Who’s Running This Organization Anyway?

In my last blog I talked about a project I’m completing in which I’m facilitating an organizational development process for an asset building coalition; the goal is to help them determine what their permanent organizational structure should be.

After gathering insights from coalition members and conducting interviews with other similarly charged coalitions around the country, my colleague Jacqueline White and I facilitated a retreat that served as the first step in further defining the coalition structure.  I’m a big fan of The Collaboration Handbook (2003) and I used it in crafting the retreat structure. The authors note that coalitions that are trying to organize themselves should:

  • Form a Structure
  • Determine Roles
  • Decide About Staffing
  • Secure Resources

I am charged with helping them with the first bullet point. They need to decide which structure would be most efficient, while allowing them to integrate the work that they are doing with the outcomes they hope to achieve.

To that end, one of the questions I posed to the group is, “What kind of management and governance structure do you want to have?” To help them answer this and other questions, I developed a handout that offered information, as well as prompts to generate discussion; this tool was used in the context of small groups. After the groups had contemplated the questions and thought about their responses we came together, as a large group, to debrief. Below is a portion of the tool that addressed management and governance.

Category Representative  Statement Prompts
Organizational Management/Management and Governance



“Collaborations usually adopt one of two structures: a table or a wheel. In the table structure, everyone comes together to make the necessary decisions (such groups are usually seated around a table). In the wheel, small groups take more independent action. A group at the hub coordinates information and activities, but the small groups may have little contact with each other.

However, no structure is pure. The table model may have task forces or subcommittees that act like spokes on the wheel, making recommendations back to the larger group or taking action on behalf of the ‘table’. On the other hand, the spokes on the wheel may each operate like a “table” where all members make the decisions.”

The Collaboration Handbook

  1. What is the work that needs to be done within the coalition?
  2. What resources have coalition members committed?
  3. Do we prefer the table or wheel structure? How might the combination of the work and resources inform our structure?
  4. How flat do we want the organization to be? (hierarchical, individual based or group centered)
  5. What kinds of groups do we need to form?
  6. Who will be in charge of what parts?
  7. Will we write up an agreement detailing structure and roles?




It might be useful for you and your partners to ask yourselves the same questions. A good management and governance structure is a key component of all successful organizations. It helps you to make smart decisions, avoid unnecessary risks and enhance organizational performance.