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Balance Structure and Flexibility

Paul Stevenson

Structures, such as a clear agenda, time limits, or raising hands before speaking, can create safety, focus, and a form for the group's energy to pour into. Yet to sustain the life of a group, this must be balanced with a great openness to change, dancing between the two as needed.


structure gives you familiarity, flexibility gives aliveness
when to diverge from agenda, when to stay close to it
consistency both within a meeting and across meetings
how much prep people beforehand for meeting, vs. wait until the moment
people changing chairs
new room layout
too much anxiety and no one can focus
metaphor of cell membrane
which elements to vary, among possibilities: agenda, format, start/stop times, room layout, what process we use, who's present
how much vary and how much the same
Follow the Energy to see which to do more of
some flex might just be in the moment, in other cases flex to something and like it better and now do it this way - experimentation for capacity-building; catch the learning and concretize it
something with life cycles in groups

check with whole group for well-being on this, not just a few squeaky wheels
be familiar with how this group normally operates, gives you knowledge of what counts as new/flex


successful political action groups have "nonnegotiable" purpose or guidelines, and clarity about


Bruce Tuckman's stages of group development