Create Clear Ownership of Agreements (Tip #5)

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.As mentioned in Monday’s post, I’m plugging away at finishing a draft of my Agreements Workbook.  Here’s the next installment, Tip #5:  “Create Clear Ownership of the Agreement.”

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

Thanks for reading. 🙂

~♥ Dawn

PS:  How about that election news, eh? Same sex marriage rights bills passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State! And voters also rejected a bid in Minnesota to change their constitution in order to ban same sex unions. For once I kinda hope that the conservatives are c0rrect, and rights for multiple partner unions are a mere slippery slope away, because if so, it looks like we’re picking up speed! In the meantime, you may want to check out Woodhull’s Family Matters project. They’re still looking for participants in their project based on family diversity being a human rights issue (rather than a civil rights one.)

PPS: Want to talk more specifically about your own family situation? I’ll be happy to do a mini-session for you for free. 🙂 Just drop me a line!

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5) Create Clear Ownership of the Agreements

Suppose you and your partner/s have agreed that the cat’s litterbox needs to be cleaned every day. You even wrote it down.  It’s everyone’s job, so everyone is supposed to notice that it needs to be done.  But every day, the box isn’t clean, and no one seems to know why.  The answer?  Because you didn’t create “clear ownership” of the Agreement.  Because it was “everyone’s job,” but no one’s job in particular, no one felt any particular responsibility to do it, and everyone assumed that “someone else” would take care of it. (My ex and I used to call this an “SEP field” for “Somebody Else’s Problem.”)

Kitten in a litterbox

It stinks when someone doesn’t do their job…

To create clear ownership of the Agreement, designate who is responsible for the Agreement.  In some cases, this will be one person, though who that is might change from day to day. So for example, you might create an Agreement that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Kitty’s litterbox will be cleaned by Person A, and on Mondays and Wednesdays by Person B, etc. That way, if the box isn’t clean, it’s clear who is responsible for that, and any consequences or requests can get directed to the right person.  This saves time, energy, and sometimes relationships!

It’s possible to have Agreements where more than one person “owns” the Agreement, but to do this, it’s very important that both/all people “own the Agreement 100%.”  You might think that it would be ok for two people to each own it 50%… but this just ends up being the same thing as no one owning the Agreement.  If each person owns the Agreement 100%, however, then each person will do the required action every time that they can do it, because they never assume that someone else will do it. So for instance, if everyone is responsible for keeping the counters clean, then every time each individual uses a dish, they clean it and put it in the drainer.  Each person owns their own part of that Agreement 100%. However, this only works if everyone is 100% responsible, and/or if there is some specific plan of action for what to do if someone slacks off.

Here’s an example of how this style of Agreement might work. My housemate told me a story about a shared household she lived in for a while where the rule was that no one ever left dirty dishes on the counter.  If you used it, you washed it immediately. The other housemates were empowered to put any dirty dishes on the bed of the person who left them there (assuming you could figure out who did it.) For me personally, I don’t like this version as much, because it can still end up with one person doing all or most of the work if every person isn’t 100% responsible all the time — or with all of the dishes in one person’s room and nothing to eat on! But she’s says it worked for them. For myself, I vastly prefer clear and individual ownership of each Agreement, but “your mileage may vary,” as they say!

Another challenge that arises if there isn’t clear ownership of an Agreement is that each person may be waiting for the other to do something, before moving on to the next step.  So let’s take an example of a primary couple who each have secondary partners. If we have an Agreement to only schedule dates when the other person already has a date, we might end up with no one going on dates for a long time, while each person waits for the other person to schedule a date! This is called a “bottleneck,” and it can bring things to a complete halt very quickly. (See the book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
for more about this concept.)  It might be better to frame the Agreement in a way that no one is waiting for someone else, or agree on a maximum time that you need to wait after informing your partner/s of the date proposal before you can consider it finalized. Anything that addresses the bottleneck (and doesn’t create another!) would be helpful here.

Clear ownership of the Agreement — including any sub-parts it might have, or anything that differs from one person to the next — will help keep the Agreements functional, and will help to forestall bottlenecks and other such issues.

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[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Keep Emotional and Safety Needs Distinct (Agreements Tip #6)]

[Previous Entry: The Fun Factor in Agreements (Tip #4)]

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One thought on “Create Clear Ownership of Agreements (Tip #5)

  1. Pingback: Keep Emotional and Physical Safety Agreements Distinct [Tip #6] — Uncharted Love

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