Taking Stack (Meeting Facilitation Technique)
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Taking stack is a meeting facilitation method that can be employed to strengthen and stabilize discussions and decision-making processes in cooperatives.
The following is a technique used in some democratic workplaces for deliberation, discussion, and decision making. Because of the way our workplaces – and society in general – are structured, most of us have little experience in actually working together cooperatively. Therefore, when learning about self-managed businesses, it is just as important to practice the skills necessary for workplace democracy as it is to learn about the ideas of cooperativism. This technique, informally called “Taking Stack,” will be used in some class discussions and activities, as well as for making major decisions in your fictional cooperative in Co-opoly.
The purpose of taking stack is to facilitate discussion and decision making in which all participants have equal say in a conversation. Otherwise, in a structure-less setting, an individual or a small group of people could easily dominate and shut out other participants. Taking stack is meant to bring balance and a coherent method to the sometimes strenuous and sloppiness of democratic discussion and decisions.
In this method, one participant in the group volunteers to be the facilitator. The facilitator’s purpose is to make sure that the conversation stays on topic, that the proper procedure is being followed, that no one speaks out of turn, and that no participant is abusing any of the stack techniques. It is also the facilitator’s role to make sure that the agenda is being followed in the proper order. Also, if a discussion comes up that makes more sense for a later agenda item, it is the facilitator's responsibility to hold the conversation off until the proper time. The facilitator must constantly be paying attention to the conversation as well as all of the participants. Many democratic workplaces switch facilitators often so that not one person dominates the role, and so that everyone develops the facilitating skill. However, sometimes there are intense conversations or important decisions that require an already strong facilitator to make sure conversation or decision making is equitable and does not breakdown.
Additionally for this method, one group participant needs to fill the role of the Stack Keeper. It is the Stack Keeper’s responsibility to structure and order the dialogue and the decision making process. The Stack Keeper needs a pen and a couple pieces of paper. “The Stack” is the order of participants who are speaking. If a participant raises their hand to say something, the Stack Keeper puts them on “Stack.” That is, the Stack Keeper puts their name at the bottom of stack list. When the person at the top of Stack has finished speaking, the Stack Keeper crosses their names off and announces who the next two participants on stack are. Thus, the Stack Keeper is the person responsible for identifying who speaks and when. The Stack Keeper must constantly be paying attention and looking around the room to see who wants to speak. In addition to these duties, both the Facilitator and Stack Keeper may also contribute normally to the discussion.
Methods for Participant Contribution
If a participant has a general contribution to make to the discussion, they should raise their hand and the Stack Keeper will put them at the bottom of the stack. General contributions include: responding to or disagreeing with what another participant has said; making a proposal; making a point; expanding on what another person has said; and etc.
If a participant has a “direct response” to something that another group member said, they should make the hand motion shown in the above picture (index fingers out, thumbs up, moving hands up and down in opposite directions). The Stack Keeper allows this participant to state their response before the conversation goes on. A “direct response” is only a correction to something that was incorrectly stated by another participant, an answer to a question that another participant had, or that is so important that it must be said at this moment. A “direct response” is not to be used to respond to a point that someone else just made, to cut in the discussion-line, or to argue against the person who just spoke. Such responses should go in the normal stack line.
Correct Usage: “You asked who volunteered to take over your shift? That was me.” OR “Actually, the store spent $100 dollars yesterday, not $1,000.”
Incorrect Usage: “I disagree with what you just said, because…”
Any participant may make the following hand gesture to indicate a “clarifying question.” If someone is making this gesture, the Stack Keeper allows them to ask their question before stack goes on. This should only be used in situations when a participant does not understand something that is being said, needs additional information, or if they have a question about the factual accuracy of what is being said. This should not be used in anyway as a response to someone else’s statement.
Correct Usage: “Wait, what were our expenses last week?”
Incorrect Usage: “How can you say that when you disagreed with Jeremy’s point?”
Point of Process
If a participant feels that the group discussion is not following the correct procedure or a discussion has gotten off topic, they may make this hand gesture and say out loud “Point of Process.” The Stack Keeper allows them to speak before the next person at the top of stack. They must then say how they think the discussion has gotten off topic or is not following procedure.
Example 1: “I’m not sure why we’re talking about shifts when the agenda says we’re supposed to be talking about salaries.”
Example 2: “There’s a proposal on the table, and I think we should resolve that before we move on to anything else.”
Main Article: Meeting Minutes
At any formal meeting, it is essential that one member take meeting minutes. Meeting minutes are essentially notes about what happened at the meeting. They should include important points made at the meeting, who was assigned what tasks, and what decisions or conclusions that the group came to. These meeting minutes are to be made available to every member of the cooperative. This is important so that there is transparency in the workplace, so that people can be reminded about what tasks/projects they were assigned, and so that everyone can easily recall what decisions the group made.
These are spotlighted conversations from this page's Discussion Area.
- When does it make sense to use the stack method to facilitate a co-op meeting? When is it unhelpful?