Happenings around the region (1998)

Moving toward the big picture in Colville

The Colville National Forest is currently undergoing a master planning effort intended to build a flexible organization that will be adaptable to a sudden change in budget and program of work. Last month the Colville National Forest brought Jeff Goebel to facilitate a consensus workshop dealing with issues of scarcity.

Said Fred Gonzalez, District Ranger for Sullivan Lake, "we came to the realization that we as the Forest Leadership Team (FLT) needed to set aside two or three days to sit down and fully dialogue about workforce planning. We needed an organizational strategy that will clearly guide us in future decisions regarding our program of work. Our program of work, how we utilize our people skills, and how we are funded from year to year are actions that greatly influence the effectiveness and efficiency of the Colville National Forest's ability to Care for the Land and Serve the People."

Said Gilda Dixon, a forestry technician who helped organize the workshop, "I have felt from the beginning that this could be a great visioning tool that would help position the forest to be more proactive in addressing the future. In addition I feel it is a means to guide employees toward new career development opportunities."

About 25 Colville National Forest employees attended. The following comments were made during the second day of the workshop.

I am not as concerned that we have an organizational chart.

I feel good. We did an excellent thing. Our approach has been like accountants or surgeons. We don't use our right brain. I am honestly still struggling with the timetable. I think how we're going is necessary.

Change is just as much logical as it is emotional. My hope is that people don't get stuck in the process. Another thing, it's so powerful about listening.

Maybe we took the wrong approach. We're trained to have an end product.

This was the most beneficial two days in my Forest Service career. I learned that I can honor and respect people that I didn't think I trusted. I didn't believe we needed to put people in boxes. This process allowed us to open our hearts and spirits to change. The Forest Service will continue to exist into the future.

The most valuable lesson I learned was honoring others and listening with respect. Overall what we've done these past two days will have an impact on what we set out to do. We're growing. We have a bigger vision. It doesn't end in May. It's ongoing.

It found it interesting that we actually do think alot alike. The Silent Greeting Circle was less comfortable.

Traditionally we just pack up and go after a FLT meeting. Some people we talk to some we don't say "good-bye." There are two sides to how I feel. One is, "where's the plan?" The other side is that I am glad we don't have a plan. I think another facilitator would have provided us with a plan but how successful would the plan be? I know we'll come up with a successful plan.

I tended to want to make fun of the Silent Greeting Circle. But I feel as peaceful as I ever have after a FLT meeting. My pulse is not racing. It was a good time to do this; a good time to reflect. We're overly preoccupied with organizational charts. Rather, we need to come up with strategies.

We'll have organizational charts for 100 years. Relationships are important.

Fred Gonzalez made these comments:

What happened during the workshop and what did I learn: I learned about the dynamic complexity of the interrelationships of people, programs, funds, and organizational structure. These systems are heavily influenced by one's beliefs and behaviors. Understanding scarcity and richness of any system can much widen and deepen our ability to see new opportunities to significantly improve our situation.

How do I feel: I feel that the Forest Leadership Team needs to do some serious sorting of tasks for the FLT versus tasks for the workforce. It is field season and the workforce has a program of work to implement. Also, the workforce needs to assist in preparing for the 1999 program of work. We, the FLT, should not encumber the workforce any more than we need to with Master Planning. We need to soon complete an organizational strategy that is implementable. The strategy must have structure yet be flexible to change. Expect there to be disagreement with the strategy and, over time to make sensible improvements.

How am I going to make a difference: Except when sharing information or seeking input to Master Planning, let the workforce get on with their field work. Work toward a streamlined teaming method that defines teams to develop the 1999 program of work further, freeing up the workforce for the field season. Work fully as an FLT team member with WALT (Workforce Analysis Liaison Team) toward an organizational strategy that we can all feel positive about implementing and willing to make changes to improve. I believe that this can be done in two days with a facilitator at a much more efficient rate than multiple part-day meetings.

All of this has come to fruition since the workshop, says Gonzalez. "What Jeff does is truly a mental exercise," he adds. "It's hard work, but you come close to getting the big picture, and in doing so you're a lot better off. Sometimes we're more position focused, value focused, issue focused, and we're less apt to think holistically or systematically and more apt to compromise--instead of defining as large a decision space as possible, getting all parties involved, and optimizing the decision for all concerned."

"What Jeff did for me was he exercised my mind in a way that I don't typically do. He helped me to think about options, in ways I hadn't thought about. He helped me to understand people's perspectives much more fully than I might typically do."

"Putting together those collective statements really widens your perspectives. It's like stretching the mind about richness and scarcity. That stretching is really important."

"I would like to thank Jeff for coaching us toward seeing the big picture. A few weeks after the workshop, we completed a draft workforce plan that is currently being reviewed by the Colville National Forest employees."

Thanks to Gilda Dixon and Fred Gonzalez for providing the information for this report.

Californians meet

On Saturday, May 9, Bill Burrows hosted a Diversity Workshop at his ranch near Red Bluff, California. Bill is a Certified Educator of Holistic Management who recently retired from a 25+ year teaching career at Shasta College in Redding where he taught Holistic Management and developed the college farm into a Holistic Resource Laboratory. Bill's ranch has been in his family for several generations and his grandchildren are actively involved in a number of ranch projects.

Bill has been managing his ranch holistically for a number of years. The primary enterprises on the ranch include leasing grazing to a cow-calf operator and a hunting and fishing enterprise. With the hunting enterprise, Bill says his main objective is to provide his customers with a quality outdoor experience. He has also pioneered the introduction of Perla grass, a cool-season perennial that is very adapted to both dry and wet sites.

The workshop was attended by approximately 100 people, primarily from California and Oregon, who braved an intermittently rainy day. In testimony to the positive working relationships that Bill has developed over the years, representatives from a number of state, federal and nonprofit organizations were presenters on the program. Topics included: (1) Ranch History and Holistic Goal, (2) Importance of Biological Monitoring, (3) Fish and Wildlife Service Programs, (4) Wildlife Conservation Board Programs, (5) NRCS Soils Program, (6) Deer Monitoring and Department of Fish and Game Programs, (7) Water Quality Monitoring, (8) Audubon Bird Monitoring, (9) Fish Monitoring, and (10) Waterfowl Monitoring.

By the end of the day, everyone in attendance was impressed by the positive impact that Holistic Management has had on the Burrows family, their ranch, and the collaborating organizations.

Holistic Management of California (HMC) Meeting

This meeting was held following the Burrows Ranch Monitoring Workshop beginning with dinner on the evening of May 9 and concluding the afternoon of May 10. This was the first meeting of the HMC group in about a year and a half. Approximately 12-15 people attended. This meeting was organized and facilitated by Tom Walther of Oakland, California. Tom is completing the Center for Holistic Management's Certified Educator program.

The meeting focused primarily on two questions: (1) What is the purpose of HMC? and (2) What kind of an organization will best serve the desires and needs of those involved with HMC? A statement of purpose was developed. Improved communication was identified as a high priority and the merits of re-initiating a newsletter were explored. It was decided that there needed to be an expanded outreach program to engage a larger and more diverse group of people in HMC activities.

The Great American Land Monitoring Shootout

by Wayne Burleson

Read Wayne's article...