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Concrete vs. Abstract Mind

By boxfiddler Moderator ·
I work for a small, not-for-profit that is engaged in helping to heal war trauma in my community. We're funded by a variety of religious and private organizations and foundations, as well as a variety of local, state, federal, and international governmental bodies.

The therapeutic work that we do requires strong abstract minds in order to be successful. We have them in abundance.

The accountability our various funders expect of us requires strong concrete minds in order to provide the level of detailed reporting they seek. There are but two of us.

We have serious internal communication issues on both sides.

I'm curious as to how you folks deal with this kind of communications issue in your organization. And looking for anything we can implement to help ourselves improve our internal communications.

Thanks much.

etu
clarify - internal

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Passive requestive?

by seanferd In reply to It sounds like a basic di ...

I dig your analysis and very specific identification of that bit of social interaction.

Er, and begging your pardon for the horrible pun.

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It does sound familiar.

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to It sounds like a basic di ...

Thank you. How to work towards generating 'vitality' is next up? Along with how to soften us concretes a bit.

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Well...

by AnsuGisalas In reply to I'm using terms borrowed ...

I can think of a number of ways to ease things up.
First of all, it'd be nice if your abstracts get to see that you're not simply harrassing them (that is often the case if they don't understand how your work benefits your shared goals), so if they get an idea about the money flow, and how your role is essential to allowing them to fulfill theirs, that would at least get some of them interested in communicating with you.
That leads to a second avenue: it might not be possible to speak with all of them very well, a bridgehead/contact/informant on "the other side" could help, either by collating some of the data you need, or by helping you formulate your questions in a way salient to the less communicative ones. Ultimately a goal should be in obliterating the perception of a divide.

One possible solution would be recruiting a sociology student, they, at least some of them have extensive training in canvassing and mapping of dynamic structures, also some have psychological training. They usually are very interested in getting their hands dirty, and building up real work experience, so it might be possible, maybe even a small team, if you have a lot of people to cover.

Those are the starting points i could think of just now, tell me if any of it is useful.

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Wow.

by seanferd In reply to Well...

That's a great idea - a volunteer with a human communication interest. This brings to mind the thought that maybe a business process needs to be worked out, at least in the sense of a "formal" framework that would smooth over the the vagaries which lead to the sort of mis-communication described.

If the majority of the problem is more interpersonal, and less business process -oriented, our volunteer needs to find a way to make each end of this spectrum understand that the other has done its best to understand what it wants, but it isn't possible without each side learning something of the other's idiom. And maybe lay out some boundaries, if necessary.

Certainly, a disinterested third party could make a lot of that easier.

edit
hrm. And thinking of the dynamic of the dominant group - they would expect the smaller (concrete) population to pretty much go all the way to understand their culture. But the concrete types can't be expected to have all the background that comes with a degree and practice which the abstracts have. And obviously, things will not last if they continue doing whatever it is which is causing potential problems at the management - funding/board interface.

I find myself wanting to hear an example conversation.

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How about...

by NexS In reply to Concrete vs. Abstract Min ...

Well, I'd first confirm the sort of information that the money providers require and have our concrete minded people simplify it.
Not simplify - "You're an idiot" simplify, but simplify - "I don't want to spend a long time filling out a form" simplify.

Basically, I'd create a form that's easy to expand on for the reporting, and simple enough to make it easy for the "Therapidicians" (I made that word up!) to quickly and easily record anything of interest.

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Can you easily expand upon the problem?`

by drowningnotwaving In reply to Concrete vs. Abstract Min ...

Amongst a myriad other things, some of my clients at present a grants-based NFPs. In one case 100% givernment and in another 95% privately funded.

At one level, their 'concrete' communications are based pretty much on numbers.

What money came in, what is was allocated to, how it was spent, did I have proper controls on purchasing etc etc. The reporting or prudential side of the conversation.

At the next level is analytics - if I do X, how many cases can I solve per $1,000 rather than doing Y. This is the "effectiveness" or "bang-for-buck" side of the conversation.

(Obviously, please insert parameters that make sense in your valuable program, but I hope my point isn't confusing in itself).

This gives the external people something that they can grasp and understand. It lays a foundation for discussion.

Clearly (and obviously (or hopefully) without breaking prudential or moral boundaries!!), your presentation or management of this information goes a long way to setting their expectations of what you may need for the future!

The numbers do no more than establish a basis for the abstract discussion, but they bring a level of comfort to the external parties a) that you know what you are doing with their money; b) that their funds are not being screwed by your sister's subcontracting firm; and c) they can have some input into where the best spend of future funds may be.

I may be completely off track for which I say 'oops'! In the absence of "Concrete" issues I chose my own abstraction of a possible solution.

Ooops again. :)

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The issue

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to Can you easily expand upo ...

is internal communications between the abstracts and the concretes. Internal communications are ineffective and frustrating.

Abstract A has a theory s/he expects Concrete B to apply. Concrete B is unqualified (not a Psych major, let's say, but a Business Administration major - administration of a program being the purpose for the position s/he fills). Abstract A is unable to effectively communicate how to practically apply the theory to Concrete B, and further is apparently unaware that s/he is unable to communicate the information needed by Concrete B to apply said theory. Concrete B, on the other hand, is equally unable to communicate to Abstract A that s/he doesn't understand how to apply said theory.

Concrete C needs a 'yes' or 'no' answer in order to complete a task. S/he asks the boss - Abstract D - the question, garnering a response that's 10 minutes of both relevant and irrelevant information that might be a 'maybe'. Concrete C tries again, using different terminology, Abstract D answers again using different terminology but leaving the same possible 'maybe' as the answer.

If we can't overcome this communications issue, we're not going to last.

Gods, I hope this is better.

If I can't put it together well, I surely won't be able to communicate it to the rest of us. :0


etu
PS. Thanks for that response. You set me to thinking about it a little differently.

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I think that post will get this rolling.

by seanferd In reply to The issue

Nails down the issues much better.

Where I was coming from previously was based on this: <i>The accountability our various funders expect of us requires strong concrete minds in order to provide the level of detailed reporting they seek</i>. I thought you weren't getting the proper dollars-to-donuts accounting. Seems more like there is just a general disconnect (I need specific orders, not waffling or a handful of suggestive possibilities.)

Sounds like it is time for a Team Building Retreat. (Oh Lawlz no!)

Well, someone needs to communicate effectively to these people that they are not communicating effectively, and that they need to respect some boundaries. It isn't the office manager's job to find ways to apply a social worker's psych theories, but maybe if the social worker has an actual plan that might be useful for the organization, it could be implemented if proven so.

Who gets to do this and how, I couldn't begin to guess. I'd do it, with enough exposure and authoritah.

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I recall one teambuilding exercise.

by Ron K. In reply to I think that post will ge ...

The goal was to write down your strengths on sticky notes. Everyone wrote down a handful while the boss wrote down dozens. Her first one read, "I'm a minimalist." I so do not miss work but for it's entertainment value.

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I know that person.

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to I recall one teambuilding ...
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