Process is not my thing. But it is the way of the world these days. Note that our current Prime Minister is a master of process. It would appear there has been a long and pent-up desire to be heard. Even powerful people like our Premiers felt left out, that their voice did not matter. Our Prime Minister marches in parades, asks people to apply to be Senators, appoints a cabinet that looks like Canada, treats everyone with respect, looks at everyone he meets with those soulful eyes. And Canadians are responding, despite a terrible economy and the fact that this is one very long honeymoon the PM’s popularity remains very high.
People do like to be heard. I know a church that holds a “listening” time the week before their AGM so all questions and irritations are exercised before the actual meeting of record. Here at Bethany the Treasurer meets with all interested parties to go over the details the week before our AGM. Same reason. It’s now common practice that if any level of government wants to do something they need to have consultations, community meets, as many as possible.
As mentioned in previous blogs I am hard wired to do big picture and abstract thinking and roll-up your sleeves and get it done action. I am less keen on the process of how things get done. I remember clearly a public meeting I was coordinating. This retired teacher showed up early and was upset to see me putting the chair out. He told me that leaving the assembled gathering to sort that out was one aspect of community building I needed to leave be.
I do like talking circles. There are always big mouths like me who dominate discussions and there needs to be a way to give everyone a chance to participate. I like that piece of process. But otherwise endless consultations, strategic plans, long reports, all seem designed to mask that the group has actually made a decision when in fact they haven’t. It’s not action to have a report on your shelf that no one reads, where nothing has been done since it was written, where the conclusions have more in common with a small number of very vocal people than it does with the wider membership who prefer action to talk.
I work in the non-profit world and if I had a dollar for every consultation I have participated in I would be able to pay for all the paper costs these reports produce. Staples must love consultants! But few of these ever resulted in tangible action. Instead of the old days when a handful of men made all the decisions in small rooms we now have a roomful of women and men who love to talk and listen, spending hours, days and weeks, holding meetings, writing reports, trying to get the tone and wording of their analysis just so. As I mentioned I am delighted by the move to inclusivity, the talking circles, the push to have more input, but the delight for me remains in the big picture/ideas and the action taken.
But recently I have come to see that for process people process is content. This has come as quite a revelation to me. There is something in tapping into the emotional life of the group that process does and it leaves a lasting and positive effect in some. I have seen it up close and it is real. People leave these meetings feeling heard, understood, connected. I think I take it for granted that I always feel these things. So I am trying to let go of my frustration with knowing much of these conversations will not be connected to a bigger narrative, to a larger idea, and will not likely end up in a concrete action. I can see the process is helping.
I just don’t have to like it.