey, I read books, too. My current book is The World Is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman. It explains a LOT about how things work differently, and if I were running an organization, I’d want to turn into one of those quickly adapting ones that changes as the world changes, and creates a niche for itself that no other organization can fill.

What’s the problem? The organization’s decision makers embraced change just for the sake of changing and did NOT change the organization’s focus, mission or audience. So, it was trying to incorporate a 70s kind of organization into a millennium structure. And it tried to pretend that it wanted to include all of its members in it, and promise them that it would not fundamentally change. But it HAD to fundamentally change and there is NO WAY that change could not alienate or isolate some of its members. So, that got folks upset.

To deal with the upset folks, the people in charge tried many tactics, all in a row, which confused the upset people more and more. Now, at last, they are doing what they should have all along, which is just say “too bad, we want things a certain way, and we are going to install the people who think like we do in the positions of responsibility, and anyone who doesn’t like it will just have to go find somewhere else to work or volunteer.” And if someone is a questioner or a symbol of the status quo, they have to go. The thing is, a lot of people would have felt less betrayed if they’d just SAID that before doing it.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to see that the independent person hired to be Executive Director was pushed out by the Board (who also pushed out any Board member who didn’t say “yes” to the two Directors who were in charge and collaborating with the Biggest Donor), because she didn’t “just follow orders,” and was replaced by the #1 adherent of the new philosophy. Then, they brought in the very earliest adapter of the new philosophy as her special helper. And they installed complete outsiders in other responsible positions, who, since they were being paid directly by the Biggest Donor, and not the organization itself, were loyal to the management team, not the organization. And thus, there is a pretty obvious explanation of why I suddenly was irrelevant. The Big Donor did not want anyone associated with the olden days, especially one with her own ideas and suggestions, mucking up their new vision. They used me for the information I did have, then discarded me so they wouldn’t have to hear me question their decisions. Heh, I sure wouldn’t be installing a new ordering system that charged as much shipping and handling per item as the item itself cost!! Oh well.

In the back of one’s mind, one wonders if the organization’s decision makers might not be trying to subtly “help” the organization fail. They are so against having a centralized structure in any way, they could be trying to ensure that the main office systems are doomed. So they can go back to groups of mothers at kitchen tables doing things on the local level. Period. And nothing wrong with that—it might work just fine—if they’d just let their members know that is the plan.

The only thing that makes me uncomfortable any more is how hypocritical it is to portray the organization as one that puts “people before things,” and that truly cares about the people it serves, yet to treat people who work for the organization like obsolete office furniture. Not just me—so many members, workers and other volunteers have been pretty much told they don’t matter, in other words, or by deeds. Not exactly a way to build self esteem. There’s no need to make others look bad in order to build yourself up. You build yourself up by doing good work, ethically. And that’s why I, and a lot of others, regretfully are severing ties and finding more positive places to expend our effort and spend our money.

Like Dave (hey, he's still my friend, at least) said, when the Titanic was sinking, even the band eventually jumped off.


deb said...
Glad to see your comments Sue Ann. I am worried about the future with the organization. For now I will keep working my butt off for the local (TX) organization. That is until I find something else that can use my talents as well. Watching and waiting to see what happens next.
Saturday, September 02, 2006 2:30:00 AM

Suna said...
Thanks, Deb. I wanted to be sure to say that all of you who are continuing on have my respect. Believe me, if I hadn't been forced out, with my loyalty trait, I'd still be trying to work things out, too.
Saturday, September 02, 2006 10:07:00 AM

knittingwoman said...
As you know, i quit the Canadian part of the organization several years ago. It was very painful and I haven't found anything else that fills that spot but i had to leave. One of these days I will have to hear the whole story from you.Hugs to you.
Saturday, September 02, 2006 11:43:00 AM

deb said...
I hang on because I still have dreams of having another child. Granted I turn 41 in a couple of weeks and that door will soon be closing. The thought of another child without the organization is just too far out there for me at the moment. But I must say my job has gotten much harder with you not in your former position.
Saturday, September 02, 2006 7:41:00 PM

Anonymous said...
Nice to see your comments. For a number of years, I wondered why you supported the crap going on...until the axe fell a little closer to home...
Monday, September 04, 2006 3:03:00 AM

Suna said...
Dear Anonymous, I replied to this comment in the main part of the blog, so people might see it better. Thanks for bringing up that point. I need to clear it up.
Monday, September 04, 2006 12:07:00 PM

Nancy Jo said...
Anonymous = unknown and unaccountable.This comment was an unethical, mean-spirited and ill-informed attempt to sound important.You owe nothing to cowards and bullies, Suna. If you find out who it is, I will definitely beat them up for you.I am refraining from obscenities, but whoever this is can feel free to insert their most despised phrase here and be assured that's what I would have typed about them if I had wished to. Sounds a lot like someone whose posts I no longer read. I guess I can just speculate at will, since they are very unlikely to sign their names. But why waste the energy?Enraged,Nancy Jo
Sunday, September 24, 2006 9:32:00 AM

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