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Work Coordination - Exercising Communication Daily

“Srulik, there is pressure in the dairy next week. You will have to work there on Monday and Wednesday...Yes I know that its summer time and the grass must be mowed on time, but I've thought through all the options and that's the priority of the Kibbutz.”

How does Srulik feel? Probably annoyed, alienated, frustrated and helpless. But this is the way that Kibbutzim have worked for generations. One person worked (full-time on the bigger kibbutzim) at assigning people to work according to the priorities set by the Business Manager as s/he perceived them. It is a job that is usually done for half year terms because it is high pressured. People telephone you at all times of the day with demands and misunderstandings can often lead to tension and ill feelings between friends, people who will see each other at every mealtime and numerous other occasions throughout the day.

In trying to create a community based on personal responsibility, with a non hierarchical approach, it was clear to us early on that we would experiment with other ideas... The Sadran Avoda or Work Manager was replaced by a Menatev, Coordinator.

S/he has no authority to tell anyone where to work and is not even responsible for filling the holes in the work rota. Rather the job is to coordinate. Having an overall perspective on the situation - who is working where, and where the pressure is - s/he can direct people, suggest combinations etc. How does it all work?

By Wednesday afternoon, each work branch manager, writes a forecast for the coming week, including where and when they are lacking people, or have people to spare. They may request an extra work shift in the afternoon after a full day's work, and a specific number of people.

On Thursday, at the end of the work day, all the work branch managers come together to the Yeshivat Avoda, Work Meeting. The work coordinator has been busy all day. S/he has been ringing round to people who might be able to help out in the work branches that are pressured, and which work branches can spare a few hands where and when they're needed. According to the forecasts that people gave the night before, s/he is often able to fill in many of the holes before the meeting.

At the Work Meeting, the work branch managers listen to each others' situation and negotiate in order to solve the problems that remain. It is also a time to negotiate use of common tools such as tractors.

These meetings succeed because of the common bond that links the members, identification with an overall work system that will serve all. We rely on real listening and understanding of each others dilemmas.

When a problem arises during the week, it is not uncommon to turn to the work coordinator to help solve the problem. For example, one of the daycare workers becomes ill. The work coordinator will know to whom it is best to turn, from which work branch to ask for help in order to fill in the gap.

Long-term planning is also an important element, although the role of the work coordinator is less dominant here. However, quarterly meetings make it possible to foresee problems in the various work branches. New candidates, visitors, educational groups, and volunteers can be directed into the appropriate branches.

Finally, I want to admit that it doesn't always work. We are only human. There are times that holes are left open, that the Business Manager decides for example that the date harvest has priority over the work being done in the fields or the gardens at this specific time. These are always difficult decisions and not necessarily kindly accepted, but they are a rarity and in time understood. There are, however, work branches that are always top priority. The education of our children is always the first branch to be taken care of, we must feed and milk our cows, and feed ourselves.

Generally, however, the system works. Members recognize that the community is us, and the business is us. When we began using this method, there were those in the more established kibbutzim that gave us nine months to use it. Kibbutz Lotan is now celebrating a decade of work coordination ... and we are still proud of it.

Aliza Mayo

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Kibbutz Lotan, D.N. Hevel Eilot 88855 Israel; Tel: +972 8 6356888; Fax +972 8 6356927
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