Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dealing with Narrow-Minded Association Boards

At the NE-SAE conference last week, I facilitated a breakout session around the theme of dealing with narrow-minded boards.

Some of the issues that surfaced in the discussion and in calls over the last few months:
  1. Our governance structure doesn’t work. Too complex. We just can’t make decisions.
  2. The board doesn’t respect me and let’s me know it.
  3. Our board is composed of Boomers most of who have no idea of how to work with Millenials.
  4. We’re slow to change. Board keeps wanting more information before they will make a decision.
  5. The board keeps adding new things but rarely deletes projects. They have no idea of what staff does nor how long it takes.
Since several of these questions surfaced in a pre-conference survey, I was able to create a short PPT on the key topics. And, included some of the potential solutions.

Here are some brief answers to the five questions above:
1. Our governance structure doesn’t work. It’s too complex. We just can’t make decisions.
  •  Streamline. Document the cost of a complex government and big board. Give a copy of Race for Relevance to each board member and then discuss the findings and solutions at a future meeting.
2. The board doesn’t respect me and let’s me know it.
  •  Do what you can do but remember “It’s their organization not yours but its your career not theirs.” You may find it is time to move on. Remember, it’s easier to get a job when you have a job so start looking now. Before departing, you may want to bring in a third party to help.
3. Our board is composed of Boomers most of who have no idea of how to work with Millenials.
  •  Find ways to get your board to think about the future. Perhaps using the Strategic Intent planning model. Share generational research data with your boards. Invite a group of millenials to speak to the board. One of my former clients conducted focus groups of millenials in front of their members (at conference).
4. We’re slow to change. Board keeps wanting more information before they will make a decision.
  • Find champions (on the board) to “nudge” it to act. Set deadlines. Help the board understand the “produce, launch, improve model” many tech companies usetoday. Assign the project to a small task group designed to reach consensus and present recommendations to the Board. Use facilitation processes that encourage discussion and innovation. Consider bringing non board members to the table ... especially if they offer different perspectives.

5. The board keeps adding new things but rarely deletes projects. They have no idea of what staff does nor how long it takes.
  •  Track all time spent on all programs/services. Share hours allocation with your treasurer and/or president. Invite them to review and present to the board. Create a system that develops time as well as financial costs of new projects. Develop a policy of what can be added and how. (Note: find ways to build flexibility into the system so you don’t miss a huge opportunity because it is difficult to move through the process. This might be by having an “unanticipated opportunities” category in your budget and time allocation.)
Do you have similar challenges? What are you doing to overcome them?

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