Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Yes, You Can Restructure Your Association Governance Model!

Guest Post by Marilyn Jansen, Association Management Center

Name of Association: 
  • A certification board in healthcare 
Description of the Organization: 
  • Currently 1000 certificants; 7 member commission, with 3 Task Forces/3 members each; $400,000 budget
The Problem: 
  •  A top-heavy governance structure for a small organization was too complex, preventing strategic decisions and making it challenging for the group to grow. The board met 5-6 times annually but had been “decision paralyzed” for 10 years and as a result were behind in the industry. The group’s goal was to certify as many industry professionals as possible, but rather than increased certifications, their base was decreasing and the sustainability of their business model was in jeopardy. They were losing money due to recertification drop off and too many commissioners were micro-managing staff preventing them from reaching their goals. Also, there were too many committees that all relied heavily on staff support. Finally, there was no focus or importance placed on market development to increase the market share. 

The Solution: 
  • Association Management Center began by making governance best practices recommendations as a part of the RFP process for management services submitted. We suggested that they consider a reduction from their original 15 member Commission and nine (9) staff supported committees to a smaller more nimble and effective board. They were open to this and did make a significant governance change shortly after moving from their self-staffed environment to an AMC model. Executive staff has continued to guide the board, further developing the new structure and encouraging them with a staffing model that includes the addition of a marketing role to boost market development growth.
  • Do your homework; look at research and benchmarking to make a compelling case for change.
  • Must engage the board and all key stakeholders in the decision.
  • Take your time; give volunteers time to process.
  • Use the momentum of change to make a significant long-term impact. 
  • Make sure you have competent board members that understand governance, if not set the stage with education.
  • Engage legal counsel early and often.
  • Focus on what really matters.
  • The ED is critical to push the envelope, broker the ideas, and create the partnership needed for success. A micro-managing board will not have this kind of relationship.
  • Communicate, communicate (you can’t communicate too much), and then get on with it—pull the trigger.
Marilyn Jansen has more than 25 years of experience problem solving both in corporate America and the association industry. She is the Director, Marketing and Business Development for Association Management Center, Chicago, IL; which provides superior full-service management and consulting services, while fostering and developing long-term, trusted relationships that create mutual success and growth. Located only minutes from O’Hare Airport, AMC is celebrating its 40th anniversary; and believes in helping its association partners Achieve What You Believe.

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