The Office of the Seneschal - Kingdom of Lochac

From the Seneschal

November 2009

Much of what we do in the Society is done automatically. We rely on a combination of institutional memory and assumed knowledge to make decisions about how to schedule and run events, how to handle finances, how to deal with the media, how to manage problems as they arise, and so on.

However, institutional memory and assumed knowledge are not the same thing. Ideally, institutional memory is carefully passed on from officer to officer -- from each generation of a group's ever-evolving Council to its successor -- and is published and lovingly maintained in the relevant policy, procedures and resource documents.

Without due care, it can be easily lost -- requiring arduous reinvention of wheels and, all too often, an over-reliance on assumed knowledge or even on processes which are made up on the spot.

In my SCA experience, when we start operating primarily on assumed knowledge, we usually get it wrong. And more often than not, we end up with results which are more limiting and painful to work with than properly-researched and documented policies would allow. So what should be a soundly-based game run for the enjoyment and benefit of all, instead becomes a process of dodging the shibboleths and imperfectly-formed fears presented by the more cautious or reactionary among us. It's not a recipe for long-term success, or growth.

When properly formed, publicised and handed on, policies and guidelines allow us to provide the necessary minimum of oversight, reporting, safety and good-quality inclusive governance to allow our activities to happen smoothly, and with the maximum benefit from the efforts we all put in. Operational processes are never perfect, and they should always be subject to review and improvement -- but having a clear understanding of what is required (and what is not) is far better than doing things by the seat of our pants.

If you have a role in an SCA group, guild or office, take time to get familiar with its documented processes and standards. Don't "assume", unless you have no choice. And keep those documents up to date and easily findable!

Above all, take the time to consult with and inform your newer members, especially when offices change hands or people take on new roles, such as stewarding their first event. You might know that so- and-so always turns up with the list-field if given a week's notice, but the new steward might not. You might be used to everyone in your old group bringing feast gear, hand towels, candles and bread to a feast, but that may not be the custom in your new home.

Don't assume - ask. If the answer surprises you, then that may give you the opportunity to suggest a new -- better! -- way of doing things. We could all benefit from that.

Bartholomew Baskin
Lochac Seneschal



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