Agency Formula: Who Should Be in a Meeting

Our middle school group were once great decision makers.  We were inclusive, thoughtful and decisive.

We had meetings, but over time we stopped rotating roles, or having formal roles, or taking minutes.  Eventually, nearly all decisions were made in the hallway or through impromptu gatherings.  Meetings were where we formally approved already made decisions.  If that.

Then our staff turned over.  And, we were charged with including new agents in the decision making process.  Suddenly, a decision made by a handful of teachers required an administrator, case workers, specialists, and whatever aides could attend.  Minutes became something to approve instead of a never read document created by a teacher who needed to do something with her hands to keep focus.  People kept wanting to meet.  Emails called for quorum.

We became a case study in Parkinson’s Law.

But not every decision requires “the team”.  Other than the 30 minutes slotted each week, we just did not have the time.  Not everyone needed to chime in (although they did) when a decision had little bearing on their world (which was often).  The formality of “respecting each member” and “respecting the process” became a drag.

So, I created a formula to determine who really needs to be in on the process:

o x c = a

o = ownership. How How much does the decision affect you directly? Is this your program, or do you have to live with the results of the decision?
c = capital invested. This can mean money, time or other resources. For an administrator, it might mean respect or political capital. We often talk about the one who “has to do the heavy lifting.”
a = agency. Relevance. The less relevant you are to the outcome or the work involved, the less of a need you have to be in the meeting or vote on the decision.

For o and c you rank a person on a simple 1 to 10 scale. Don’t get precious with decimals, as a rough number works fine. The closer to 100 a person is the more their voice needs to be heard.

If you don’t want to employ it yourself, you can always silently calculate the agency score for everyone around the table. Then compare it to who talks the most. It’s good data when you complain later.


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