Argh, bureaucracy

I belong to a certain women’s riding group. I have no interest in this post appearing when someone does a Google search for that club name, however, so let’s keep it nameless.

The group is baffling me right now. I love the women I’ve met with this club. Riding with them is generally fun, social, giggle-worthy, and a rockin’ good time.

Problem is, the overlying structure of The Club.

There’s a project management saying (hey, stop laughing) that the tools should help you manage the project; the project shouldn’t be an excuse for getting to play around with tools.

I feel like managing The Club has become our club’s primary objective, above and beyond even riding together. The club isn’t really that much fun anymore.

We sit around the table at meetings and lament our lack of membership, toss around ideas to get new people interested, and brainstorm some pretty cool things. Then we turn around and hesitate and hem and haw about change, about anything new, about anything Different Than The Way The Club Has Always Done Things.

The way the club recruits and operates is circa 1984 when it was begun. Members get ride announcements via paper newsletter, paid for by business cards of advertisers. Flyers are hung in dealerships…when people remember to do so. We hand out little calling cards and membership applications to new women we meet….when we remember to do so. Becoming a member involves paperwork, writing a check, agreeing to Rules and Regulations.

This was great when there weren’t that many women’s riding groups. Now, throw a brick on the internet and you’ll hit three. Why would ANYONE want to join our stale group when there are fun, flip, sexy bulletin boards out there for all sorts of women riders?

Our group doesn’t understand this.

We concern ourselves with the most trivial and insufferable details of things. We refuse to use the internet as our primary method of communication because the ubiquitous and mythical “someone” may not have online access.

The thing I don’t get is that people seem legitimately frustrated by the lack of progress. We have meetings where we discuss how something just isn’t working for the club. We brainstorm new ideas of how it could be done better. People start taking action and get excited about the new ideas.

But then, invariably, by the next meeting, a club member will bring up “someone” and how “someone” might not like the new way of doing things, and shouldn’t we just stick with status quo. The people who had taken action towards the new thing throw up their hands in frustration and nothing changes.

Well, fuck that. I’m making some changes and putting up some ideas, and if people want to use them, great. If not, that’s fine too. I want to put my energy into making friends and riding, not babysitting some antiquated bureaucracies of a club structure that doesn’t want to adapt. Nothing stopping me from emailing these women on my own and offering up riding plans outside of Mother Club.

OK, I feel better now. Off to put the new chain on the GS. πŸ˜‰

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9 Responses to Argh, bureaucracy

  1. Ken Haylock says:

    This is something that happens to all self-selecting organisations, with the gradual passage of time.
    There are people that enjoy being ‘something in an organisation’ more than they enjoy whatever the organisation exists for. By natural osmosis, they end up running the club/team/association, because when a treasurer or a membership secretary or a committee is needed, everybody else wants to be fishing/having a life/riding motorcycles.
    Pretty soon they are having a ball drafting long and complicated constitutions and proposing and seconding motions and ‘being the club’, by which time it barely matters to them whether it is a motorcycle club, a fishing club or a residents association, and all those members who joined for the riding, the trout fishing or the block parties can tip-toe away to form a completely new club somewhere else, and ‘the committee’ probably won’t even notice :-).
    Suggestion: You could unilaterally start a ‘{club name} Internet Chapter’, buy the domain name, set up a website, put a forum up on it and then tell the current membership what the URL is in the newsletter. When the 99% of members who use the internet start congregating there to organise rideouts and discuss things, the 1% who don’t want to change anything in case somebody prefers quill and parchment can continue to hold committee meetings at their leisure :-).

  2. Lusty says:

    Actually, I would submit that our primary form of communicating among members is the Yahoo Group that has been in place since before I came along. There is no paperwork or money required, all ride and event announcements go out via email on the group, and there is an event calendar that also sends out regular announcements of club events.
    I would hardly say that the club is completely luddite. Yes, there are those who believe it important to maintain a paper newsletter for those who may not have web access, but so far as I can tell the primary means of communication among the group is indeed by computer.

  3. carolyn says:

    Fair enough. My main beef right now, I guess, is just that maintaining “the club” seems to take up so much time and energy that we barely even ride together anymore. I’m definitely not railing against anyone in particular, or even that people within the club should be doing anything differently. Well, maybe National, who insists that each chapter Does Certain Things and then makes us (chapter directors) hunt them down and jump through hoops to do it.

  4. Lusty says:

    I share your frustration with the apathy of the club. But it seems to me as though nobody’s putting time or energy into anything, including running the club. Linda can’t get anybody to submit anything for the newsletter. I couldn’t be bothered to do anything more than simply maintain the calendar on the web site. Almost nobody shows up to the EOM putts. I can’t remember the last time we had an organized ride other than the Turkey Trot, which was actually organized by a different group.
    I agree this is not any one person’s problem, and it’s nothing that any one person is going to be able to turn around. I think it will take all of us getting up and doing a lot of somethings. I mean hell I haven’t even ridden since I got back from my trip in July. My shoulder was a good excuse for a while, but now that I’ve been going to boot camp the shoulder is much better and my only excuse is laziness. I can’t be bothered to get the bikes out and do an oil change (the Guzzi) or check the tires (the Intruder) so I can get on one of them and ride somewhere.
    I’ve spent the entire day today pretending that I will get around to working on the mysql project for the garden tour, but really I’ve just been wrapped in a blanket on the couch trying to be warm.

  5. Alan R says:

    You go, Project Manager! To make everybody see, you gotta fight the powers that be!

  6. Joe L. says:

    It sounds like your “Club” has rule by consensus and not a strong central leader. I think that the few times I’ve been involved in a group that is directed this way things just don’t get done. Elect a leader with an agenda and go from there.
    The first priority it sounds is not to increase membership but to have FUN. If you are having a good time you aren’t going to have a problem securing new members.
    Furthermore concerning “THE CLUB” issues with the web it sounds like they need to addressed. I would suggest setting up a Yahoo Group, even if it’s unsanctioned just as a place to keep club documents and posting meeting notes. Then as time goes by the utility of the web will motivate the group to just accept it. You won’t be leaving those 5% who are without access in the dust as you can just keep sending out the mailing list with content created from the Yahoo Group. Of course it could be any type of online message board and not Yahoos but you get the idea. It has to be stupid simple. And not forced.
    My comments here are meant to encourage you and I wish you the best.

  7. Linda says:

    Well, I have various thoughts on this.
    As Lusty says, the primary form of communication has been the yahoogroup, though you have to log in to use the calendar.
    I don’t see any clear calendar on the forum, and it’s already succeeded in splitting the club in two, as you’ve posted events there that you haven’t to the yahoogroup, where the majority of what pass for members still hang out.
    Some genuine concerns were expressed to the yahoogroup, including how this would all work together — and unless I missed them, those concerns have not yet been addressed. You might sell your forum better if you answered them. How *does* it all work together? Why did you choose to set one up (it was explained at the meeting, but not to the yahoogroup.) Will the calendar be posted in two places? Who will update it? What is its objective? How is the forum easier, when you have to remember to go visit it (email is delivered right to one’s inbox: easy-peasy!)
    This was all thrown together very hastily, with little explanation, and it might well work out, but it’s clear from the questions that there is some head-scratching going on and instead of blaming some of the membership for being luddites, *IMO* you might do better to be a little more patient. Look to their motives: they simply don’t want anybody to be left out, and are looking to *you* for the reassurance that this will not happen. Yes, the elusive “someone” may not exist…but maybe s/he does, too. There *is* a technology divide, generational or otherwise.
    You posted a how-to, but when you’re dealing with people who are not computer literate, those how-tos have to be carefully thought out and assume no foreknowledge. “Quick and dirty” doesn’t work for them. (Having taught my Mam, who never used a computer until I moved to the USA even though we had one from when I was 11 years old, how to use email etc., I know whereof I speak.) Hell, *I* don’t find these BBS type forums intuitive, and you know that I’m computer literate. πŸ˜‰
    As to nobody wanting to do anything…well, we’ve just been drifting along, haven’t we? No firm commitments were required for anything other than the EOM putt thing. But there again, just about everything I’ve been involved in in my life that required volunteer work has suffered from the same kind of apathy. Getting anyone to commit to do anything in Silicon Valley is an uphill struggle. πŸ˜‰
    Just my $2.00’s worth. πŸ˜›

  8. carolyn says:

    I’m not trying to “sell” anything. I set up the forum, and those that wish to join and participate can join and participate. If people want to continue using yahoo, or a newsletter, or whatever, that’s great. I never set up the forum to take the place of anything. Just to do what I want to do within the club. Anyone who wants to do anything differently can feel free to also do so.

  9. Colin says:

    I belong to a long-standing Bay area motorcycle club and have been learning the ropes about what it takes to participate and lead a volunteer organization.
    I agree that apathy and inertia come with the territory to some degree. The same folks tend to take the next step beyond membership and give that extra effort to lead. Innovation can be difficult if veteran members insist on doing things the same way as they’ve always been done.
    We try to find a balance. Determine the big events that members enjoy and do them every year, forming traditions. But mix the board with some new active members to inject some fresh ideas.
    We struggled with communication too. We had a paper newsletter, then an e-mail list, and now a full-fledged online forum. The forum has been quite popular as a virtual “clubhouse” and to facilitate communication between rides. But under 1/3 of our members use it regularly: the rest rely upon e-mail blasts or the monthly newsletter (though now it’s PDF rather than paper). The mixed modes work well together and nobody can complain we don’t keep folks informed.

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