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Tyranny of the Urgent! – September/October 2012
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Minnesota Community Living September/October 2012

Tyranny of the Urgent!

By Gene Sullivan

There are times when every homeowner association board is faced with a time-sensitive decision that calls for action now. How you handle that situation is very important. To not act could cause harm to an individual or further damage to the property. We all recognize the need to act in this instance, however…

There are many other times when the situation really is not an "emergency” but merely an issue where someone has invested a lot of personal time and emotion; in these cases not acting quickly is interpreted as a personal rebuff.

And still, at other times, we have been conditioned as a society to be very impatient people. Technology is always improving, allowing us to get information more quickly than before. In our dining habits, for example, we are accustomed to using a drive thru; if the food is not ready by the time we get to the window, we are incredulous.

We live under the tyranny of the urgent.

And somehow through all of this, we don’t question the quality of our life; we only seem bent on getting "one more thing” done before the end of the day. However, through all of this, have we ever taken a moment to stop and ask ourselves "Is this right?”

It can be so easy to perceive quick action, rather than the outcome of our efforts, as the right thing to do.

When our government was first getting established, our founding fathers were careful to always establish a check and balance in order to protect the self-interest of a few, with the wishes of the majority. Founding Father James Madison, in the Federalist Papers, said the purpose of government is to be deliberate – not efficient!

What did he mean?

When a governing body gathers, be it congress, a state legislature, or a homeowner’s board of directors, it has the authority and ability, but also the responsibility for its actions, because those actions affect the lives of many others in a very real way.

Obviously, not everyone can get what they want in a democracy. Because of this fact, it is important for everyone elected in a position of authority to take time to deliberate.
It is so important that Minnesota State Statute reminds those serving on an HOA Board that their decisions made outside of regularly scheduled board meetings must have all Board Members weighing in on a matter before moving forward. This is not optional.

Many Board Members, however, reason to themselves, "We have five people on the board; if I call and get two other board members to agree with me, I don’t need to contact the other two. We have a majority, and we can move forward!”

Remember, when something happens repeatedly, it becomes a habit. Habits once established create a destiny. When an HOA Board creates this "tyranny of the urgent” they will find that…
They experience burnout. Many Board Members come to the conclusion, "I didn’t sign on for this thing to become my entire life!”
Boards don’t see the value that disagreement and discussion have in order to bring clarity to everyone’s position and wishes on a particular matter.
Without this understanding, there can be no way to build a consensus that everyone can truly learn to live with.
Because of this "urgency,” we put greater emphasis on the "quickness” of the decision, as opposed to what is in everyone’s best interest.
And this allows us to experience the "law of unintended consequences.”

When this happens an association finds itself always fixing, always changing, and always needing to meet "one additional time.” 
However, if we choose to be more deliberate, we might be able to finally make a break from the tyranny of the urgent.

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