Senior management options LO28511

From: Malcolm Burson (
Date: 05/15/02

Replying to LO28481 --

On Monday, May 13,, Bob Williams wrote,

> A colleague for a non-profit has just asked for some advice that members
> of this list may be able to contribute.
> The "boss" of this not-for-profit is soon to retire and all four of the
> next level of managers intend to apply for his job. It is a pretty
> collaboratively run organisation, so this spins a potential series of
> actions and consequences, which my colleague (who is one of the four)
> would like to know how to promote and handle.
> 1. One of the four gets the job. How do you set the agenda for
> discussions between the four about the consequences of this ? What is a
> good way of reallocating responsibilities that allow the collaborative
> spirit to survive ?
> 2. The four enter into a participative design process that allows the
> organisation to be run by the team of four. How do you inject this idea
> constructively into an organisation, and what collaborative design
> processes work well in this setting. The four are sensitive to the need
> for one person to be answerable to the parent organization, so a simple
> solution such as having a "Gang of 4" would likely not work and might be
> seen from the "outside" as unrealistic, etc.
> Incidentally, the idea of a "rotating" boss is not a realistic option.

Bob, what a wonderful question! I'll look forward to the answers of many
others. It seems to me that this organization has a powerful opportunity
here to learn about itself, and discover approaches to leadership that
have never occured to anyone before.

One approach among others would be to take an "appreciative inquiry"
approach to the situation. One might begin by arranging a series of
mutual dyadic interviews among those responsible for managing the
organization, as well as its volunteer participants, service recipients,
and other stakeholders, focusing on the question, "when our organization
is at its most spectacularly effective (as defined by the one answering
the question), what's going on? what is leadership like in those moments?
what systems and structures are supporting that energy?" etc.

Then ask, "based on what we've just discovered, what should our
organization look like in the future, if we want to have more of these
things?" Then and only then, ask, "what sort of formal leadership will
best help us move toward that desired future?" IMHO, this might allow the
organization to direct its energies toward the best it may become, and
then identify what manner of leadership will serve that end, and only THEN
explore who might best serve that purpose.

If you're not familiar with the Appreciative Inquiry approach, I would (as
a humble practitioner who is still learning) urge you to explore it
further for this application.

What do others think?

Malcolm C. Burson
Director of Special Projects
Maine Department of Environmental Protection


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