Andrea Horbinski 2015 Q&A: General Management

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

In managing people I strive to provide a supportive oversight structure that enables them to work independently but also allows them to seek help and/or support as needed. In terms of communication style, my goal is to interact with people in a professional manner that takes into account the fact that the OTW’s primarily-digital methods of interaction by definition have a very narrow bandwidth compared to face-to-face interaction. In the MBTI rubric, I’m just about the most INTJ to ever INTJ (or if you prefer, in the terminology of Laurie J. Marks’ elemental logic series, I’m exactly half air logic and half fire logic; or in terms of Hogwarts Houses, half Gryffindor and half Ravenclaw, and I choose Gryffindor), and I excel at thinking strategically and logistically, in terms of systems but also in terms of ideas and principles.

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?

Position descriptions are part of the tasks for the Board that are identified in the strategic plan, and documenting the Board’s responsibilities and purview is also an important part of clarifying the Board’s role with respect to the organization. Carrying out this part of our work under the strategic plan will definitely help OTW personnel better understand what the Board of Directors does and why we operate the way we do, and it’s just one of the similar tasks laid out for us in the strategic plan that will, by the end of its implementation, put the OTW and the Board in a much stronger position in terms of internal structures. That said, in the meantime and in general, those curious about the duties of this or any Board should emphatically look to organizations like the National Council of Non-Profits, which maintains some very good resources on these topics.

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 have to disagree with the notion that the Board micromanages anything. From my perspective as a member of the Board for the past three years, it’s only too clear that our workload is too much for us to do any kind of day-to-day management: we’re constantly sprinting to accomplish the things that we absolutely have to do (a mixture of management and governance, with both being shortchanged in favor of the other as required by events), while strategic issues get deferred or outsourced (to wonderful committees like Strategic Planning and Development & Membership, to be sure) and committees have mostly been left to work independently–with many wonderful results, but also with some definite problems that have required the Board to intervene directly at times. As it exists now, the Board is primarily reactive rather than proactive, and the slow pace of our work is definitely holding the organization back. That said, the answer to the fact that the Board’s workload is too much is not more directors (since we work collaboratively, adding more people would make the Board’s work more inefficient, not less); instead, we need to focus on identifying the best way to divest the responsibility for management of day-to-day operations onto a designated individual, most likely an executive director, which will allow the Board to focus on its primary responsibility of governance and alleviate some of the concerns about directors lacking management experience.

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?

The Strategic Planning committee, past and present, has done an amazing job in terms of starting from zero in between an extremely hostile Board and organization and producing a strategic plan that fits the OTW and that will actually address the glaring internal issues that the strategic planning process identified. Three years to create a plan emphatically was a long time, but it was more than worth it in terms of the quality of the plan produced. Moreover, a three-year timespan for the plan itself is a good balance between the complexity of the goals, the need for realistic deadlines that build on each other in terms of impact and achievement, and the fact that the OTW exists in a fairly fast-paced sphere (fandom) in which a three-year timespan is about the upper limit at which future predictions are both reliable and worthwhile. I have the utmost confidence that the Strategic Planning committee will be able to produce the next strategic plan in a more compressed timeframe, given that they’ve learned as they’ve gone along through this one, and that the next strategic plan will put the OTW in an even stronger position once it has been reviewed, approved, and implemented.