Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shared Governance - Part II

Do you ever have that feeling that you're on to something really good and that if you just keep working at it the results will exceed your expectations - almost to the point that you know it's going to be good, but it's hard to imagine just how good? I feel this way about our shared governance system consisting of the College Senate and related committees, and the Councils and workgroups in place at the College. Last week I co-hosted a meeting of the College Senate committee chairs with Senate Chair, David Katz.

We accomplished some important, goals during the brief one-hour meeting. Online resources (committee memberships, agenda and minutes templates, etc.) were reviewed with the chairs to enhance their leadership roles. In addition, we had a brief training on the use of the “make a meeting” function in MS Outlook to aid them in one of the most important tasks of a committee chair – scheduling committee meetings. The key is for everyone to have their weekly calendars in the Outlook Calendar system. What was once a series of phone calls and emails over a number of days becomes the click of a button!

Beyond reviewing some technical resources, the meeting presented an opportunity to reinforce important messages about how the College Senate committees fit into the larger organizational context. If there is a “magic wand” to help overcome our institutional challenges and our community’s significant problems, I believe it is found in the activation and empowerment of the collective whole through an effective shared governance process.

The committees can generally be grouped into two categories. The first is comprised of those responsible for appeals, awards, promotions, and career appointment processes. These committees are essentially the keepers of excellence – how we define excellence is most visibly present in our organizational culture through the way we handle various appeals, and the way we determine awards, promotions and appointments. It’s no easy task, but the thought and integrity with which these committees go about their work is both appreciated and critical to managing these important symbols of all that we hope to resemble. The second category of committees is comprised of those more operational in nature (curriculum, facilities, safety, etc.). These committees are more like conveners of dialogue about improvements and innovations. They present an important opportunity to explore ideas and greatly enhance our collective ability to make informed decisions. Rather than making decisions in isolation and out of context, the primary work of these committees is to facilitate the dialogue necessary to manage change by engaging all relevant parties in the exploration of issues and making considered recommendations that help the College improve.

Certainly there are times when we need to respond quickly. Sometimes decisions must be made in the moment. However, much of the operation is about improvement and how to make things better, which can follow a more considered process of idea exploration, research and analysis, thoughtful discussion, solid recommendations, and informed decisions. A deliberative decision-making process through shared governance needs to be balanced with speed and flexibility in meeting the needs of our community. The real strength of a strong shared governance system is that it will help generate better made and better understood decisions and changes at the College. Given this time of significant change in so many different arenas, I am convinced this will help us apply the insight of comedian Stephen Wright who said, “the early bird may get the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.” If you have any thoughts on this blog, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.