Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

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Janet Rossini
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Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by Janet Rossini » Thu Oct 01, 2009 1:47 am

NCI is a society within a society within a world within a world. NCI was formed with some simple ideas in mind, probably a lot like "have fun and help people". As people join and leave, come and go, things change, and things stay the same. We are large now, and have been trying to run "more like an organization" for some time.

My point here is that "run like an organization" may not mean what we might initially think. More specifically, I'm thinking that we will do better with very little hierarchy, few rules, almost no commands. Instead, we'll prosper by sharing values and practices in a respectful way.

The fact that NCI is bigger than it once was doesn't mean that it needs more, or more specific rules. It is impossible--literally impossible--to define the behavior of a human organization using rules, and the attempt generally makes things worse. It's more difficult than programming, and believe me large programs are hard enough. Computers do what we tell them, and the languages we use are unambiguous. Human language is imprecise, and people don't do what we tell them anyway.

People use judgment to decide what to do, always. This is especially true for the kind of people we have here in SL but it is true enough everywhere.

So what do we need? We need our leaders--the official ones and all those among us who have leadership in them from time to time--to share their vision of what NCI is and what it should be. They need to share their perception of how things are going. They need to share their understanding of what we need.

They need to trust the people, the helpers, the land officers, the citizens, to do their best. Sometimes, of course, we'll fail. The leaders should respond by providing feedback, quietly, directly, describing what would be better.

Now trust is not absolute trust. It would not make sense to give everyone full edit capability on all NCI assets or anything that silly. What does make sense is to grant people more freedom than they need, and to keep in touch with them to give them lots of feedback on how they are doing.

As people show themselves trustworthy--which they can only do if we trust them--then we will trust them more, and grant them more freedom and leeway. We always want to grant them more than they need to do whatever it is they're trying to accomplish for us, and to provide feedback promptly.

But not too promptly! People need to make mistakes. We learn by making mistakes. So our leaders can't go around holding on to all our bike seats to make sure we never fall down. They need to let us fall, help us get up, dust us off, and let us go again.

We don't need a complex hierarchy of power. We don't need a complex table of rules. We don't need to be given a lot of commands. We need to understand what is needed, and to have enough freedom to do our part in it. And we need feedback from our leaders on how we're doing.

That's pretty scary for leaders. But it's the only way that really leads to excellence.

Think about it, please.
I don't work here: I volunteer here. I don't have duties: I have small gifts which I offer.

Janet Rossini
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PeaceSmythe
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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by PeaceSmythe » Mon Oct 05, 2009 6:55 am

Yes, yes, and yes. That's one reason I'm holding Tuesday office hours. We were short on questions last week. but I figure that the time together is just as important as we find out who we are and learn through friendship such things as trust and confidence. And yes, I'll put out more seating this time. Please feel welcome to stop by. 11AM to 12 PM and/or 4PM to 5PM SLT. We'll be by the fire in the camp site, so dress warmly. :)
--Peace

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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by gramma fiddlesticks » Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:42 pm

NCI is a society within a society within a world within a world. NCI was formed with some simple ideas in mind, probably a lot like "have fun and help people". As people join and leave, come and go, things change, and things stay the same. We are large now, and have been trying to run "more like an organization" for some time.

My point here is that "run like an organization" may not mean what we might initially think. More specifically, I'm thinking that we will do better with very little hierarchy, few rules, almost no commands.

===========================================================

Janet, all good points. And I wholeheartedly agree.

let me however, clarify just one point, from my own perspective please. The NCI "organization" has not been very well "organized" from the point of having information available for all the many many tasks that are needed to keep things functioning smoothly. All the questions like:

1. What needs to be done?
2. Who is doing it?
3. Who knows how to do it?
4. How do we know it was done?
5. What more do we need to do?
6. How can we do it better, or quicker, or more efficiently?
7. Do we have the right tools to do it with?
8. Are we doing it in a timely manner?
9. Is there sufficient backup with more than one person who knows all there is to know about what we need to do and when it needs to be done?
10. is everything documented in writing somewhere that can be accessed by multiple people in case someone doesn't, for whatever reason, get a task done?
11. Does everyone doing a task have the skills needed in order to perform the task successfully?
12. If not, is there a way to help them get the skills, or does the task need to be handed over to someone else who has the skills?

These are the issues I have concentrated 95% of my efforts on so far. If all these questions are fully answered and the answers documented in a single reference place, then in my humble opinion you are ABSOLUTELY correct about few "rules" being required.

Gramma
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Trinity Coulter
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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by Trinity Coulter » Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:34 am

I completely agree with Janet on keeping things simple, and letting people have freedom.

I seems like people who are given freedom and motivation to do things will do more, and having lots of rules can help focus things, but they don't necessarily let people do more, and they might also lead to people just doing only a little because they feel like they don't have permission to do more.

I can see Gramma's point about needing to know some things, but I'm not sure how much of it needs to be a requirement and how much is just nice to know, and maybe helpful.

NCI seems to have 3 main components, People, Education, Events, and Land. (if we have more, please let me know, I am trying to generalize into very major categories, and this seems to cover it all)

People: We wouldn't have a thing without the residents and volunteers who do it all.

Education: The classes we have seem to be well attended and popular.

Events: Most events seem to have a good turnout too.

Land: And its nice to have a place to stop off, to hold classes, and to hold events, and to socialize with others.

Maybe NCI could just let motivated people run an area and develop ideas to improve that area. Maybe the "What needs to be done?" and other questions just need to just be answered by the volunteers that we have, by what they are willing to take on, and what they are motivated to do.

Afon
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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by Afon » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:16 pm

These are good points, and I would love to see NCI as a society with few basic rules (all societies need some rules) but I'd like to put some contrary points.

At the Oxbridge Uni, Des was happy to trust first, anyone who asked was getting the Professor title (very similar to our LOs). I have heard of a number of incidents of newbie pingpong, and newbies being eject multiple times due to being in inadequately clothed, with no explanation, nor time for the newbie to ask 'what's wrong'.

I have heard also within NCI of LOs ejecting folk because they did not like the clothing or similar, even though it was within the rules. I've also heard of folk being told they are not allowed to wear their favourite items as a punishment.

I would dearly love to trust folk with minimum rules, but human nature makes it difficult, even basic rules can be reinterpreted.

I suspect the above will not be a popular, but think about it.

/me puts flame proof knickers on :)
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Janet Rossini
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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by Janet Rossini » Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:18 pm

Afon,

I totally agree that what you've described are abuses and need to be dealt with swiftly and effectively. I would respectfully suggest that those abuses cannot be addressed effectively by having more rules, but instead by promoting understanding of our shared values, and by our senior LOs coaching and counseling people who need help to do it right.

Our jobs as helpers and Land Officers are not simple jobs that can be done by rote. They require judgment and a kind of calm maturity that comes not from rules but from a clear understanding of what we stand for, and a true embracing of those values.

In no way am I suggesting anarchy or a laissez-faire approach. I have personally seen instances of LO and helper behavior which I think were well outside our values, and if those individuals habitually act in the way that I have observed, I feel that they should be relieved of their LO responsibilities. Even then, this would be done after coaching and counseling.

We do need a a clear understanding of what we stand for and how we behave. Within that understanding, we need the ability to act with good judgment for the best interest of our community.

We can provide that understanding with examples, rather than with rules. We can provide little scenarios that describe how an LO should act. This will increase understanding and flexibility both of which are good things. I'll put an example in my next posting.

What do you think about that?
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Janet Rossini
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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by Janet Rossini » Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:33 pm

Here's an example of how we might help LOs understand their job:

Case 1:

Susie Something has shown up in Kuula. She is topless and wearing a skirt that doesn't fit her body very well. She is standing in front of the freebie board.

Lydia Landofficer hears Charles Citizen say "Susie, you have to wear clothes here," and goes on alert. Lydia approaches Susie.

Lydia says "Susie, this is a PG zone here, and everyone has to wear clothes. Please put on a top."

Susie is silent.

Lydia sends Susie an IM, saying "Susie, we really need you to get dressed right now, please."

Susie still says nothing.

Lydia checks Susie's profile and sees that Susie is only three days old. Meanwhile, Susie goes into appearance mode. Lydia guesses that Susie may not know how to dress herself. She asks "Susie, do you need help getting dressed?"

Susie finally types "Si. Hablas Espanol?"

Lydia sets her translator to Spanish and coaches Susie into some garments.

Case 2:

Same startup as before. However, Susie keeps answering "Why?", and when Lydia checks Susie's profile, discovers that she is seven months old and belongs to about ten groups.

Lydia bears down in IM, while remaining polite: "Susie, our rules really require that you wear clothes, please."

Susie IMs, "It's a free country Lydia. What are you going to do about it?"

Lydia replies, "I'm not allowed to let topless people stay here, Susie, so please put on a top immediately."

Susie says, "Bite me, biotch!"

Lydia issues a temporary ban of two days against Susie, and politely IMs "I've had to ban you from our areas for two days, Susie. If you are willing to work within our guidelines, we would be happy to have you back. I hope you'll decide to come back and be a good citizen."


Examples like these aren't that hard to write, and can give a really good flavor for how we exhibit our respect for others and the fact that we value them, while at the same time not allowing the area to devolve into anarchy.

Your thoughts?
I don't work here: I volunteer here. I don't have duties: I have small gifts which I offer.

Janet Rossini
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Afon
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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by Afon » Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:37 pm

Good examples of the correct actions :)

Forgive me for playing devils advocate in the following :)

In case 1, if Lydia Landofficer had asked Susie Something (the 3 day old newbie) to get dressed, met with silence, asked again, still silence but Susie Something goes into appearance mode, then says "I'm banning you for breaking our PG rules" and bans her, would you:

A) Walk away
B) Challenged Lydia Landofficer.
C) Reported Lydia Landofficer to the area's SLO.

Please bear in mind your answer should be the same whether Lydia Landofficer is a new LO or and older one.

If your answer is A, then there is no way to counsel and guide Lydia Landofficer, if its B it could easily develop into an LO dispute, and if its C you could be considered a grass.

Personally I would like to think that when we occasionally react inappropriately (I include myself), that we are all adult enough to understand and accept being challenged.

The rules we have are there because something has happen in the past that needed the rule to be put in place. The rules are not set in stone and are updated when needed. We are are all volunteers, so I do not think its normally appropriate to issue commands. There are the occasional situations in which a quick decision needs to be taken, in those situations consulting with all affected parties may not be possible.

The bottom line is I agree with the basics of this thread, all we need is the practical implementation of it.
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Janet Rossini
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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by Janet Rossini » Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:56 pm

I was not even trying to address the question of what someone should do if they observe what they think is an improper handling. I was modeling what (I think) are examples of proper LO behavior, in two similar but different cases.

As for what an LO observing something should do, those examples have not yet been written. I myself have done all three of the behaviors you listed, walk away, talk to the LO myself, and report what I saw to a senior. I chose in each case what I thought was best.

However, I feel sure that there are times when I walked away when I might have been better off to say something to the LO in question. This is hard to do, especially if they're older than I am. And I'm not very scared to do such things, so it might be very hard for someone else.

Talking one LO to another about something that has gone wrong is hard to do. If the "offending" LO has lost his temper for some reason, he's not likely to be in a mood to hear the slightest suggestion that he messed up, because in his heart he probably knows that he has. In that situation, most anyone wants to defend himself and the chance of a good discussion is pretty slim.

I would not think it appropriate to take a specific issue, not seen by the seniors to them, and expect them to deal with it. They have not seen it and it is one person's word, one person's opinion, against another's. Yet we need to deal with the possibility of a pattern of bad decisions by an LO. If I see such a thing, my own practice is to discuss it with Garn or Bev, saying that I'm not sure I'm seeing the whole picture, but that I wanted them to have a heads up in case they wanted to keep an eye out. It's not a great solution but it's the best one I know.

Certainly, I'd like to see us all able to openly coach each other. However, when it comes down to it, that's the job of the senior LO, to guide the juniors to do better. I'm suggesting that these example stories of how things can be handled well will be the best way to do it.

My belief is that strict concrete rules defining exactly what people should do literally cannot be written. I believe that if attempts are made to write them, people will not be able to follow them well enough to get what we want. And I believe that if such rules could exist, and were followed strictly, we would lose the humanity and good judgment which is at the core of what we're trying to do.

Let me put the shoe back on your foot. Supposing that my two examples above are good ones, can you propose concrete strict rules that, if followed, will process those two Susies, and all the Susies in between and outside those two, properly? My guess is "no". But if you can, I'd love to see them.

Thanks,

Janet
I don't work here: I volunteer here. I don't have duties: I have small gifts which I offer.

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Quite Oh
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Re: Hierarchy, Rules, Commands ... an alternative

Post by Quite Oh » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:34 pm

Janet Rossini wrote:My belief is that strict concrete rules defining exactly what people should do literally cannot be written. I believe that if attempts are made to write them, people will not be able to follow them well enough to get what we want. And I believe that if such rules could exist, and were followed strictly, we would lose the humanity and good judgment which is at the core of what we're trying to do.
I'm not sure where this concern comes from. Have you seen us acting in such a way?

Since we've started we've modified one rule: we've added "or eject" to the "do not ban land-officers" rule.

I speak with a number of people of have people saying that they want more "communication", "transparency", "democracy", "rights", "freedom". As I question them them to ascertain their true intent, it turns out that they are already getting what they want. There are some who want to be in a position of have more say. And that's cool. My response is usually "What are you going to do to earn it?". 9 times out of 10 they respond with "Well, I'm busy, I have a real life you know". I shrug my shoulders philopshically.

I'd like to clarify some things. This is not addressed to any specific individual, it's just an observation.

People make observations such as "Board members have *power* that I don't, and I want that power too".

NCI Board members and staff don't have "power", we have DUTIES. Responsibilities. Obligations. In order to accomplish these duties we do have some extra abilities. Don't mistake that with power. Carl proved that nobody at NCI has positional "power"--the ability to dictate to another what terms will be accepted.

I have heard you refer the BoD as "higher ups". That's a mistaken notion. We aren't "higher up", we are *more involved*. What that really means is "more work". Dull, boring, concentrated tedious work. Doing job descriptions, going from infonode to infonode and checking to see that all posters work, inventorying who the owners are, what the permissions are, ascertaining WHY they are there in the first place, entering the data into a spreadsheet so that the next person will have all the information at their finger tips.

If you want a say, you have to be in the know, and to be in the know (of all the boring, routine, mechanical facts), you have to do the work.

You have to bring value first. The degree of say that you have in the organisation is based upon your own level of involvement, the service that you bring to it. This is how we choose helpers, isn't it? Same notion.

I know people want to pick and choose the fun jobs like planning and designing and building the environment. Cool. It's nice that people want to help out, and the ideas ARE wonderful, and what about what NCI needs? Yes, you are NCI, and you want to express yourself. But if nobody does the accounting, or goes around ensuring that a poster works, that TP pads operate, that landmark givers function, that the freebie dispensers deliver, then NCI falls apart.

Seriously: Ask not what NCI can do for you, but what you can do for NCI. NCI is about SERVICE, that is we serve newbies and one another. And more often than not, the REAL service that NCI needs is the "sh*t work" that needs to be done, and if that's not done, no amount of re-building the environment will make a difference. Sometimes, I run into people who are on their second cup of coffee at the start of a fresh and rested day, and express their enthusiasm to get involved, and offer to do something. Then when it's time to do it, they sort of fade away into the background. You ask them "Can you do this thing you offered to do?". You get the response "Oh, er, yeah. I'll get around to it".

These are examples of why we need job descriptions, procedures, fall-backs and all that boring structural stuff, including policies and "rules". NCI is 100% volunteer, 100% part time. Nobody is forced to come in to make money to pay the rent. NCI cannot *count* on reliable presence and the doing of duties. It must work around that by having a particularly strong and resiliant structure.

Doens't have to be hiearchical. It can be anything (I have my own ideas). But stuff needs to get done, and before we ever say how exactly the final product will look like, we have to inventory and clean house.

PS: We're currently putting together the big list of things that need to be done, and we'll have a volunteer form where people can choose the tasks that interest them the most. I look forward to seeing how that works.

PPS: When I put myself in the reader's position and notice the impression I get on these kind of disclosures, I can imagine that some might interpret it as complaining. It's not. It is, in fact "transparency". I hope that by showing the real facts of the matter, the day-in-the-life-of sort of facts that it will demystify what the BoD does. It's my hope that seeing it for what it is will help people understand the practicalities of being involved at this level, and get a clearer sense of why this or that decision may have been made, or is being discussed or whatever.

That my my first coffee of the day post :)

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