By Anuttama dasa
Ujjain, India—The second day of the Governing Body Commission (GBC) Mid-Term Meeting began with a report of a one-year study of how to improve the effectiveness of GBC meetings.
Members were presented with a 94-page document or “Meetings Manual,” and a second 23-page guide on “Decision Making.” Both texts were drawn from research conducted by the GBC Strategic Planning Team (SPT). In preparing the manuals the SPT underwent a detailed analysis of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on management as well as a review 40 professional studies and books on meetings and decision-making.
Vraja Vihari Das, a SPT member, led a morning series of plenary and small group discussions to introduce the two documents. The GBC discussed the advantage of creative arguments (open mindedly exploring a variety of positions) vs. attached arguments (only wishing to push one’s own agenda or opinion, and thus shutting down other possible solutions, or sources of information).
The GBC also heard the benefits of increasing self-awareness, in terms of questioning—or at least being aware of—any preconceived biases we may bring into our Vaishnava discussions. Doing so, it was explained, helps any governing body—local, national, or international—reach the best decision.
Other morning topics included avoiding the “Ten Logical Fallacies;” appropriate use vs. misuse of scriptural references; and an overview of tools that promote effective decision-making, including “7 Steps for Good Decision Making.”
A final morning discussion ensued on the topic of how to remain in a prayerful mood, depending fully on Srila Prabhupada, in the process of seeking collective wisdom and decisions.
After a two-hour break—one that usually includes additional meetings for GBC members—a topic of the afternoon session was the Meeting Manual. Gopal Bhatta Das introduced the topic with results from surveys taken during the Mid-Term Meeting 2016. Those GBC surveys revealed dissatisfaction with the current effectiveness of GBC meetings. Based on that feedback, the Meeting Manual was assembled to be studied and implemented over time.
During an afternoon session on future GBC deployments GBC members used the “six thinking hat” methodology of analysis. Six-hats is one of the meeting skills introduced in the manual. In brief, six-hats encourages a shared analysis of issues from six perspectives, rather than an open floor, unfocused give and take debate. In simple language, all members of a meeting are asked to wear a series of imaginary hats to induce a more productive thinking about issues.
The six so called “different hats” or points of view include the white hat—looking first at relevant data, facts, and other relevant information; the green hat—a creative look at the proposal under discussion, seeking new ideas and possibilities; the black hat—considering a proposal’s potential problems and disadvantages; the red hat—examining what feelings may be involved with proposal; etc.
While it took a while for members to engage with the new thinking processes, it did yield a broader analysis. For example, Sesa Das commented that the GBC must not only look at internal factors such as numbers of temples in a region or existing relationships with current GBC members, but the GBC must also consider changing global factors including national boundaries and cultural changes in planning future global assignments.
The GBC meeting ended at 6:30 PM, allowing members to join the local community in attending the evening Damodarastaka prayers in the beautiful Ujjain Temple.