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Report from the Board: The Questions Within

Ginger Sall, Chairman
LLLI Board of Directors
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 36 No. 4, August-September 2000, p. 62

Often the Board column in LEAVEN tries to answer questions. This might have given the misimpression that there are always answers to the questions we are asked. Perhaps expecting to find answers has kept us from learning as we explore some of the most basic questions within our organization. These questions are not unique to La Leche League. They are common to many organizations and are shared by many groups of people who join together to work toward a shared purpose.

  • Where should decisions be made? Is it a good idea for decisions to be made at the most local level possible? Or should decisions be made toward the center of the organization in order to coordinate activities, achieve economies of scale, and avoid duplication?
  • How should information be shared? Should information be shared directly and freely between individuals as needed? Or should information proceed in a linear fashion throughout the organization so that all along the line also have this information?
  • Who should participate in decision making for the organization? Is it enough that those making decisions feel deep personal responsibility to the organization and hold themselves accountable to acting for the welfare of the whole? Or do we want to extend participation to as many as possible as part of their ownership of the organization and shared commitment to its purpose?
  • How much attention should La Leche League give to "how it works" compared to "what it does"? Should we devote a large amount of resources to building and maintaining an organizational structure? Or should we expect the structure of La Leche League to support whatever work we do in pursuit of the purpose?
  • Is it enough that La Leche League helps many mothers to breastfeed their babies? Or does this organization have a responsibility to expand mother-to-mother support to many more mothers than it currently is reaching?
  • Is growth via incremental steps, where the next goal is always within sight, most appropriate for La Leche League? Or are there occasions when the sum of incremental steps is pulling La Leche League off center-and only a quantum leap of change will preserve the fundamentals of the organization?
  • Is La Leche League defined by the people who are here already? Or is La Leche League described by purpose, beliefs, and principles-and ready to welcome any who want to work within that context? if so, who are the people to write the purpose, beliefs, and principles?

We might be able to talk for days on each of these questions without coming to definitive answers. In the process, however, we would learn more about each other and about ourselves.

In response to each question, hearts naturally leap to an answer that feels "right" and touches a chord within each of us. As practical considerations enter the discussion, we start to appreciate other points of view, sometimes quite the opposite of our first heartfelt response. That first approach, which felt so right, might now seem too difficult and impractical for the real world. Yet as we begin to control the chaos, it's easy to drift into a situation of control for the sake of order. If only we might find that fine line between chaos and order, where there is enough freedom to feed the flames of the human spirit and enough order to work in the real world.

To find the answers that touch our hearts and are practical enough to really work, we need to see these questions and answers in more than one way. The answers are not merely "yes" or "no." They are both. As we develop the capacity to see more than one "right" answer to these questions, we add another dimension to our decision-making and expand the set of possible solutions.

After the initial leap and the period of practical corrections, we aim for the right mixture of chaos and order, a "chaordic" solution that is on the line between "yes" and "no", black and white. Does this exist in the real world? Good question. Yet we can work to approach the limits of a "chaordic" state. Even if we are not able to zoom in and land exactly on this fine line, we benefit from the richness of opportunity and satisfaction of being very close to it.

These questions are not going away - answers or not. Addressing the roots of the tensions that strain relationships and drain effectiveness is a positive enterprise for any organization. By exploring, we continue to learn and grow together toward the fullest potential for ourselves and for our organization. Through our collective inquiries, we hope to discover a new dimension of possibilities for La Leche League, strengthening the essence of our organization and expanding the scope of mother-to-mother help to many more mothers and their babies. 

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