by Fiona Anderson
The Board of a Worldcon are those people who are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the convention, and who could find themselves paying the ultimate financial penalty if things go wrong...
In the section on Organisational Chart I shall go into more of what is required to set about organising the people who run the convention, but this section is concerned with various issues directly concerning how the Board operates.
First the bad news - all the things that I real1y desperately want to say about the workings of the Board are deliberately omitted here, as they are highly embarrassing to individuals....
It is the job of the Board to set policy for all the Divisions, and then the Board steps back and lets the Divisions get on with carrying out all their individual tasks in the light of those policies. The Board should only step in where either the policy is being flouted or there is some other problem with the way a Division is working. It is not the job of the Board to micro-manage the convention.
This is a difficult one in our particular circumstances - we have Worldcons so rarely that we can't really predict how people will function in those high-level positions. Naturally this led to some Board members performing well above our expectations, while it became clear that others had been appointed above their level of competence.
One of the mistakes Intersection made was to appoint people far too early for particular jobs, and not changing people around as needed. This mistake was almost fatal. Some most inappropriate appointments were made (not just at Board level) and there was a culture of not dealing with these as problems inevitably arose.
However there were some Divisions that recognised they had problems, where the DH swapped jobs with their Deputy, and those people have to be praised for putting the good of' the convention above their egos and they all appeared much happier as a consequence. There is nothing shameful about finding you are not suited to a particular job, and one of the purposes of this write-up is to show what each job actually entails - too many people had no idea what they were taking on, and hence had no way to know if a job suited them or if they would be better suited doing something else entirely different.
There is a consensus that there should be 3 separate groups :
1 The Board that run the bid, negotiate with Site/Tourist board etc
2. The Board that design the Program, and set in motion the initial organisational structures
3. The Board that runs the event on the day
Since the 3 sets of skills are different, but not necessarily mutually exclusive, it has been suggested that the 3 sets should possibly have some overlap of the same people, but that this should not obscure moving people around (and up/down), inviting new people, retiring other people, and generally promoting the flexibility needed to move the process through the 3 stages.
It should be noted that the 3 stages are not necessarily separated in time either. While the Bid Phase must necessarily start first, the second team should be coalescing into shape soon after the bid starts, so that it is ready to swing into action the moment the bid is won (assuming you win that is!).
Also, the people involved in running on the day cannot possibly just appear on the scene from nowhere to take over - they must be involved in some way with stage 2, but their focus should be on running the con, while stage 2 should be focusing on designing the con.
Multi-talented individuals present at all phases are going to be rare. More likely you will have people come and go, as their skills are more appropriate to the particular phase, and also as real-life commitments take them away (it's much rarer for real--life to add people for you).
It's the Chair's job to oversee the workings of the Board in all phases and to ensure all individuals are both promoting corporate policy and leading their own individual teams effectively.
It's the job of individual Board members to represent their own views, the views of the people under them upwards, and to disseminate Board policy downwards.
There are conflicting opinions on, whether Board members should be managers or leaders. I am firmly of the leadership camp - while I believe it is possible to manage if you have experienced people under you, I also believe that only people who lead can inspire the confidence in the inexperienced staff members to develop their full potential.
I don't mean leadership in the sense of charging into battle. What I mean is that every DH should have a vision of what they want their Division to do, that they should clearly. communicate this vision both to the Board and to their staff, that they should support their staff, showing each one clearly what is expected of them, and how they are expected to achieve it, but also giving the feeling that they are valued, that their views are represented to the Board, and defending those staff against criticisms.
By the latter, 1 don't mean that your staff should remain uncriticised, but that any criticism is done by you personally and privately to that person, avoiding embarrassing them in public, and allowing them space to improve things. But far more importantly no DH should EVER criticise their staff as an excuse for their Division failing. A DH is responsible for their Division, and carries the can for failure - whether that failure is directly due to their own actions or indirectly due to the actions or their staff under them, the DH is responsible.
The buck stops here...
by Fiona Anderson
Many of the Divisional Reports produced for Intersection were a waste of time (IMHO), as they read as PR blurb rather than as anything useful, and many were turgid beyond belief. OTOH there were people like myself who never produced a single one - everyone else was then left with hoping all was going well - since I never saw the purpose of them, and had too much else to do.
Divisional Reports need to have a clear stated purpose. eg an Actions List to be produced by each Area, and put together into a Divisional Actions List. This would form the first Divisional Report, and subsequent reports would show which actions have been taken, which are outstanding, which have been deleted and why, and any new actions that have been added.
There has been discussion as to whether it is better to list the actions month-by-month, or more generally divide them into groups of what can be done now, over the next 6 months, over the next year, in the 6 months prior to the con.
Either way, it was proposed that there should be an Action Chaser, attached to the Chair's Staff, whose job would be to go through the Divisional Reports and keep track of' progress.
In this way it is hoped that the Board can use the Divisional Reports to target extra help at each Division when it needs it, as outlined by its Divisional Report.
It is to be expected that people WILL need extra help, from time to time, and that the Board should consider themselves as being part of a team, rather than as individual players, and that therefore every member of the Board should hold themselves ready to give support to any other DH as and when support is needed.
Many people are of the opinion that the new position of Complaints Ombudsman should be created. This person again to be attached to the Chair's Staff.
Their job would be to deal with all the complaints from people outside the con's staff. Usually they would deal with the complaint by firstly writing to the complainer to assure them it is being looked into, by passing it to the appropriate person to deal with it, and by tracking it to ensure it had been dealt with and how.
I had thought this would be a difficult position to fill, but as soon as it was suggested there were immediately two volunteers who said they would be keen to fill such a position.
There is a proposal to create either a Communications Library or a Communications Division, to keep track of all paperwork (including minutes of meetings, div reports etc) produced by each Division in order to supply whatever information is needed by any division as they ask for it.
Although I am saying very little here, many people hold all sorts of strong and conflicting views on this...but absolutely the overwhelming consensus on communications during the run-up to Intersection was "could do better", so it- needs looked into pro-actively for next time