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Notes from the Field

The Transition Narrative |

by Susan Grove

In the conversations that swirl around being worker self-directed, here’s one of the most frequent questions that comes up, explicitly or implied: “Is your work slower?” 

We’ve started looking at our time allocations. On average, we estimate that we collectively invest at least 20 hours per week in governance work. This is the time when we together function as co-Executive Directors. In one way of looking at it, it is half the time our organization would invest in single person working 40 hours per week as a centralized Executive Director. When you realize that to be effective, a centralized Executive Director would also need time to overlap with staff, drawing them into their governance responsibilities, the percentage of time spent by a WSDNP shrinks to less than half. 

Another angle to this question is about the pace of work. Lacking hard data to make a comparison, I would say that it perhaps does feel slower. Not in the sense of being hindered, but in the sense of being deliberate and intentional. In a WSDNP, time in circles is spent practicing workplace democracy. 

As a result of that practice, we individually and collectively feel more fully informed; more ownership of and buy-in to decisions made; more sharing of and support for our work; and less strain and drain from misalignment and disgruntlement. In the face of all these benefits, counting and comparing hours is an inadequate way of assessing whether we are slower. When asked, “Is your work slower?” my response tends to be “maybe” followed by an example of how our work is better. Our WSDNP model is causing me to consider that efficiency measures focused narrowly on time spent may be less relevant than a broader consideration of the efficiency of greater effectiveness. 

“Relationships move at the speed of trust; social change moves at the speed of relationships.” -attributed to Stephen Covey