Sunday, September 30, 2007

Relearning Old Lessons

I've just left the board of REACH after four years. REACH is a community health centre that's been providing team-based health care to people in East Vancouver for over 35 years. As you might expect from an organization formed in the early seventies, it has a lot of notions of democratic decision making in the workplace.

I don't think you have to be a seventies-era alternative health care provider to share management challenges with REACH. Lots of workplaces these days think they've "empowered" their employees, or spend a lot of effort trying to build consensus around new initiatives.

Over the last few months I've had cause to drag up my old, battered photocopy of an essay that someone gave me way back in my political days in Saskatoon: The Tyranny of Structurelessness by Joreen. It has so much to say about social organizations and power relationships. It's well worth reading if you're a health care administrator, or any kind of manager for that matter. What it has to say is right on, even if the language is a bit dated. (I'd forgotten that "rap group" used to mean something quite different from Snoop Dogg.)

One person to whom I sent the link recently said, "I'm only on page three, and my head is nodding in agreement so much my neck hurts."

As a humorous aside, I was complaining about how hard it was to e-mail the scanned version that I had meticulously made when Angela pointed out that if you Google the title you get over 8,000 hits. And on the interesting side, as I was poking around Jo Freeman's ("Joreen's") site, I discovered an amazing article she wrote about the poor white southerners who fought for the North in the U.S. Civil War.