Adaptability Project, Day 12

This morning the Adaptability Project group explored the strengths and weaknesses of George School’s Quaker decision-making process in order to come to a better understanding of how we might find approval for our two proposals . . . quickly. (Our goal is to get both proposals approved this coming school year.) Two guests, Drew Smith and Chris Kerr, were invited to join us to share their expertise in Quaker process.

We spent the first half an hour of the morning silently responding to three prompts that were projected on the screen. Here’s what I wrote in my Moleskine; these thoughts don’t represent anyone’s opinions but my own.

Q: What are your understandings of the assumptions underlying the Quaker decision-making process?

  • It’s consensus based
  • It includes the constituencies who will be affected by the decision
  • The clerk seeks to discern “the sense of the meeting”
  • Participants are open to continuing revelation
  • You are encouraged to speak your truth (. . . once)
  • Listening is important

Q: What are the pros and cons of the Quaker decision-making process?

  • Pros:
    • maximizes buy-in
    • people feel heard
    • enfranchisement
    • institutional memory is heard
    • conflict is aired face-to-face
    • group’s wisdom often has the advantage (“to proceed as way opens”)
  • Cons:
    • need to find times when everyone can get together
    • folks with bad attitudes are seldom put in their place
    • conservative gravitational force
    • introverts are too often silent
    • tearful appeals are too powerful

Q: What concerns do you have about our next steps?

  • While our group has been practicing agility, the rest of the faculty has not.
  • Paradigm shifts are hard to swallow. Bite-sized doses might be easier to get approved.
  • [Here I summarize what I wrote in yesterday’s blog post.] My blog post explores Rita Gunther McGrath’s “New Playbook” elements. We are “precise but slow,” and we are going to ask the faculty to make a decision that is “fast and roughly right.” They will want details and more details in the meeting for business, but we need them to say yes or no to the broad strokes.

After lunch we met to strategize, and it was a fascinating and far-ranging conversation which I will not duplicate here. My personal contribution was to try to push the group to imagine “outside the box” tactics for achieving approval for our proposals. We talked about “choice architecture” which was a new piece of jargon for me. Although our larger group conversation didn’t yield a clear outcome, my smaller group made some solid strides after we spun off on our own. I’m sorry that I am not going into greater detail, but there is nothing to be gained by giving up the element of surprise!

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