Archive for the ‘Governance: Who’s Really in Charge?’ Category

 

The Bookends of the Collaboration Continuum: Independence and Integration

Posted on: July 26th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

Cross-posted to eJewishPhilanthropy

 

by Rabbi Hayim Herring and Debra Brosan

 

Synagogues and Jewish organizations always have choices about their destiny – to be proactive or reactive, to be strategic or let environmental factors take over. This applies equally to the collaboration continuum, the range of options that congregations have to remain vibrant by creating partners with other synagogues or organizations, or even ultimately merging or being absorbed into another congregation.

 

In our last post, we identified some emotional factors that inhibit collaborations that seem logical but never materialize. In this post, we want to define more specifically the options that congregations have along this continuum, so that leaders can recognize that they have options for remaining vital and impactful.

 

First, a synagogue must explore its risk level associated with independence and integration, the collaboration continuum’s bookends. Most collaborations fall within an organization’s administrative, operational and programmatic function, as well as the possibility of sharing space.

 

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Incomprehensible: My Reaction to Cyd Weissman’s Blog Post

Posted on: March 11th, 2013 by Hayim Herring

I read a blog post by a friend and very talented colleague of mine, Cyd Weissman, titled, “Surprisingly East to Quit My Synagogue” with disbelief. Perhaps I could have understood the response of her clergy if it was 2000 and not 2013. But while I try to be respectful of my fellow klei kodesh (clergy), their response to Cyd’s request is incomprehensible to me. And I say this as a former congregational rabbi who, already in the mid-1980s, was working in congregation that already had multiple happenings on Shabbat morning.

I’m only going to list three reasons why I find their response so baffling:

I hope that the leadership of the congregation will reconsider its stance.  I am sure that their efforts where well intentioned, but their logic is flawed.

When Dumb Things Happen to Smart People

Posted on: October 26th, 2011 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Oops Sign

Did you ever finish a board or committee meeting that left you asking, “How could such a smart group of people make such a dumb group decision?” Pastor Landon Whitsitt explores this question in his book, Open Source Church. Drawing on the work of author James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, Whitsitt writes about diversity as one of the essential conditions needed for smart group decision-making at the church board and committee level. The same applies equally to synagogues. Yet despite sincere intentions, our committees and boards are often far too homogeneous to meet that condition.

True, organizations increasingly try to consider criteria including gender, ethnicity, income, sexual orientation and age when creating committees or adding board members. But if you really want to think about the range of criteria for diversity, look at the diagram that opens by clicking on this link.

What’s the benefit to boards of increasing their diversity? A more diverse board or committee has a greater chance at making better decisions because decisions take into account multiple and even sometimes contradictory perspectives. Diversity generates more creativity in problem solving. And, it can prevent organizations from being blindsided by an issue.

So the next time you find yourself asking the question, “How could such a smart group of people make such a dumb group decision?” look at the composition of the group. In all likelihood, the individuals in the group are already bright, accomplished and caring people. But by increasing the group’s diversity, you will find yourself smiling and saying, “Such a smart group of people and such a wise decision!”

B’shalom,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Collaboration: Myths and Realities

Posted on: March 31st, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
In a recent article in Commentary Magazine, Dr. Jack Wertheimer noted, “Five years ago, during the economic boom, I conducted a series of interviews with some 40 knowledgeable observers of Jewish communal life. The more astute argued that it was only a matter of time before much of the Jewish organizational infrastructure collapsed under its own weight.”
Economics is finally driving a consolidation of organizations and services that was overdue. Now, funders and planners often gravitate toward two words in these times, collaboration and merger. Both have to happen, but when does collaboration make sense?
In this post, I want to define the term “collaboration” and explain when it is and is not a useful strategy. Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. For example, a synagogue and a Jewish Community Center might collaborate in offering adult Jewish learning or teen educational programs. The purpose of collaboration is to improve the quality, frequency or accessibility of these programs–to provide a better experience for the constituent in some way.
Collaborations can do so because they increase available resources. That happens when the stakeholders in the collaboration have a commitment to mutually beneficial relationships and clearly-defined goals and a jointly-developed structure with shared responsibility, authority and accountability for successful outcomes. Collaborations are limited in scope, dealing with defined populations or issues. Regardless of how clearly-defined they are, if participating stakeholders do not develop trust, they are likely not to work well or last long.
I’ve learned that donors and staff often understood understand collaboration differently from one another. A donor may really be thinking “merger” when he or she uses the word collaboration, and a staff person may believe that one stakeholder is more “equal” than another in a collaboration. Also, donors may think that collaborations offer greater efficiencies and cost-savings, but that is not usually so, at least at the beginning. As any staff person with experience in collaboration can attest, they often take more time and don’t yield significant cost savings initially, or at all.
Collaborations can be beneficial when thinking about how existing and potential constituents can enjoy greater variety, convenience, accessibility and quality. They can also help strengthen community bonds by enabling friendships among individuals who normally don’t have a chance to meet one another. And, they can spur creativity by bringing together stakeholders with complementary experiences. When these opportunities for collaboration exist, then you know that you have fertile territory to pursue them.
I’ll look at some other organizational strategies for these new economic times. In the meantime, what has your experience been with collaborations? What benefits have you experienced and what challenges have you faced?
Thanks,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

In a recent article in Commentary Magazine, Dr. Jack Wertheimer noted, “Five years ago, during the economic boom, I conducted a series of interviews with some 40 knowledgeable observers of Jewish communal life. The more astute argued that it was only a matter of time before much of the Jewish organizational infrastructure collapsed under its own weight.”

Economics is finally driving a consolidation of organizations and services that was overdue. Now, funders and planners often gravitate toward two words in these times, collaboration and merger. Both have to happen, but when does collaboration make sense?

In this post, I want to define the term “collaboration” and explain when it is and is not a useful strategy. Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. For example, a synagogue and a Jewish Community Center might collaborate in offering adult Jewish learning or teen educational programs. The purpose of collaboration is to improve the quality, frequency or accessibility of these programs–to provide a better experience for the constituent in some way.

Collaborations can do so because they increase available resources. That happens when the stakeholders in the collaboration have a commitment to mutually beneficial relationships and clearly-defined goals and a jointly-developed structure with shared responsibility, authority and accountability for successful outcomes. Collaborations are limited in scope, dealing with defined populations or issues. Regardless of how clearly-defined they are, if participating stakeholders do not develop trust, they are likely not to work well or last long.

I’ve learned that donors and staff often understand collaboration differently from one another. A donor may really be thinking “merger” when he or she uses the word collaboration, and a staff person may believe that one stakeholder is more “equal” than another in a collaboration. Also, donors may think that collaborations offer greater efficiencies and cost-savings, but that is not usually so, at least at the beginning. As any staff person with experience in collaboration can attest, they often take more time and don’t yield significant cost savings initially, or at all.

Collaborations can be beneficial when thinking about how existing and potential constituents can enjoy greater variety, convenience, accessibility and quality. They can also help strengthen community bonds by enabling friendships among individuals who normally don’t have a chance to meet one another. And, they can spur creativity by bringing together stakeholders with complementary experiences. When these opportunities for collaboration exist, then you know that you have fertile territory to pursue them.

I’ll look at some other organizational strategies for these new economic times. In the meantime, what has your experience been with collaborations? What benefits have you experienced and what challenges have you faced?

Thanks,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Making Better Use of Jewish Real Estate: Inspired by the Past

Posted on: March 25th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
I’m in Jerusalem at the moment and, while doing some touring in the Old City, I visited the site of the 4 Sefardic synagogues (see the bottom of the map). In this relatively small space, there are 4 ancient synagogues in one structure. Several of them are still functional, too. As I wasn’t there during prayer services, I can’t tell you how much interaction each of the different communities have with one another. But this ancient space inspired me to think about how we might use Jewish physical spaces more creatively, especially in these tight economic times.
The conventional wisdom is that the Jewish community has more real estate than it needs. In some geographical regions, especially in areas which have declining or mobile Jewish populations, the conventional wisdom is probably correct. Buildings are costly to maintain and are a drag on synagogue and organizational budgets. Despite this reality, people often feel strong attachments to physical space, because they are bound up with memories of the passage of time and milestone events. For others, it’s about flexing their bricks and mortar machismo, as in the “my building is better than your building” attitude. Still, others have difficulty disentangling how you can have a thriving community without a building.
The good news is that like this ancient space of the 4 Sefardic synagogues, I’m hearing more stories of organizations sharing space: synagogues of different denominations moving into one space, multiple organizations sharing one building, and a mix of Jewish and secular organizations sharing space.
The next step, which a few of these organizations are taking, is examining together how to create new possibilities of programming, administration and human and capital resource development. This is a welcome phenomenon and offers non-profits ways to think about financial savings and better service at the same time.
In the next week, I’ll be writing about the issue of collaborations, mergers and other strategies for achieving these goals. (If you want to read about this topic now, you can go to a story covered in eJewishphilanthropy.) So here’s a question that I can use your help with: what examples of creatively sharing space do you know of? Where in your community do you see potential for doing so?
Thanks for growing this area of knowledge and to my Jewish readers, I wish you a meaningful Passover holiday (chag sameach).
Rabbi Hayim Herring

I’m in Jerusalem at the moment and, while doing some touring in the Old City, I visited the site of the 4 Sefardic synagogues (see the bottom of the map). In this relatively small space, there are 4 ancient synagogues in one structure. Several of them are still functional, too. As I wasn’t there during prayer services, I can’t tell you how much interaction each of the different communities have with one another. But this ancient space inspired me to think about how we might use Jewish physical spaces more creatively, especially in these tight economic times.

The conventional wisdom is that the Jewish community has more real estate than it needs. In some geographical regions, especially in areas which have declining or mobile Jewish populations, the conventional wisdom is probably correct. Buildings are costly to maintain and are a drag on synagogue and organizational budgets. Despite this reality, people often feel strong attachments to physical space, because they are bound up with memories of the passage of time and milestone events. For others, it’s about flexing their bricks and mortar machismo, as in the “my building is better than your building” attitude. Still, others have difficulty disentangling how you can have a thriving community without a building.

The good news is that like this ancient space of the 4 Sefardic synagogues, I’m hearing more stories of organizations sharing space: synagogues of different denominations moving into one space, multiple organizations sharing one building, and a mix of Jewish and secular organizations sharing space.

The next step, which a few of these organizations are taking, is examining together how to create new possibilities of programming, administration and human and capital resource development. This is a welcome phenomenon and offers nonprofits ways to think about financial savings and better service at the same time.

In the next week, I’ll be writing about the issue of collaborations, mergers and other strategies for achieving these goals. (If you want to read about this topic now, you can go to a story covered in eJewishphilanthropy.com.) So here’s a question that I can use your help with: what examples of creatively sharing space do you know of? Where in your community do you see potential for doing so?

Thanks for growing this area of knowledge and to my Jewish readers, I wish you a meaningful Passover holiday (chag sameach).

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Boards Gone Wild or Why Organizational Values Matter!

Posted on: February 22nd, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Mission, vision, values….sometimes this last item—values—is omitted from an organization’s foundational documents. Speaking directly, this is a mistake. I say this definitively because I’ve attended too many meetings in synagogues and other Jewish organizations that desperately needed some guidance in Jewish values.

Of course, I’ve also worked with many committees and boards marked by thoughtfulness, caring, dedication to the work, sensitivity and decency. I don’t want to minimize these experiences, which draw in many others to become volunteers for Jewish organizations. But I’ve also lost count of the number of times of people who were great volunteers left a synagogue because it actually threatened their positive, spiritual feelings.

Sad to say, I’ve heard or seen demeaning speech, hypocrisy, selfish behavior, verbally bullying, shouting and I am appalled to admit—an out-of-control individual hurl an object at another person (more than once). In beginning my consultancy practice, I’ve even been warned by caring colleagues to make sure to develop some portion of my clientele outside of the Jewish community because they find it too emotionally difficult to work exclusively within the Jewish community.

That’s why I advocate for groups creating a values statement. A values statement is a list of ideals to which anyone involved in an organization agrees to commit. It is a purposeful declaration of how people in the organization will treat one another and represent themselves to the broader public in carrying out their work. What are some of the typical statements that appear on those organizations which have a statement of values?

While non-sectarian organizations will likely exclude the first value, they still capture its major implications in the second.

As with mission and vision statements, so go values statements: if they aren’t regularly referenced, they won’t influence the culture of the organization. But when they are, and when people are held accountable for their behavior when a value is modeled or violated, others will learn that values aren’t mere organizational window dressing.

Does your organization have a values statement? Would you please share it with us on this blog or send us a link to an electronic copy? What is your experience with values statements—have they helped to maintain civility in the way that your church, synagogue or organization operates?

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Want to Avoid Organizational Nightmares? Have a Clear Vision!

Posted on: February 10th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

As I noted in the last post, defining mission precedes developing vision. The mission is like the acorn and the vision is the tree. Or to take an example closer to home, the “mission” of the Jewish people is “to be holy” (am kadosh) and our “vision” of what that looks like includes living in the Messianic era: an age characterized by complete justice, peace, compassion, dignity and equality for all human life, respect for animal life and the environment and, more specifically, the Jewish people living peacefully in its historic homeland.

A congregational vision should answer the questions:

By being disciplined about mission, while some of the more lofty aspirations of the vision may be far off, more immediate parts of it become achievable. Why? Because your mission keeps pointing you to that desire future and keeps you from having organizational A.D.D., chasing the newest idea instead of keeping a steady hand on the helm. When your mission is tight, it will guide the creation of a beautifully crafted vision, and together they will remain an ongoing source of energy to complete the work that your congregation or organization has been called to do.

Having a compelling congregational vision motivates people to become involved and act because it gives them a positive alternative future toward which they can work. You were very helpful in sharing your experiences around congregational mission. Now-please share your experiences with congregational vision.

Thanks, Rabbi Herring

image from Flickr NCBrian

Mission: Impossible or Possible?

Posted on: February 5th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

It’s legitimate to ask the question, “Why does a congregation need to define its mission?” After all, shouldn’t a congregation’s mission be “to live the word of Torah/Scripture in the world?” On a basic level, that’s true.  But if the mission of the congregation is so amorphous, it will resemble an amoeba trying to move in different directions at the same time.

I like the definition that Rabbi David Teutsch uses in his book, Making a Difference.  A Guide to Jewish Leadership and Not-for-Profit Management.  He writes, “…a strong organization articulates both articulates a picture of the world it is attempting to create and its own particular role in creating it (p.81). Any mission answers the question, why do you exist as an organization?  You can also think of a mission statement as a tombstone.  If your congregation was to leave this world, what epitaph would people write about it?

The skepticism about the need for a clear mission may be related to bad experiences in trying to craft one.  Or, it may reflect the reality that once the work of defining the congregation’s mission is complete, no one really seems to use it.  However, defining and periodically refining your mission can be incredibly powerful for your congregation.

How many times has someone approached congregational leaders with a “good idea,” and was even willing to back it with resources?  If you don’t have a clearly defined mission, you may be tempted to agree to it because of the allure of funding. But that’s a scenario which you will wind up regretting.  Why? Because no major organizational decision should be taken unless it is aligned with your organization’s mission. One of the essential tasks of senior professional and volunteer leaders is to exist in a way that is always faithful to its mission.  With that kind of consistency, your mission will become a driving force for maximizing the impact that you are congregation will have in the world.

Here are some examples of mission statements that can really serve as clear guides to organizational purpose:

What has your experience been with congregational mission statements? Also—I’d love you to submit what you think is an exemplary organizational mission statement. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Rabbi Hayim Herring, President, Herring Consulting Network

hayim@herringconsultingnetwork.com

photo from flickr.com, smallritual

Who Is Your Governator?

Posted on: January 28th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Congregational governance-what do you think of when you hear this phrase? Does the image of endless committee meetings come to mind? What about board meetings that result in squabbling? Is it clear when staff should take the lead on an issue and volunteers should? You want a true partnership between volunteers and staff, but the goal of sharing governance responsibilities seems elusive.

I’ll be writing about the issue of governance for the next several weeks, so I’ll begin with a general definition. Governance is the term that encompasses how staff members and volunteers conduct the work of the congregation with one another, with the congregation and with the broader community in a way that fulfills their legal, ethical and spiritual responsibilities.

Some congregational leaders-both professional and lay-characterize governance as the “business” side of the organization. They have an explicit or implicit understanding that staff members should steer clear of governance issues. That is a guaranteed recipe for dysfunction. The other side of the coin is when clergy members arrogate too much power for themselves, with the leadership’s tacit agreement, and undermine the governance structures in the congregation. That scenario usually ends in destruction. So if you have one person who is perceived to be the congregational “governator,” you have a problem!

High-achieving, dynamic, healthy congregations emerge from a partnership between staff and lay leaders in how they govern the congregation. And the congregational board is at the heart of that relationship. Based on my observations and experience, I will even go one step further: vital institutions are always characterized by effective board leadership, and organizations with weak board leadership will muddle through at best. My impression is that most congregational boards are just adequate. That is not to say that talented individuals don’t serve on synagogue boards-they definitely do! But, as a board, the sum of parts is less than the whole and over time, the mediocre quality of boards drives out the excellence that a board is capable of achieving.

 So take a look at your own community and assess which organizations or congregations seem to be doing relatively well. What do you know about their board leadership? How do staff and volunteers work together? Is governance transparent or is there a perception that only a few privileged individuals are involved in decision-making?

 I also want to invite you to ask your own questions about governance-what will help you raise the level of congregational governance? There’s much riding on these issues, especially in this turbulent time for organizations.

Thanks,

Rabbi Hayim Herring