the work and the workers

I've been rolling some thoughts around in my head the past few days, trying to come up with a good way to write about them, but it's not coming together neatly. Maybe because it's more a practical issue than a neat theoretical one. I was spurred by recent attempts to get jobs done around here, less-than-successful attempts. A story about the dissolution of the Occupy movement also caught my eye. They never could get organized enough to get anything significant done. And my resistance to joining the new committees being formed here, and the likelihood that they will not be very effective. I mean, ideology aside, things need to get done. So what organization is needed, and how can we work together in ways that are effective but that don't institutionalize us?

My limited experience working on projects around here, and my five years of observation, lead me to believe that the focus needs to be on the work rather than the leader, and on the workers rather than the organizational structure. I've seen the best work when people gather together around an important task, a problem that we all see needs to be fixed. It's practical, and unity and motivation seem to come easier. I've also noticed that decisions made in committee are often left by the wayside when the practical work starts and the real problems can be seen. So I think the best way to get things done is to focus on the work at hand, not looking to some community ideals or to the leader of the group, but to what the work asks of us. The leader shouldn't pick the work, the work should pick the leader. What skills are required for this task? Who is most knowledgeable and most motivated to see it done well? This means the leader probably will keep changing based on the work at hand, which is good, because one person can't always be best qualified to lead, and it's better for each of us to step up when we're the one with the needed knowledge and ability.

And then the worker should always be treated as a person, not a job description. In other words, if we want another person's help, we need to ask for help. Workers are not just cogs in an organizational machine, but free persons who can choose what work they want to give themselves to. So again, the work is the initial focus, then it is presented to people to see if workers will step up to solve the problem. Their response helps gauge the importance of the work, and decides if it will get worked on. Perhaps the only organizational assistance needed is for someone to pass the information around; here's what problems have arisen, and here's the people who have offered to help. Then the workers who have volunteered gather around the work and organize themselves, much easier with a small group and a concrete practical task.

This approach seems natural, and meets most practical needs. I think it could completely replace committees and leadership structures in most small communities. I know that probably won't happen, but it's an approach that can be used wherever things need to get done, or whenever the more complex organizational structures start to break down. Which is a process we've been seeing here for some time. But that may just be making an opening for something much better.