Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Alternative Views on the Radical Transformation of an Integral Salon

Joe Perez, one of my integral blogging heroes, and someone I consider to be a good friend even though I don't get to see him enough, has offered some feedback on my post about The Radical Transformation of Integral Salons Into First Tier (read it, and the other comments, here). My post was an effort at a conversation no one else has started, offered an alternative proposal to until now, or even acknowledged that there was a need for such a conversation.

There are, as has been pointed out in more than one comment on that blog, different approaches and paths on this journey, and as former I-I CEO Steve Frazee pointed out in his comment to that blog, leaders get things done. My approach is the approach that I'm most familiar with because that's where my experience lies, just as Joe, and a couple others, have pointed their own familiarity with other approaches.

If anyone thinks my approach won't work, or that there's a better way to do it, I'm happy to have a conversation around that. However, if people are just pointing out that there's more than one way to do this, well, duh.

Leadership is determined by who shows up. I love who showed up in Joe's model of a non-profit without dues. I also love who is showing up at seattlIntegral, including myself, and rather than putting out 10 different approaches and asking, "well, what do you guys want to do," I'm picking my favored approach and asking who's following?

We can always have more conversations, as in the questions Joe asked about SI's purpose and who we are: "Does SI intend to be a primary spiritual community or religious organization? Or does SI aspire to be an adjunct orgnization to complement the more formal commitments members are making elsewhere?"

Are those the only options? I would submit SI is already a "spiritual organization," at least for me and many other members who express and embody that sensitivity and awareness. I would also argue that even if people don't acknowledge spirit, or are aware of spirit, that spirit still pervades our very being. One of the things we learned about SeattleIntegral very early, is that different people come for different reasons: Some for community, some for knowledge, some to be challenged or to challenge, some to practice, and even some to argue. Si is a lot of things to a lot of people.

No one who has offered an alternative view has said why they don't like the membership model, how it's inadequate, or that it's wrong, only that they prefer another approach. Great! Then lead. Take up your banner, make your case, and show up....or, stand on the sidelines, offer alternative ways to do things, and go back to doing what you do, which is perfectly fine, and I have no problem with that.

In the meantime, I'm reminded of the old saying, "lead, follow, or get out of the way." I'm asking you to help SeattleIntegral to accomplish this, not make it harder.

One of the reasons I've pushed so hard for a leadership group (which we now have) and solid structure is so that the organization, SI, can stand on it's own, and I can take my leadership and vision to other projects and directions I want to concentrate on. I care a lot less about how we mature, than that we mature. As a leader, I've been blessed with a remarkable group of people who show up. Without them, I'd be leading somewhere else.

....and everyone...thanks for paying attention.


Joe Perez said...


Just to make it perfectly clear: I trust YOU and YOUR LEADERSHIP. But I'm still striving to UNDERSTAND your vision and to OVERCOME my RESISTANCE to a vision that is rather COMPLEX and whose details involve multi-tiered FEE structures. My efforts at understanding will, have I hope, advanced the conversation of the organization rather than be distractions. Questions can help us to focus our energy towards a common goal by clarifying our intention and plans.

So granted that there are alternative approaches not all of which can or should be discussed and that your vision is a commendable as "an effort at a conversation no one else has started", I still have some modest concerns. You may choose to answer/respond to the concerns or not; others are welcome to chime in as well, of course. Notice that I'm getting into details here because as I said before the overall shape of your proposal--formalizing membership and building necessary structure--is a fine one and one that I fully support. Focusing on two sets of details...

1. Is it really necessary to both have a core leadership team AND a board of directors? There's a lot of work involved in building any leadership team and running TWO PARALLEL groups of leaders, one assigned a seemingly perfunctorily administrative role and the other gifted with the task of being Vsionaries seems like it's a structure with some difficulties ahead for it. It might work. But consider whether a simpler structure might be more effective.

2. I have the same concern with the fee structure being too COMPLEX. But this may be an aesthetic thing, and others probably would make other choices. If you choose to go with this approach, I'll definitely sign up. But consider opportunties for simplifying the structure, because once the structure is in place there will be lots of momentum to keep it in place. Does every detail in the fee structure have a necessary component for what SI's needs are today? I'm not sure that's so. Many organizations simply have a one-tier structure and they ask for donations from those who are able to contribute more. Their approaches are easy to communicate--say, pay $50 a year and you're in--and look very egalitarian. All I'm asking is that if you choose a more complex approach, do so having carefully considered whether each detail of complexity is really needed, and if your choices aren't obvious, then perhaps explain some of your thinking in an email to the SI list.

You may disregard these concerns, but please keep in mind that in my book your LEADERSHIP is secure and powerful, and you are WORKING to create a VISION that is acceptable. But it takes WORK to persuade that the vision is the best way to go.

all the best,


Joe Perez said...

P.S.: Also I can see difficulties ahead for the suggestion that leaders be given an exemption or discount on the fees. Instead of being perceived as a flattening of hierarchy as you suggest, it might be viewed more cynically. Rather than go into the details here, let me just express my willingness to discuss the matter further in person. See you at SI functions soon, I hope...


Gary Stamper said...

Thanks, Joe. This is exactly the kind of thoughtful feedback that I'd hoped to provoke, and you never fail to step up. These are all great points and I promise consideration and attention as time permits. It's ironic/funny, because while you stress that my leadership is secure, one of the goals is for me to step OUT of the leadership of SI at a future date when it's no longer necessary, and we are getting closer and closer to that all the time.

Tom Mull said...

Hey Joe: A one tiered member structure works for me (I like the symetry of simplicity. A simple yearly membership dues and the voting rights that entails. Those that don't want to pay can be observers and participants but have no voting rights (no pay no say). A board and a core group does seem to be unnesessary. The core group is what we have now for our very nebulous organization. Should we formalize and have a board elected by the dues paying members then the core group could disband. =)

Gary Stamper said...

I understand everyone's concerns about the complexity of a three-tiered membership, but my reasoning revolves around how much is someone willing to pay for supporting an organization like SeattleIntegral?

If we only set one price, where's the balance between what's too much and what's too little? With a three-tiered system, besides a free option, membership can be as little as (fill in the blank) or as much as (fill in the blank). Under a one-price fits all model, if we ask too little, we leave support dollars on the table, and if we ask too much, we won't get the support.

I'm thinking if we don't ask for it, we won't get it.

Please shoot holes in this! :)