Top Down Management

Don’s Diary

In the most recent edition of Freemasonry Victoria (Issue 115 Autumn 2008 p. 11), the Grand Master, in commenting on some unsatisfactory aspects of Freemasonry in Victoria, said that Grand Lodge would take certain initiatives and "I appreciate that these measures might be met with resistance and open hostility in some quarters……" What a sad state of affairs in Freemasonry in Victoria if this were to occur. In Sir Humphrey’s of the TV series “Yes Minister” words, is it a courageous decision?

I was always told that there was "top down management" and "bottom up (or inclusive) management" and the both models had their place. Top down management is legitimate where there is limited time for consultation with the lower echelons of an organisation such as in a military contingency situation. It is centralist, paternalistic and authoritarian in nature. The rank and file in Australian society will accept a "top down" management decision if the leading body has won their confidence and they accept that there is a time-urgency that inhibits consultation with them, a situation that does not occur in Freemasonry. You cannot get away with top down management in craft lodges for long as members will vote with their feet.

Plans for expedient action may be readily supported with evidence of the need for speedy action and confidence in the process and implementation capability. But planning which does not demonstrate consideration of long term implications and engage all stakeholders and draw upon their wealth of experience and talent is bound to be questioned. Management structures perceived to have overseen (or contributed) to a decline of success of organisations are well likely to have subordinates who are unwilling to embrace plans when they have not been justified to them, especially when rationales and the necessity for expedient action has not been evidenced.

I have seen the heavy handed "top down management" approach used by non-combatant types. It is probably fine in the Scout movement but we are not Boy Scouts! Inclusiveness and consultation is the best approach as it will give some "ownership" to the rank and file and will lead to a commitment to make things work rather than resistance and hostility to a plan. Inclusive management militates against someone close to the boss “getting his ear” and having him accept poor, tainted advice.

The Contemporary Lodge initiative seems to be lauded but does anyone realize that it has resulted from some young members who are dissatisfied with some present arrangements in the Constitution and Lodges. Why not just fix the problem? Will having a "Lodge Hebe" solve our problems? Their young will get old too you know!

I know that there have been 18 District meetings. However, is it too novel to indulge in a little bottom up management, a little inclusiveness, and seek out from the "customers" – ordinary masons, the bulk of the fraternity, what they want out of Freemasonry? Or will it be considered easier just to tell them what is good for them? When will we see the cost benefit analysis for the plan and alternatives together with supporting impact statements? I have never been consulted nor has anyone that I know and I have never seen a survey.

The appropriateness of the decision making model and process is important and if there is any real concern about the implementation of a plan the methodology should be reviewed. Continued harmony within Freemasonry is more important than any personal considerations.

Fraternal best wishes to all

Don Paterson