Information: Overload or Underload?

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    The Grail

    I read Noreen’s article on communication with interest and gratefulness and annoyance and discouragement.

    Interest because it sorted out and distilled down a description of an underlying reality that I think was floating around in some of the frustration/surprise that many were feeling at the GA about what was happening or was expected to happen. I think it points out a truth – that the emails just did not get thru to or sink in to many people as far as what was going to happen at the GA. I gleaned (yes I read them all) that there were going to be presentations on some of the work that Grail women were doing in some of the major areas of the vision statement. And we had that, and they were great. What surprised me was that we were then asked to pick action areas for the Grail to focus on nationally from those areas on which there had been presentations. I’ve done enough politics over the years to know that if you are not included on the official train before it leaves the station it is awfully hard to get on later. It seemed like there had been a narrowing of focus (probably by accident as it worked out) in terms of what Grail areas of work were to be chosen. Selfishly, since one of my major interests is in the area of art I felt a bit like I’d better make a noise or be left out. Luckily for me Jackie made a noise about the similar issue but different topic before I had to. So I just chimed in with agreement. It is a huge credit to the planners that they sensed the problem was more than skin deep and immediately jinked around the schedule to allow for those who wanted to introduce other things to do it. I gather from others with more years of experience at these meetings that this is often the Grail way.

    I was grateful that Noreen (our fearless leader) noticed the communication fadeout between the planners/office and the rest of us and pointed it out right away in her article. This is the beginning of finding a solution. And I do think we need to find a solution because we are a very small group of women all spread out, very different and busy who have come together to do some very big work. If we can’t work smart we are going to burnout. Good communications are the beginning of working smart. In no small part because to communicate well implies having thought through what you are trying to do/say and being clear in your own thinking – even if it is being clear about a question you have. We are very lucky to have in our Grail office folks who are keeping their antennae attuned to the members needs. They are trying to formulate policies and procedures to accomplish the Goals of the Grail in the US and Internationally. They are asking us to help because we are the Grail in the US and I think this GA was an attempt to help them get a handle on how best to proceed. (Knowing that we have limited financial resources and limited womanpower to do it with and so have to make choices)

    I was annoyed because there is so little time and I get frustrated when lots of energy is used up just sort of churning around. I imagine the planners of the GA were probably annoyed too because they had been doing their best to be inclusive but their message of why had not gotten thru and they were then stuck with objections/complaints/fussing etc.

    I feel discouraged because I don’t really know how to fix this. I read thru the various Grail communications. I am very busy and often tired and so unless something directly implicates me I do not dig in and analyze/respond/act etc. Maybe people just don’t know what to DO about the stuff they read. And actually a lot of it is just informational. A lot is philosophical. And a lot is personal. Most therefore requires no official response. But I watched a recent example of the Grail census – for months a simple form with some easy information was asked for again and again and again… This is woeful. As an artist I am inherently a communicator. But there are passive audiences (who absorb – one assumes), and active audiences (who give you feedback, praise, purchase your work, etc) I think the best we can hope for is all the Grail communications have at least got a passive audience. But how to push the buttons to get an active audience response is really a big question. Make it easy. Make the communication as to what you want done SIMPLE and clear. Repeat it many ways and times. Give people a motive to respond (carrots and sticks). This last one is sort of a miserable one to have to consider with Grail communications to a Grail audience. Aren’t we already motivated? Urg. And this all said, these things are for sort of top down commands/wishes whereas the Grail tries to be bottom up as an organization. Really unusual (but probably why a lot of us are drawn to it) and really tough to organize and administer. Looking at a bigger picture – beyond written communications – I think we do amazingly well on face-to-face communications. Our systems for respecting the individual voice (and I do mean systems, consciously organized systems) are fabulous. We have good note taking and summarizing skills. We can wordsmith in a group to a degree that makes me nearly stop breathing sometimes. We can wrestle with very big, very heartfelt concepts and find harmony. I guess this is not so discouraging after all. 🙂

    Anyway I have gone on and on too long, (but I had the time it took the chicken soup to boil down- a rare hour between).

    Thanks for listening.
    Beth Murphy

    PS. I am going to post this on the list serve also, in order to practice the Many Ways communication rule.

    The Grail

    Thank you Elizabeth Murphy for you reflection.

    I did read most of the articles in Gumbo and the National News about the GA and I planned to go. I was not entirely dependent on those written materials about what would happen at the GA.

    Through my work on the National Grail Council and all the regular contacts through email and phone I have with Grail members around the country, I was clear about the themes for each day. I knew I would be participating in a panel on the second day on the Grail Link to the UN Network activities. I have been aware of some of the work that Grail members have been doing in our environmental world, our social world and our spiritual world and knew they would be presenters at the GA. I knew there would be presentations by the persons who attended the IGA and the National Grail Council and a celebration of the 90th birthday of the Grail at the brunch on Sunday.

    My idea for improving communication in the Grail

    I recommend that we talk to each other and encourage each other to communicate through the National News, a Gumbo, the listserv and now the member forums on the website. Let’s have a monthly feature in Gumbo for teams, Grail groups, individuals, centers to share how they use these communications to keep in touch with the larger Grail.

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