New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




Spotlight on: The Board-Management Technique "Community Problem-Solving"

New York City

Sept. 30, 2014

Many boards try to operate under the format (or a variation of it) suggested by Robert's Rules of Order. But some who have used it claim that Robert's is not well-designed for the unique communal nature of cooperatives and condominiums.

Another difficulty with Robert's approach is that it is limited in the way it examines the issues. Under the rules, a member proposes a motion to solve a problem, but there is no provision made for clarifying or identifying the actual problem.

One of the goals of Community Problem-Solving and other techniques like it is to add focus and clarity and to remove the subjectivity from the issues, to "objectify" the problem, and offer an easy-to-follow format for making decisions. 

According to information available on the Community Problem-Solving website, the steps in CPS involve:

Identifying the Problem. This is, perhaps, the most crucial step: agreeing on what the problem actually is. With CPS, the board will first pose the question: what's the problem we're trying to solve?

Considering Options. Frame your options by deciding what your objective is. You need to look at your goals and look at what you're going to accomplish, and put the policies in place to achieve that. 

Weighing Options. Evaluate your plan based on your objectives and limitations. Eliminate the options that don't work and prioritize what's left over. Then decide on the best option.

Implementing the Plan. Check to see that the plan is working. If it isn't, you should remain flexible: either redefine your objectives, or go to the second option on your list. Or else start over and redefine the problem; you may have misdiagnosed it.

Buying In. One caveat to using CPS: everyone has to buy into the system or it doesn't work. If you can't agree that there is a problem, it is impossible to move forward. It also means everyone agrees to use the CPS approach.

Many argue that systems like CPS also build a sense of community, as well as offering a wealth of ideas.    


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Adapted from "Cut to the Chase" by Tom Soter (Habitat, December 2004)

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