Healthy Decision-Making Leads to Healthy Communities

Published on: June 1, 2013

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The spiritual community was in turmoil, and the minister felt frustrated when several individuals kept challenging her ideas. Then she learned a new process and felt encouraged to try it. She met with teams and committees and talked about an upcoming decision. She explained where the church was in the decision-making process, answered questions, and kept members updated on the board’s thinking. She felt excited when previous “challengers” joined the conversations. Things had changed!

What Just Happened Is the ADDS Process

The shift that happened at this church can happen anywhere. The minister used a 4-step process that is simple to learn and amazingly flexible. It works for decisions affecting only a few people to projects affecting tens of thousands of people or more. It is as simple as:

Announce: Tell people about the upcoming decision* process, including a schedule and what has been done so far.
*A “decision” can be the “final decision” to make for a large project
Dialogue: Discuss the proposed decision with people, listen to their ideas and    concerns, and respond to them.
Decide: As the authorized decision-maker(s), make the decision.
Share: Share the final decision by appropriate avenues, considering who will be affected. It may be helpful to summarize how comments and
information from the dialogue process helped the decision-making.

ADDS Requires a Collaborative Mindset

The ADDS process is as much a mindset as it is a process. It is helpful for leaders to expect to learn from and respond to community members rather than to defend decisions and convince members that a decision is perfect. It helps too when leaders are willing to be influenced by the ideas and interests of community members.

During the dialogue phase, shared ideas will often improve projects and decisions. When leaders incorporate the ideas, trust in leadership will increase. Said Caroline B., the board president where ADDS was used during a ministerial transition:

[ADDS] tends to build community and commitment …. It was extremely helpful in healing a community that was feeling so left out of decisions previously. [emphasis added]

ADDS Is Effective

In one community, a person felt upset and angry about a project because he thought that the decision was a “done deal.” Finally he realized that the board was coming to the community before a decision was made, and felt elated at the opportunity to be heard. He became open to learning about the project and talked with the board about it.

When a new minister held a community meeting, four people stood up together and shouted at the board and minister, who felt shocked and unable to respond. After receiving training on the ADDS process and a plan of activities for the dialogue phase, the minister and board felt optimistic about the future. With coaching, they implemented three recommended dialogue activities with community members, and the next annual meeting was successful and without disruptions.

ADDS Works

ADDS works because:

• The 4-step process is easy to follow.
• Discussions of how to implement the decision are brought out into the open.
• Decisions are more sustainable.

° Decisions are enriched with information from community members.
° Decisions better meet people’s needs.
° The process builds a better sense of community in which:

1. Community members:

• Feel empowered;
• Have a sense of ownership; and
• Develop trust and respect for the Board.

2. Board and other leaders:

• Become more well informed;
• Better meet members’ needs; and
• Build credibility, trust and respect.

Ultimately, ADDS works because leaders come together with community members with respect, ready to listen, and open to new ideas that will make the decision better. Using spiritual principles with the collaborative model of ADDS, people are heard and valued. Ideas and knowledge that might otherwise have been lost are considered in the final decision, and credibility and trust increase. Everyone is working together for the highest good of all.

How to Learn ADDS

Materials have been developed that can help you with the ADDS process:
• “ADDS Quick Summary Card.” Easy to keep with you on a 4″ x 6″ postcard.
• “Stop, Look, and Listen” article. Describes how to use spiritual powers of wisdom and understanding to look past a person’s external behavior to catch
what is happening internally, and to understand the person’s underlying interests and needs.
• Book on ADDS: currently undergoing revisions, expected to be ready by July.

Contact Janet to receive a free ADDS Quick Summary card via US mail and a copy of the “Stop, Look, and Listen” article via email.

Janet Rhodes
Marylou Palmer
Rev Marylou Palmer is an ordained minister and transition ministry specialist. She has over 30 years experience in nonprofit administration. For the past 16 years of ministry she has used non-violent communication; and since 2005 she has effectively used ADDS in her transitional placements.

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