The Dynamics of Bead Societies
The following is based on an article (see below) on non-profit and volunteer organizations.
In principle, bead societies should be managed the same way as a business, but it doesn't work that way. Management theorist Peter Drucker explains that volunteer organizations don't pay much attention to management because they don't have a "bottom line."
At the same time, they are more money conscious than a business because they always have less than they need. Their focus is on their mission rather than a financial return and they miss some of the fine points of management theory.
As bead societies grow, the perceptions of the members, including the president, often do not evolve. Leaders can be so committed that they don't want to let go. This can result in a cycle of five stages: Creation, Conflict, Crises, Conciliation, and Trust.
The behavior of bead societies is typically tribal. There is usually a "tribal chief," an informal leader recognized as an authority. They often disrupt things by not understanding their position and undermining the president. Any president who does not brief the tribal chief of major changes and keep her/him happy is going against the power base of the society.
There is also a "tribal witch doctor," the ceremonial leader and keeper of traditions. This person frequently takes a human view of conflicts and the president can use him/her to defuse conflict and depoliticize debate.
There are "opinion makers," recognized by the tribe as specialists. The president must also acknowledge them and allow them to air their ideas.
Finally, there is an "elder statesman," honored for past contributions and sometimes a confidant of the president. This person's role can be to explain the traditions, personality conflicts and other events in the history of the society.
The key person in a society is the president. The selection of the president must conform to the tribal leader's conception of the president's role. The balance between the president and the board is crucial, even more so in bead societies than in business. Because of their commitment, board members are often in conflict with the president. They see the president as "usurping" power, while the president sees them as "meddling."
One suggestion is, "Over the door of every non-profit board [room] should be placed a sign clearly stating that board membership is not power, it is responsibility." Board members can often be contentions, fighting for their own agenda, looking for glory or just enjoying hearing themselves speak.
Despite the potential pitfalls, bead societies have an important role to play, not only in the "bead world," but also in the lives of their members. Busy employees and employers often volunteer for service of various kinds because they feel their work is not challenging enough. The enthusiasm as well as the expertise people that bring to bead societies cannot be matched by an ordinary business enterprise.
This material comes from "Non-Profit Organisations Take on New Discipline" by David James in Business Review Weekly 24 April 1992:85-7, an Australian journal. I thank Keltah Narbutovskih and Helen Reynolds for passing it on to me.
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