I’ve spoken to a few people this week who expressed some concern about the recent Exc-el board meeting.
The problem centres on the meaning people ascribe to a “Board”. Unintentionally such a term smacks of a hierarchical and controlling body. On reflection I can see why people see such a thing as being contrary to the emerging principles of Exc-el which has been about organic growth and shared responsibility.
So how about the “Exc-el Advisory Group” or the “Exc-el Focus Group”?
I would be happy with either of these terms. Its interesting how words can make a huge difference to peoples perception of things. Your recent post on metaphors (eg: weapons) is a good example of this. Other suitable names that I can think of are ‘exc-el strategy group’ or ‘exc-el open group’. The second of these conjures up what exc-el meetings are meant to be about. You normally invite anyone who might be interested to attend via your blog and although people rarely take up this offer it is in essence an open group. I can’t think of a meeting when the group of people sat around the table has been the same. The group (just like exc-el) is constantly evolving and dynamic. What do you think?
It depends on what the group is designed to do. The Teaching and Learning Group works through issues of teaching and learning. The Exc-el group has to be designed, I guess, to work through issues related to… whatever Exc-el is. The aims of the project, although being ‘not just a website’, have to be made even clearer perhaps in order to come up with a function of the group.
In LTS we have had constructive focus groups and some less constructive ones. The latter were not so constructive because those in them tended to concentrate on minutae and processes instead of the bigger picture. The advice in ‘advisory’ can also sometimes get misperceived as decision-making, ‘taking a vote’ type advice. This isn’t helpful for the long-term direction of a project nor the people working on it day-to-day. There’s got to be a degree of certainty of scope and respect of the expertise both the advisory/focus group have, what the manager of a project/section/department has to offer and what the people working on it day-to-day have either through qualification or experience.
It’s a difficult juggling match but, if managed openly and well, can lead to hugely successful online services. One thing I know the team working on this project would like is an opportunity to show what is currently going on, the reasoning behind this and what we believe might work well in the immediate future. We discussed this possibility at our weekly meeting so perhaps we could do this as an opening at the next meeting?
I think Advisory Group or as Ollie suggested, Strategy Group or Open Group. Focus Group tends to remind me of the that episode from the BBC’s satirical comedy The Thick Of It.
How about “steering group” or “steering committee” – both of which, I hope, convey the idea of temporary custody as opposed to ownership?
I agree we do need a clearer vision with the function of the group dare I mention the term agenda or do we want to keep it more open? Words shouldn’t matter but do in terms of first impressions. On reflection the word ‘board’ does sometimes come with negative associations. I think any of Ollie’s suggesions are great or Excel Forum?
What about the ‘Exc-el Brains Trust’? 😉
I think the group’s aims are most likely strategic rather than day-to-day. Steering group tends to imply that inbetween meetings the ship has no crew which isn’t quite right 😉 I like the idea of strategic group or trust. Trust implies a representation of the users. At the end of the day, we are designing feedback loops which allow anyone to steer things at any time of the day or night. That might end up being just as powerful as the face-to-face. The F2F meetings might be an opportunity to engage those who don’t participate in the online elements of East Lothian’s learning community.
From the first meeting of the Exc-el ‘board’ this year, it was clear to me that although we feel we have been communicating the progress of exc-el developments through our blogs and various meetings, many of the developments haven’t filtered through. Is there a purpose to exc-el? There is no doubt that there is, although it may look slightly different from the ‘original’ purpose. It is dynamic and evolving as Ollie mentioned but it is also being sculpted and managed behind the scenes to provide tools to facilitate the dynamism, collaboration and innovation we all aspire to. For me, the exc-el trust/open group is another opportunity for the team working on Exc-el to engage in the development of the strategic vision, communicate ongoing developments and gain immediate feedback from interested parties. At the next meeting, the team do need to show where we are, where we want to be and how we run the project – the developments are exciting and fast-moving (down to the hard work of the team). This type of input would form a good basis for us all moving forward.
I think I like Exc-el Open Group best. It captures what we are trying to achieve.