Cultivation Leadership Transparency

An update after today’s (1/13) Cultivation meeting:

As commonly happens, I got structure/preparation happy last night when I wrote this topic. We spent the majority of our meeting introducing newcomers to the concepts that make up Community Cultivation and having discussion/questions of that theme.

Some of that included the things brought up in this topic, but it was not the main focus of our meeting.

I now view this topic less as a proposal that needs to be passed or rejected, and more as a transparent record/informational topic about how the power of leadership has played out so far in Cultivation.

I do have a great desire to shape this Trunk and tend the growth of it’s goals and it’s participants. I’d love to continue holding responsibility for our collective understanding of our vision, and for the encouragement/support of the people who make up our Branches, Teams, etc. Something I feel deeply that perhaps wasn’t completely communicated by this topic is that I see leadership and management as two types of contribution I can offer to our growing group and thereby support our ability to make progress on Cultivation work.

We will continue to have conversations as a group who strives to work together, and we will continue to shape what the role(s) of leadership and human management mean to us collectively!

So deeply grateful for all of the beautiful minds adding their effort to this Trunk and its vision.



Introduction


When one person rows a boat alone, it doesn’t take much time before they’ve figured out the mechanics of the oars and are able to make progress across the lake. When you have two people rowing the boat the coordination takes a bit longer, but it still doesn’t take terribly long before they’re zipping across the lake together. Having three people gets trickier, and takes longer to do that coordination. Perhaps there’s a division of labor; two people row and one person steers with the rudder.

But by the time you have say, 5 or more rowers in the boat, there’s a coordination issue. It becomes much harder to figure out how to get across the lake together. There needs to be a “caller” (technically called a coxswain) who shouts out the rowing rhythm and steers the direction of the boat. In this situation, those who row are temporarily giving up a portion of their autonomy to the caller, agreeing to row to the beat so that everyone can get across the lake together. This giving of autonomy by the rowers and holding of responsibility by the caller is a temporary agreement between them all as they work towards a common outcome; getting across the lake.

If Cultivation is our boat, we’ve got more rowers than ever before. We’ve gone from a team of one (me), to a team of 3 or 4, to the current expansion of interested newcomers we’re experiencing in the Trunk and the Project as a whole right now. So far, I have done my best to be the “Lead” of the Community Cultivation Trunk. Recently, I’ve been expanding my understanding of what it truly means to be a great manager, which has brought me to a better personal understanding of the differences between management of people, and leadership of vision/strategy.

I propose that I step into both of those roles even more intentionally this year (2021), but first I would like to create a clear definition of what it would mean for me to lead the Community Cultivation work we do, and to receive the consent of those I would be working closely with in the coming 6-12 months.

As we push for better distribution of power as a community, I would like to:

  • Acknowledge the powers of leadership I’ve held through assumption thus far.
  • Create transparency around the kind of power I feel it would be useful for me to wield as the Cultivation Trunk Lead this year.
  • Create opportunity for discussion and consent to the leadership definitions and methods described below.

This will be the main topic of discussion in our Cultivation Meeting tomorrow (1/13/21) and I ask that this is read by and encourage feedback from anyone who would like to be committing consistent time to the work Community Cultivation is doing in the next 6-12 months. So whether you come to the meeting, listen to the recording, and/or read this Discourse topic: please get informed and provide your feedback as we gear up this month (January) for our work this year.


The Proposal of Cultivation Leadership and its Abilities


The items listed below are the major points I was able to identify for leadership of the Community Cultivation Trunk; my suggestions for what power/responsibilities I should have and the ways I would intend to exercise them. This will undoubtedly need to be changed or grown even if it is agreed upon this month, and I will commit to being accountable to those shifts as we get the boat across the lake together.

Decisions

All Major Decisions* will be presented for the group to provide feedback, opinion, and discussion about. LB will commit to making decisions that reflect the Consensus of the Group**. LB will only step in to make a definitive decision when it is clear that (for any reason from disagreement to disinterest) decisions cannot be made by the collective group. LB will only Veto*** consensus of the group if that consensus contradicts or interferes with the mission, values, standards, or strategy of SourceCred as a whole.

The decision of our outcomes/goals for 2021 will be decided by the consensus of the group. (First order after consent to leadership.)

Responsibility

LB will be responsible for making sure that the Cultivation Trunk and Branches have clearly defined Outcomes**** and support the participants in being Accountable***** to those outcomes within the defined time periods. LB will make space for the participants to shape what outcomes are important to the collective group as we strive to improve SourceCred together. LB will ensure that outcomes chosen by the participants support the mission, values, standards, strategy, and needs of the Cultivation Trunk.

Duration

LB will hold these responsibilities and abilities for the duration of 2021. After which this proposal will be reviewed and revised or replaced by a new system of leadership in January 2022.

Standards

Together, the Cultivation participants will decide on the outcomes/goals for our work in 2021 and the most basic standards to which we will hold our work for the sake of accuracy, safety, and relevance to our overall community. LB will ratify/green-light work according to these goals and standards, and block/hold accountable any work that does not meet these standards.

Some Suggested Basic Standards of Cultivation Work:
  • The outcome of your work solves a specific and relevant problem for the community.
  • The work and outcomes don’t contradict or violate our community mission or values or Code of Conduct. (<–note that these have not yet been concretely defined yet.)
  • The work and outcomes are transparent and accessible enough for at least another Cultivation participant to follow, but preferably transparent/accessible even to a lay-person. (The potential exception here may be intimate conflict resolution work, which will still need to be recorded and accessible, but may omit some details to protect those needing conflict resolution.)
  • The work and outcomes are accurate.

Definitions:

*Major Decisions - Decisions that effect the direction/goals/mission/problems/outcomes which the Cultivation Trunk as a whole will need to focus on. Aka Trunk-wide decisions.

**Consensus of the Group - A general agreement/opinion from the Cultivation participants who are consistently present to and understand the work being done in Cultivation.

****Veto - Vetos will only be used to block a decision if it does not support the overall mission/values/strategy/outcomes of Cultivation or SourceCred. Vetoed decisions will require additional input and discussion with participants outside of the immediate group or Cultivation.

*****Outcomes - The declared or actualized results of our work/contributions.

***Accountable - Defining outcomes with clarity and following through on them, or changing the plan when that’s not possible. If an individual cannot (for any reason) follow through on their set outcomes, the leadership will find ways to support around roadblocks, weaknesses, non-talents, etc with the help of human management. If (for any reason) follow-through cannot be achieved even after support; leadership will find other participants to make sure outcomes are delivered, or will redefine the outcomes set.

Conclusion:


This is a proposal to make explicit and consentual many of the assumptions I (and perhaps others) have been making about leadership within the Community Cultivation Trunk as a whole. This will be the topic of tomorrow’s (1/13/21) Community Cultivation Meeting where I hope to explain these thoughts to those most interested in being major participants in our Trunk’s work. We will take a voice recording, and will take Roam notes during the meeting for anyone who cannot be present and link them in this Discourse topic.

If after discussion and questions there is significant pushback to the proposal described above, we will schedule additional conversations to work through the disagreements, feedback, or suggestions until an agreement about Cultivation leadership can be found.

If no one cares at all, we’ll move forward with this proposal for leadership.

If participants of tomorrows meeting need more time to think about this proposal, we will reconvene to discuss and make decisions at the Cultivation Meeting the following week. The expectation would be that participants will read and evaluate this proposal during that intervening time.

If after questions, discussion, and (as needed) modification tomorrow there is consensus/consent from the participants present at the meeting, we will move forward with this agreement softly.

Even after this proposal has been agreed upon, we’ll hold the intention that in January major disputes with this proposal/agreement can be brought up and will be taken into account. After January, we will only make changes to this agreement if it turns out to be ineffective or be causing harm to anyone participating. At which point we will give much priority to addressing those leadership-related issues.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and provide your feedback.

5 Likes

I appreciate the work that was put into this. However, this seems premature, given that trunk governance will probably be heavily influenced by the outcomes of the Governance Jam happening on Friday. I would prefer to wait and let Cultivation governance cascade from that conversation.

2 Likes

Any thoughts on what you’d prefer to use our time on tomorrow?

I could imagine doing a note-n-vote like we did for the core call today.

I could also imagine a cultivation branch version of the “How do we prepare for the Governance Jam” discussion. What might be the cultivation voice uniquely offer there? What might we want to inoculate against / track during that jam specifically?

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@LB This sounds good to me. It seems like what you’ve been doing already, and you’ve been upholding these responsibilities well in my opinion. I’m curious to hear the feelings that led to writing this post. Did you feel there was confusion or lack of clarity around what your responsibilities are? Were you feeling unsure about what responsibilities were yours vs the groups’, and found it difficult to get work done because it wasn’t clearly defined?

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hey folks, my newcomer lens says that if this is already what LB has been doing than it’s more of a statement for the sake of transparency than a statement to be ratified.

just having a quick go at it but… maybe address any feedback/dissent on the current structure and then focus on what @blueridger mentioned, What might the cultivation voice uniquely offer in the governance space.

whatever is unveiled in the governance jam will likely still involve LB’s current status and vision either as it is or an iteration from will depart from it so getting feedback feels reasonable and holding the intent to represent cultivation in the (hopefully the first of many) governance meeting which intends to upend or reorganize also seems reasonable.

the question that comes up for me is how is this system checked? who do i go to when LB isn’t available, crosses my boundaries, or i see something I’m not comfortable telling the directly for any reason? my instinct tells me to go to joie because joie works closely with them, but how do we consider support and accountability partners to our person’s in leadership?

thank you for this opportunity to feel semi-caught up and able to participate - as a newcomer this feels like a positive, informative and generative space

2 Likes

On second thought, since the governance meeting is more like a series of presentations… i guess a “cultivation voice” to me feels like a set of values that cultivation holds as a collective that we can then focus on and search for as we review the governance models that are being presented. if we can be sure of our values then we can be vigilant to make sure the governance we choose upholds those values and lend valuable critique as needed.

I have a good model in mind for how to determine values colletively but may not have the time to set it up for us!! it’s cool and interactive and only requires group access to a google doc though so maybe ??? :sweat_smile:

Ooh! Yeah you should see if @joiecousins is interested in your values-related input! They’re our “Community Care” Branch champion and are holding focus for things related to values, mission, and Code of Conduct.

I think this came about because I realized through my management studies recently; there’s a difference between leading a vision and managing individuals. So I wanted to create clarity for myself about what my management style is, and what responsibilities I should be stepping to in the leadership mode. That brought to me wanting to ratify and gain consent from folks because while this is basically a description of what I already do, the consent was pretty implicit due to the team growing so slowly from a member of one (me).

Love this idea of a mish mash of the two directions for our meeting.

Also, super glad you brought up system checks and alternative support. My first instinct is Joie, but let’s talk about it more and give whomever it ends up being a chance to consent to that.

This seems like a sensible approach. It’s hard to comment I think until after the governance jam? I feel the urge to argue for more bottom-up forms of distributing power. But also I think having each group have the autonomy to choose how to govern themselves could be the best way to go. Who am I to say what is right for cultivation? But will it affect me and other trunks as well?

I do want to challenge the boat metaphor a bit. At least in the more general sense. While it has been a great metaphor for most successful organizations for a long time, I think there’s a good argument that top-down hierarchies are crumbling left and right due to fundamental changes in the information processing architecture. Basically, information gets filtered and distorted as it goes up and down the hierarchy. This has been an acceptable tradeoff when the information environment around the org was relatively slow moving. Indeed, top-down centralized orgs outcompeted decentralized orgs in most contests. But the information revolution has sped things up exponentially, and the environment is changing at warp speed (and speeding up). Startups, armed with advanced agile methodologies can keep up. Some more cutting edge large corporations like Google can keep up, largely by fostering an ecosystems of startups inside itself, given autonomy to innovate (or just acquiring them). However, do we want to be Google? Or, more likely, a lesser tech startup or large corp? I know I don’t, for moral and mental health reasons (I literally can’t do examples of these systems I’ve worked in).

One answer, pushed by many Game B proponents, is decentralized information processing architectures. Which, due to the much greater information sharing between participants, can outcompete centralized entities. Below, a co-founder of Game B presents the boat metaphor, how it works in traditional orgs, and how more decentralized orgs can outcompete them. tldr; Twitter decided our last president, not the Republican or Democratic party; that’s obviously bad, but that power can also be harnessed responsibly for good too. Indeed, we’ve basically created a social graph with money flowing through it…The main challenge in these systems is they require more high bandwidth communication between contributors than typically seen in centralized orgs. Which requires a lot of trust. But between SC scores giving us a good proxy for that (which will be even better when we have better Cred legibility) and the culture of vulnerability we’re building, information bandwidth is already hella high…we could be there already.

Some of these are new, untested models. And maybe not a great fit for all groups, or all scales. Again, don’t want to be telling cultivation branch how it has to organize. Just want us to keep an eye on our stated value of decentralization. Once you add centralization, it’s hard to remove it (people like power and tend to not give it up once they have it, even the nice enlightened ones). Also, I think we have to factor in the fact that we already have an algorithm valuing contributions and determining pay. And doing it so well that other communities are rapidly adopting it. It really is a fundamental breakthrough decentralized management IMO. How do we adopt an existing model, when a large function of that model is made redundant by the algorithm (which does it better already)?

OK, kind of going off topic here. Just wanted to express these thoughts that have been rattling in my head somewhere :sweat:

5 Likes

You’re not off topic. You’re views are fucking keen, your analysis astute, and you may be fucking right. It sounds like you’re sitting plainly in the center of SC and speaking for it in a way (I imagine you’re cross-legged, you have two more heads translucent facing left and right, and all your eyes are closed). Through Seth the algorithm speaks! I think this final questions is an important one to focus on:

Blockquote “How do we adopt an existing model, when a large function of that model is made redundant by the algorithm (which does it better already)?”

I don’t have anything tremendous to add, just holy shit these are some important questions to be returning to.

2 Likes

I really like the focus on information processing, and this has articulated a lot of thoughts I’ve been unable to communicate, so thank you for this.

I’d like to offer a quite abstract perspective that others might find useful when thinking about organizational structure / governance / collective information processing:

Top-down information processing offers a lot of immediate benefits, but it seems akin to a bandaid. It never fixes the underlying question of how to cohere (thanks @s_ben)—to gather many perspectives, make decisions passively through emergence—across a whole. That being said, this is all theoretical and without lived wisdom, experience, or embodiment. When we are in on the ground, we have to make practical decisions, and we need solutions in the meantime. So what’s the balance?

I’d like to offer a rule of thumb or heuristic that others might carry with them (or not), which is:

Implement top-down structure on a need to, existential basis, and not for convenience. If a structure is proposed, the burden of proof that this solution must be put in place in order to survive should be on the advocate of top-down structure.

This is all just mental models that may or may not be useful.

Sometimes we get lost talking about what we’re doing as opposed to how. On a personal level, I find myself reaching for top-down, controlling solutions/structures in my daily life when I don’t know how to approach it from the bottom up—from a place of passive wisdom. In short, there’s a sense of urgency. But they often come back to bite me in the butt because of the fragile nature of control or structure. It’s only from a place of humility and surrendering to the immensity and complexity of the challenges of life that I begin to find more effortless, “emergent strategies” :wink: .

On that note I’d like to offer the following question:

“Whether the desire for top-down structure is practically the right decision or not, from what embodied space am I approaching this? Is this desire for structure coming from a place of urgency or grounded wisdom?”

3 Likes

UGH I LOVE THAT ELI

Here’s some questions I find bubbling up inside of me based on the conversations so far:

  1. What does bottom-up decision making mean and look like? We’ve all had top-down shown to us throughout out lives, and I want to gain a better understanding of its opposite.
  2. How do we keep pushing ourselves to focus on our process of collaboration/decision making without losing our ability to make progress as we go?

Loving this thread and all its replies y’all!

:slight_smile: glad to hear it.

  1. Well first I want to say that—short answer—I don’t really know. That being said, that doesn’t mean we should lose faith in the vision. My sense is that empowering information and decisions to flow from the bottom involves (1) making sure that relations/edges between teams is “good” (I’ll leave a breakdown of that for later) and (2) simply not strangling bottom-up causality from above as much as possible. I think through time and wisdom, we’re naturally coalesce to processes that work (we already have we just take from for granted, and that’s what it should look/feel like—passive). I was going to say I can’t emphasize the first point enough, but I feel the same about both :laughing:

  2. Great, great question. From my experience it’s more about how we’re doing. Whatever we do, whether it’s pushing ourselves to become organizationally magical or whatever will be done how it should be if it comes from the right place or mode of being. Let’s keep pushing forward on upgrading our organizational structure, and do it from a place of trust and faith that the right solutions will emerge bottom-up. It’s tempting to rush to top-down solutions, but there’s value in sitting in the discomfort of not knowing (for the time being). One mental experiment I like to run is “What would I do if X wasn’t an option?”, as that tends to spark the creative juices. Let me know if this isn’t a satisfying answer, as I can totally imagine that.

I’m not sure why but this reminded my of a section from the Tao Te Ching. The idea of lying in the “low, loathsome places” and the metaphor of water is beautiful. Water doesn’t try to climb uphill, yet it still rises while falling (as the body of water as a whole can support itself). I think there’s a similar dynamic with organizational structure. In our case, water doesn’t try to rush uphill to solutions/fixes/structure, yet still somehow rises as a sturdy, effortless, passive, almost unseen (in that it’s the paradigm) form of organization.

1 Like