My view on… Program Coordinators Part 2
CIAO to everybody.
Six months ago, I offered you my opinion about one of the advanced roles of the Magic Judge Program: the Program Coordinators.
Today, I’m offering a quite special article, as it’s the FULL version of my application to become Program Coordinator…. which has been successful ^___^
Most of my activity as a judge is limited in three “environments”:
- Italy: it’s my country, and I’m involved in the management of my region with all the other L3s and senior L2s, supporting my Regional Coordinator
- Grand Prix: these are my events (usually in Asia, often in Europe, and very rarely in America); I judge two pPTQs every season and a couple of Pro Tours every year, so the vast majority of my events are Grand Prix
- L3s: almost all my projects involve L3s, and the communication is limited to them; sometimes (like today!) I publish articles for the broader public
One of the aspects that I’ve been recently insisting on is transparency.
Over the years, I noticed that…
… lack of knowledge leads to ignorance, ignorance leads to assumptions, assumptions lead to rumors, rumors lead to false information, false information lead to the dark side!
I am aware that full transparency is risky, that confidential information has to remain confidential, that the truth will never please anyone…
… you may not like others’ choices, you may have different opinions, but at least you will have real information instead of rumors and badmouthing.
OK, time to show you the application, enjoy it.
Why should you be a Program Coordinator?
I should be a Program Coordinator because it would have a positive impact on many judges.
- Inside the PC group
In the last year, I saw people quitting the role and I heard about people having a quite low activity (both surprise me a lot); I am aware that the role is not easy at all, and that it requires patience, diplomacy, acceptance of limitations; I am very confident that I will be able to have a high level of participation, in a continuous way.
From the outside, I have the doubt that discussion and decision processes might be slow or have some issues (which cause lack of replies to messages or big delays in replying to messages); I am willing to make efforts to build a more solid discussion system and to contribute to a faster decision process.
Speaking about discussions and decisions, listening to others’ points of view and supporting group’s decisions even when they are different from our opinion is very important; I am confident that my international/intercultural/interracial judge and life experiences will allow me to be open minded and I count I have demonstrated multiple times on the GPHJ list that I am very willing to follow the group’s decisions (about policy) as long as decisions are taken, much more than many others.
These three aspects together bring to a committed and active member, willing to make efforts to contribute to focused and goal oriented conversations and subsequent actions.
- Outside the PC group
Members of a community (and, in minor part, of a workplace) have a commitment that is influenced by the commitment and by the reputation of their coordinators.
I am very confident I am known as a very committed and respected judge, who cares about the activities he participates into and about the people who ask him for assistance.
I am aware that there are other judges who would be more effective in building an infrastructure, coordinating series of projects, writing the appropriate messages… (and I will be very happy to recommend them!) … but I am also aware about the importance of the “human touch”, as the judge program is not a mandatory government infrastructure; instead, it’s a quite unique system of volunteers, and it benefits from a good amount of both technical organization and personal commitment.
Then, I should be a Program Coordinator because I would bring a great amount of passion, a very high awareness of the importance of putting together opinions from different people and the following collaboration to achieve common goals, and also many ideas.
In the two answers below, you will find a single idea, expanded with some details and some explanation.
I would also like to (quickly) mention other aspects of my role as PC:
- Projects: the work on Spheres so far has been in the good direction and I like it. The next steps I would like to take are (1) to identify any areas that may need more support and more energy (reviews!!) or that may need to be addressed (L3 maintenance!!), (2) to facilitate interested judges in putting into practice their ideas (there are so many!) BUT reducing the redundancy of projects (there is still some) and also creating and advertising tournament related documents (there are so many, but is there a way to find them other than googling?!?)
- Feedback: I wrote a blog post (a copy of my “Feedback in 2017” message to the L3 forum, on April the 13th) and I dedicated a significant time to a few initiatives that encourage feedback, especially from L3 to L3 (main example is the evaluation from the GPHJs to the L3s and team leaders at GPs). This should only be the first step; just an attempt of raising the awareness of the importance of feedback under the form of mutual support (it’s a direct and concrete action in response to the complaints to the 2016 L3 maintenance test)
- No drama! The behavior of the coordinators (be it a public message or a private mail to other judges) has the opportunity and the responsibility to set the tone of the conversation and influence the feelings and attitude of others. Drama doesn’t help; explaining, asking questions and listening helps. This is very important, as the final goal is to build something together; there are no “enemies” in the judge program; there are only different opinions, perceptions and interests… and all of them can be valid. On the other side, the internal conversations have to be honest and direct (no drama, no conflict, just sharing and comparing opinions and observations to determine together the best course of action!); all conversations should be based on mutual respect and esteem, as they will be professional conversations among work colleagues who have the same goal.
- Diversity and inclusion: it seems like this has been a hot topic in the last years (or that I’m just being linked more and more articles)… but to me has been a much longer period and it’s about treating all the people in the same way, with a higher attention to those who are not “in the center”. We have been discussing about the needs of the program in “remote areas” like Latin America or Asia; we have been dedicating resources to translations and many conversations about the most appropriate balance between “all equal” and “let’s not forget the language barriers”; we have paid attention to put together opinions from people from all possible angles (note: I intentionally chose to have three recommendations from three different continents, excluding my region). Sometimes, it’s people with a different background or with a low ability to communicate properly that have very good ideas or raise very appropriate points, but get put aside because they aren’t able to write diplomatically enough on the L3 forum or fail to realize that their way of communicating (or joking) is seen as awkward. Sometimes, it’s people who have a more sensitive personality and have no energy or courage to express their discomfort that we should listen with higher attention. Though it may not seem “judge stuff”, I believe that it’s an opportunity for PCs to make the judge (and player? Let’s start from the judges, then it will also “cascade” into the players) environment more valuable.
These are just general descriptions of the ideas; if you want more details about the specific actions I thought about, please contact me.
What would you expect to accomplish in this role?
Among the several goals and ideas I have, I would like to focus and give some more details (see next answer for specific examples of actions) about one specific area:
The “what’s the role of PCs?”, “what do PCs do?” are questions I heard many times since the creation of this role.
It seems that there is still a mystery around this role, even among many L3s, and this has unfortunately caused a significant frustration in many judges (mainly L3s) and may also have damaged the reputation of the PC as a role and, I hope not, even the reputation of the individuals.
From my point of view, the cause was not that the job was of a low quality; I worked for years with all the people who had the role of PC, I learned a lot from each of them and I know their strengths; I can barely imagine the constraints they had to face in the past, and I may imagine that, especially in this period of high sensitivity to delicate topics, communicating in a safe way to the broad public is all but easy. My impression is that the cause of frustration was the simple lack of expected communication and knowledge of their role and practical activity.
All the work behind the curtain is of course necessary; then, another aspect has to be taken into account: the visibility of the work itself is very important too.
One of my favorite description of a role is “how it impacts the entire judge program”; in the case of PCs, which is a key role, an aspect that affects its impact is the trust that judges have in that role; judges are volunteers, willing to dedicate their time and energy to contribute to a system that is bigger than any of them, a system they need to trust to be able to commit at a level that would make them satisfied and proud.
How do you expect to accomplish this?
- Frequency of broad public communication
When the “From the PCs desk” blog was created, I was very happy and I thought “This is what I was looking forward to seeing”.
After some months, I had the impression that the amount of communication decreased.
One of my specific goals in to increase the frequency of the publication of news from the PCs desk.
Though there will be months when “nothing special happens”, I see value in having a monthly article that may contain information about the activities of the previous month and especially a message about a topic that is considered to be important; I’m confident that we will be able to find 12 important topics to highlight in a year, and also the time to write some lines about each of those topics (they may even be a short reminder of an important aspect like being up-to-date with the most recent version of rules&policy, with links to the documents and to the “update or practice tests”).
- Content of broad public communication
In addition to the frequency, there is also the content. I see value in giving more information about the specific activity of the PC group, in a way that is similar to the GPHJ list monthly summaries.
Point 1 already mentioned the idea of a “topic of the month”; another idea is a summary of the requests received and processed in the last period (with results, whenever possible; there might be confidential topics, of course); another idea is the most frequent requests or advice from polls (see point 4 below).
- Promptness of private communication
I guess the PCs receive requests, comments, advice… and this is the first step of the interaction.
The second step is the discussion among the PCs, who need to determine the best course of action, which varies from “I can reply to them” to a long activity that involves an entire sphere or a delicate communication with Wizards and its legal department.
In addition of “making things happen”, the third step is replying; replying is very important, and replying promptly is fundamental.
Quick discussion and decision processes should be applied and used; the number of PCs is low, so we may need just very simple tools (simplified example: 24 hours of conversations, 24 hours for a “vote”, finished).
Regarding the private replies, ideas vary from a standardized reply once the request is received and starts being discussed to a simple shared file with the status of the “ticket”.
Finally, a follow up some time after the end of the activity (to check for its effectiveness) is the icing on the cake!
- Requests for opinions/advice/requests
Communication goes both ways; depending on the workload to address incoming communication and behind the curtain activities, I see a big value in actively asking for information, comments, ideas… both to individuals and to the broad public.
The creation of a common mail address was a first step, that can be followed by a series of polls (generic or topic oriented; limited to L3s, RCs, L2+…, people who offered feedback in the past…).
How would you handle internal disagreement among the PCs?
In a working group, it’s normal that there are disagreements.
“Disagreement” may sound like a negative word, but I actually see it as a positive word.
The meaning is “different opinions”, which is an *added value* that we need to nurture without any prejudice of “disagreements are to be avoided”.
A group with members who have different mind/opinions/thought_process is without doubt stronger, more reactive and more robust than a group with a single opinion; the idea that “no disagreements” is absolutely positive is narrow and, despite the advantages in the very short term, may bring to a weaker ability to produce long term results.
Opinions should be shared and discussed in the group; each person’s opinion has value and should be both expressed without concern (many current procedures have been created from a “crazy” idea in the past”) and without prejudice (again, a different opinion is an added value to a group that operates in harmony). Constructive disagreements should be encouraged, opinions respected, diplomacy applied.
With a mutual esteem among the members of the group, everyone can feel free that a different opinion is never a “personal attack”; instead, it’s a contribution to reaching a common goal.
When it comes to taking a decision, if there are differing opinions, a very simple voting would bring to a decision (think about the Werewolf system of voting ^__^, with also the final voting among the two most voted options); this might be just a starting point. A single person may then take care of putting into practice the details, while higher-level (initial or more delicate) decisions would be group decisions.
Note: how to build mutual esteem and group-feeling is a very broad topic, which I will be happy to discuss in details.
Your action plan to achieve better communication is mainly to expand the “From the PCs desk” platform. What makes you think that platform is good enough to reach the right audience?
This is a MUCH broader topic; I will do my best to explain it effectively, while keeping it relatively short.
The “From the PCs desk” seems to me the only platform that PCs used so far for their communication to the broad public (is it linked or duplicated in local channels of communications? Is it translated? Is it appropriately advertised?). The L3 forum has been used a few times, with debatable results.
When it comes to communication, my preference is to have a much more frequent communication, starting from L3s and RCs (I have no information about the communication between PCs and RCs, so I will limit my thoughts below to the PCs-L3s only); we may discuss about the need of PCs-GPHJs communication; then, another key part is the “brand” communication to all judges.
- L3s as a group.
Compared to the last couple of years, I would like to see a higher communication between PCs and L3s as a group (the L3 forum looks to me the best platform at the moment, adding a sticky topic with conclusions, for better reference); I would like to see PCs asking for more feedback, both on general and also on specific topics, and then giving reasonable answers (this is VERY important, as asking for feedback/opinions must be followed by answers, so to make people FEEL that the time they invested was worth); such communication must be both ways.
- All judges.
The “From the PCs desk” is a good start, and it can act as a very effective repository of communications; the section of “quarterly newspaper” is very good, as it gives a regular overview of what happened in the last period or what will happen next. In addition to this type of publications, I see advantages in publishing a yearly “status of the judge program”, and a regular series of in-depth analysis (a single sphere, a single project, a specific aspect we want to highlight…). Then, in addition to the content and the repository, “marketing” is very important; judges should know that the content exists (and also that they can get in touch with PCs, see next point); there might be a few changes to increase the penetration of the message (a dedicated JudgeApps forum, messages forwarded by the RCs, other platforms / social media accounts…).
- Individual judges.
This is a key point. Currently, I’m afraid that many people think that PCs are not accessible and that communication to the PCs is a “black hole” that doesn’t send any answer. The entire structure of communication that is requests/feedback/comments/answers is a *relationship*, which has to be nurtured, to create trust. Trust is very important and it’s an area that, at this moment, seems to me with high possibilities of improvement. Trust is not a feeling that gets easily created; it has to be built and it takes time; it is based on individual situations, that vary from a worldwide communication to a single mail to a single person; it is based on expectations (that must be very clear); it is based on reputation… which brings to the next and final point…
This is a complex aspect, that I really hope I will be able to express correctly.
Products are sold when they have a known, respected and strong brand.
I currently see “Program coordinators” as a weak brand; I actually have a bet with a L3 that, in short, says “if you become PC, the PCs’ reputation may get better or your reputation may get worse; we will determine the outcome at the end of 2018 and the winner will…”.
As a judge, *I* am a brand, and I consider myself a strong brand. In addition to the technical skills (which are not universally loved, but are highly appreciated in some “markets”), my brand is based on the “personal touch”; judges who have esteem in me know that they can count on me when they are in need, as my words will be honest and truthful and my actions will be guided by passion and good will (I would never hide behind the wall of bureaucracy or act as little as possible to avoid damage; on the contrary, I would be transparent and work hard to get a concrete result, as the goal is to create in a constructive way; my style is to look after the others!!!).
Very important for this application: it’s not a matter on skills or ideas, it’s a matter of reputation, I would use communication to improve the brand awareness and reputation of PCs, and I would like to see them taking the responsibility of being the “leaders” that many people still expect.
Note: if you want, we can discuss more about the technical systems and platforms and format of the messages, but I insist that the most important type of improvement about communication that I’m suggesting is about how the communications make people *feel*; do they feel taken care of?
How do you plan to identify those areas that need more support? And when you do, what kind of support do you believe you can give them? There is only 1 of you, after all…If you plan to motivate other judges to help, how do you motivate them?
- How to identify areas
Despite their experience and broad vision, the PCs are only three individuals; they are judge-professionally very similar, as they all come from the same small subset: technical and experienced L3s; their point of view is limited, therefore they would great benefit from external input.
Useful input may be asked to several sources, especially sources of opinions that are different from the PCs’; here you some examples (non-comprehensive):
- Experts in the field, but with a very different role: Andy Heckt, Jaap Brower
- Other stakeholders: GP TOs, local TOs (via the RCs), Wizards
- Dissenting groups: yes, people who have a very different point of view are potentially VERY useful
- Other judge profiles: low enfranchised L3s, non-GP L2s (via the RCs), L1s (via polls, remembering that the profile of people participating in polls may not be a good sample of the population)
The PCs should have the necessary “wisdom” to correctly put together the opinions and select the areas that need more support; rather than expressing my opinion about what *I* consider more important, I see value in using approach I’ve just described, based on other profiles’ opinions and analysis.
- Kinds of support
The areas might vary, therefore the kind of support may vary (I’ll be short, as it may be very different).
If it’s a specific project/sphere, a person or a team gets put together (for example with a “help needed” approach, counting on the desire of judges to contribute to a system they trust); the support varies from the technical/software aspects to the advice about the content to an appropriate advertisement (and use!!!) of what got created. Some people are motivated by material compensation, others by public recognition, others by evidence of real usefulness of what they produced. This is a concept similar to the “brand” above: don’t underestimate the psychological analysis of the judge population, the vast majority of them is made of good-hearted volunteers who want to be part of a trusted and efficient system (not by lazy employees who just want the stipend working as little as possible); knowing the population we need to deal with and serve, we can surely adjust our methods.
If it’s a general concept or a new idea, the goal is to raise awareness of the importance and needed tools are the “sponsors” (people in key positions who highlight the importance of the concept), the possible reward (a budget like the special-project-foils), the potentially most invested or affected people (think about the current initiatives about diversity).
- How to motivate
In short, as it’s just a collection of concepts expressed earlier: judges are highly motivated when they feel their contribution is appreciated. Involvement, regular guidance and feedback, advertisements, evidence of practical use and results. I insist, judges who feel looked after have a much higher motivation; this feeling exists in most (if not all) regions, while may be improved at the global level.
You state in your goals that you only expect to accomplish things in relation to communication, but you mention in “Why should I be PC” that Projects, Feedback and Drama! are why you should be PC. Are these also goals, and how would you accomplish them?
Projects: one of the most visible areas the PCs have been working on it the past are “projects”, and some past messaging mentioned that the main focus of PCs was on projects; though I would envision a different role, “projects” remains an area of responsibility of the PC group. The structure exists and is good; as I still see duplication of effort, a possible improvement might be a more efficient use of resources through a higher level of sharing of results, with a central coordination of efforts.
Feedback: feedback is a fundamental part of our improvement system based on peer to peer support, and I see a quite significant difference between now and ten years ago and between L3s and L2s (we may discuss the psychological reasons). It seems to be working well at the regional level (at least in some regions I have higher visibility on), while I see potential improvements at the L3 level. There are now a few initiatives, while I think it deserves a higher level of support (PCs highlighting its importance would have a higher impact). Such support may vary from messages that increase the awareness of the importance to a control of the GPHJ->L3 feedback to a new L3 maintenance (more based on reviews?) to an invite to select some judges for major events based on their quality and quantity of feedback.
Drama: this is a complex aspect, that would deserve many pages on its own, and also a psychological analysis. In short, PCs should operate in an internally constructive environment (high mutual support), as I expect they will frequently face pressure from the outside (and sometimes inappropriate “drama”). Externally, the concept of “lead by example” applies well; PCs should make an effort to act without drama and especially reduce the amount of drama that sometimes pops up; they should (sometimes) get involved in situation where drama is present. This simple, not accurately measurable and important goal (maybe not to everybody, but it’s very important to me!) needs to be achieved by a group effort, with both internal (“Do you really want to send this message” or “Speak here if you are troubled”) and external (“Hello reviewer-of-important-messages, can you please take a look at this?”) doublechecks.
If you want more details on any these aspects, I will be happy to write more… do you really want me to write more? ^__^
I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’m looking forward to reading your comments.
All comments, feedback and advice are very welcome 🙂