Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: General Management

How would you describe your management style? Your communication style?

To start, I can say that I am INFP on Myers Briggs. I am often more intuitive than thinking and base many of my decision on feelings. I can get stressed out sometimes but generally internalize as opposed to lashing out. I am also sarcastic sometimes, but it’s part of my charm. I am generally a very calm and nice person, and it takes a lot for someone to get a rise out of me.

I am very easy going when it comes to management. I get along with mostly everyone, and I have friends on many sides of org issues. As a chair of DevMem, I like to run my committee in the classical ‘first among equals’ kind of way. I feel that this encourages dialog and free exchange of ideas, which is important in this setting. As a chair, there is the occasional idea that needs to be vetoed, but I will always explain my reasoning. I do not force my will on the committee, and if staffers have valid points with differing opinions, I always listen. DevMem mostly moves forward by consensus. This will not always be possible on board, and I am able to make hard decisions when the need arises.

You all described your thoughts on “the key responsibilities of a/the Board” in your manifestos. However, with the exception of the bylaws, which are legally rather than functionally focused, there isn’t a clear publicly available list of the duties and responsibilities of the board. Would you be interested in changing that?

Sure. I think it would be a good idea for everyone to see what a board members should be doing, and what they are or could be doing better. It would be a good thing for all board members to be able to look to as well, to better guide their hands.

There has been a lot of mention of Board micromanagement and workload. What are two things that you would like to see immediately shifted off of the Board agendas to both decrease micromanagement of the organization and free up Board time for focusing on more strategic issues?

I am very much looking forward to joining the board of directors because I think I can help contribute to the org. While I know what they do generally (and understand what a nonprofit board normally does) I think it’s very hard to really understand the day-to-day mechanics of how Board functions from the outside. I imagine a lot changes every time there is an election as well. Finding out how everyone meshes together and who has what strength, etc.

I am not 100% sure what micromanagement you are referring to in the question I am happy to answer in one of the open chats if you provide more context. I think a real discussion for the next few years is going to be discussing the need for executive staff. This person or people would be able to take over the day to day things like approving staff, drafting correspondence, providing counsel to chairs, and many of the other day-to-day things Board does. This would allow board more time for having a strategic focus on the future.

The OTW has now spent over 3 years developing a 3-year strategic plan. This seems extremely long based on practices in other organizations and raises concerns both about the relevance of such a plan due to organizational shifts and, from the outside, raises questions about the ability to find consensus in the organization. What are your thoughts on how long it has taken to develop the strategic plan, and what steps would you take as a Board member to improve or streamline the process of both finishing up the current plan and setting up the development of the next iteration of the strategic plan?

Strategic planning is a big process. Especially for an org the size of OTW. There are so many moving parts and so many volunteers. (Plus everyone working on SP is also a volunteer!) There are companies out there that charge a lot of money to develop strategic plans, and the fact OTW has been doing it internally is a testament to that committee.

Having reviewed various drafts of the plan, I still feel it is relevant to the organization. I do not think that the time it has taken raises questions about finding consensus in the org.

I think a lot has been learned in the process of making the SP, and much of it has been documented so the next iteration of this project will be completed easier.