Thursday, September 23, 2010

Building the Trust Factor

A MUSEUM STUDIES CLASS IS ABOUT TO LAUNCH A planning process with a local historical society as part of a semester-long project this fall.  As a preliminary activity, one of the students (who is responsible for the outreach portion of the project) and I chatted yesterday about my take on organizational planning.  We covered a lot of ground and a lot of the basic elements of a solid planning process:  vision, mission, where do goals come from?; how much outreach can you suggest an all-volunteer organization do?; as well as the more mundane how much can you devote to this class project when you're a busy student with tons of other claims on your time?
That aside, I encourage my grad student friend to spend considerable time at the beginning getting the board to engage in the emotion-based discussions about why their organization is important, who it serves and what impact it can make on the lives of its audiences, its neighborhood, and its larger community.  These are critical conversations to have early on, because every subsequent conversation about the how's and the what's will flow from them.  Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the why's/who's/impact conversations are the spaces where understanding and trust blossom among a group -- even in groups where individuals have known each other a long time.  It's practically magical and so satisfying to hear someone say, "I've learned so much about us!" or "I never thought about our organization like that before!"
Since my conversation, I've been thinking about how planning can -- and should be -- be a platform for trust-building in an organization.  It's generally not the primary objective of planning, but it you're able to achieve it, it's certainly a whopping big benefit that can play a huge role in implementing the a plan.

Photo:  2005 Focus Groups Yass from NSWRFS via Flickr


Laura Roberts said...

I agree! Actually, I just had the first piece of that conversation in my interview for a consulting job - and it was only one day facilitation. I quickly saw the issues as well as the fault lines between board and staff!

Anne W. Ackerson said...

I think these are some of the most important conversations we can have, partly because they aren't generally undertaken otherwise. Routine board and committee meetings leave little or no time for discussions of what's truly meaningful about an organization. Yet, finding ways to do so is not difficult and the results are often eye-opening and cause relationships to strengthen.