Friday, January 20, 2006

Fixing UUism: Lay off 1/3 of all national staff.

by Chutney

We simply don't need them. The resulting reorganization would produce more relevant, valuable work---and save local congregations some money too.


Steve Caldwell said...

Chalicechick posted the following rule for qualifying ideas:
"Generalized opinions are not plans. (e.g. 'We should have more diversity' is not a plan. I'm sure Sinkford would love to have more diversity and would gladly snap his fingers and make that happen were that an option. 'We should have more diversity and here's how we should get it...' is the beginning of a plan.) People who write to me suggesting more diversity, a central core to UUism or making the UUA more Christian without a plan for getting there will be diqualified under 'Rule A.'"

I would suggest that "Lay off 1/3 of all national staff" is a vague suggestion without a plan and should be disqualified under CC's "Rule A" quoted above.

The only specific in this proposed so-called "plan" is the numeric target.

The target is being proposed without any study of actual personnel needs at the UUA.

An actual analysis of current UUA staffing might reveal that a 1/3 staff cut would result in:

** too many people are cut and essential services to congregations don't happen, or

** too few people are cut and staffing inefficiencies are still there.

Chalicechick said...

It is a plan, though.

If I vote for something like this, it will be TheCSO's more specific version of a similar idea in "Streamline the UUA," but a numeric target seems a clear enough plan to me.


Steve Caldwell said...

Chutney wrote:
"We simply don't need them."

Are we sure about about the need for a 1/3 cut to current staffing?

Has anyone done a study to see if the UUA staff in Boston and elsewhere is appropriately staffed, overstaffed, or understaffed?

This suggestion and the "Streamline the UUA" suggestion both assume that the UUA is overstaffed. Saying that the UUA is overstaffed is a statement that is potentially provable or disprovable. Opinion is a good starting point if one is doing a pure brainstorming activity, but we should also be empirical in this.

Perhaps we should suggest an evaluation of current UUA staffing with the goal of most efficient delivery of services to UUA member congregations?

We may find that the UUA is appropriately staffed but inefficiently deployed. Or we may find that all we need is a few minor changes. Or we may find that we are overstaffed. I just think it would be nice to know what needs fixing with our staffing with some basis other than opinion.

TheCSO said...

In my "Streamline the UUA" suggestion, I'm not directly talking about staffing levels. Rather, I'm looking at what the UUA does, and saying that it does too much. I think staff cuts are a pretty obvious followup to a refocusing on the UUA's "core business", but that's a separate issue.

I don't really like the idea of a straight percentage staff cut either. However, it can be a powerful impetus for action. If we just say "form a task force to study current staffing levels", there is no way that task force is going to conclude that major cuts are in order. That's just not how bureaucracies work.

Straight percentage cuts in headcount do work. They force bureaucracies to prioritize, and deny those bureaucracies most of their typical tools for self-preservation. It's messy, and sometimes what gets cut isn't what SHOULD have been cut, but sometimes it's the only way to really get at a bureaucracy that's been far too entrenched for far too long.

I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not. But it certainly is a viable one, and not a Rule A violation. The 1/3 figure has nothing to do with reality - it's just a pretty number. Sometimes it takes a pretty number to ram cuts through when ordinarily special interest groups (and we are pretty much THE religion of special interest groups..) can block individual cuts that affect them.

fausto said...

An alternative to chopping an arbitrary amount would be to dissolve the whole darn national organization, and then hold a GA of congregational delegates to decide how much of it to reconstitute, and in what size and form. Presumably that would help solve the problem of congregational apathy! (Pursuant to one of the other suggestions, the GA recommendations would be subject to congregational ratification, of course.)

TheCSO said...

I had been thinking of suggesting something along those lines as well. Fausto's comment will be a separate post shortly..

PeaceBang said...

But one of my beefs has always been about evaluating the 25 Beacon Street and field staff (who are NOT, dammit, "the UUA.") I know there are formal practices in place (district execs, for example, get evaluated by their boards) but what does that have to do with the real way services are provided, or not provided?

Anonymous said...

Have any of you actually been to Boston headquarters? I was only there once for a brief consultation with my publisher at Skinner House Press. But the thing that immediately struck me was how small it was and how few people actually work there. Subtract strictly clerical and support personnel like secretaries, receptionists, bookkeepers, mail clerks, janitors etc., and you will find only a hand full of actual “bureaucrats and functionaries.” I defy anyone to find organizations with similar size, scope, variety of tasks and missions and organizational complexity (our treasured congregational polity is not simpler to manage than denominations in which folks in the pews are direct members) that putter on with a much leaner staff, or for that matter a more cramped, uncomfortable working space.

I am not claiming that re-organization or re-prioritizing total use of staff and time would not be valuable, but across the board slash and burn is ludicrous. It’s just another manifestation of the knee jerk, braying finger pointing at THOSE PEOPLE IN BOSTON that has been integral to our movement since one part-time clerk kept up a list of ministers in fellowship. It’s a rich tradition—I’ve done it myself from time to time—and one which occasionally results in actual reform—but one which is most frequently heard from the I-didn’t-get-my-way-and-I’m-going-to-hold-my-breath-until-I-turn-blue contingent

Anonymous said...

Hooray! Patrick makes a great deal of sense, to me. I've heard plenty of muttering about what "Boston" is "making us do" in my congregation over the last 5 years.

Having served on the board, being currently president of it, and having been co-chair of our search committee... I look around and ask "What the fuck are you talking about?"

Welcoming Congregation? No, WE did that. A group of us formed an ad hoc committee and started it... got the board to sign on (easy)... and took the congregation through it. Some fo the people bitching about Boston are the same maroons who've driven some GLBT (and, for that matter, people of color) away by rushing them when they show up with their over-effusive "we're so glad you're here..." behavior. It's getting better, but... oy.

What else? Building a new building? Boston had zilch to do with that.

Massively revamping the organizational structure? No, that's an objective that the past three presidents (representing 6 years...) have all agreed needed to be done, for good cause. Using a model from 1960 that's grown more and more ponderous because fins and other nifty things have been grafted onto it... has made those trying to run the place crazy.

The search process? Yes, it was somewhat annoying--but we opted to follow the recommendations (nota bene: recommendations), and having come out the far side, successfully, we feel we understand them and approve of them--and would urge others to use them.

"Boston" is a cheap complaint that's easy to get away with. It's what those who are objecting to congregational changes of any sort use. Because... of COURSE... we object to outside control. So appealing to it is like having some politician rail against waste in D.C. It's hugging momandapplepie... and saying that because of it, we ought to go to war in Iraq.

Identify some specific problems, and let's try to fix them. "The UUA" and "Boston" aren't.