Alex Tischer 2015 Q&A: General Management

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

My management style is best described as deliberately hands-off to compensate for a natural inclination to micromanage — something that I know very well never works out (and will result in nurses hating my guts if I let it go unchecked).

My communication style tends to be matter-of-fact and dry. Which is a fancy way of saying pretty boring, I guess. But it gets the message across, so I’m ok with that. I work in emergency veterinary medicine, which often means having to communicate efficiently in situations where emotions run high. It’s important to be able to keep the facts straight no matter what the atmosphere, and to listen carefully to what is and isn’t being said.

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?

I would indeed be interested in changing that. There isn’t any internally available list of the duties and responsibilities of the Board, either. I believe drawing up a clear statement of what is and isn’t Board’s purview would be a very helpful thing not only for the public to have but also for all Board members.

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?

With Board working currently in a less than transparent manner and the lack of a publicly available list of duties and responsibilities — as bemoaned in the last question — as well as the unavailability of either an up-to-date agenda for meetings or meaningful transcripts for previous meetings, it is somewhat difficult to say what things can and should be shifted off. No one has a clear idea what exactly Board members do day-to-day, but discussing and redistributing their current workload would certainly be something worth examining. For example, having to vote to approve the induction of each staffer joining the OTW is one thing I think could be taken off Board’s plate.

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?

Three years to develop a strategic plan with an ever-shifting implementation date seems too long a time to me. I know the Strategic Planning committee have been working hard at surveying a number of committees but, due to the committees constantly changing, those surveys seem to end up nothing more than an outdated snapshot faster than any conclusions from them can be implemented into the strategic plan.

As a Board member I would not be in a position to directly improve or streamline anything about the current plan, we have a whole committee dedicated to work on it and I would not presume to just step in and tell them how to do their job. But I hope that during the setup for the next iteration I would be able to help build the framework that enables the committee to work faster and avoid the trap of attempting perfection over workability.