20 Key Takeaways from the Book: “The Will to Govern Well”

Image Credit: Lou Levit
Image Credit: Lou Levit

Linda Owens, president

Book coverWhile studying for the CAE exam, I read the book, “The Will to Govern Well” by Glenn H. Tecker, Paul D. Meyer, Leigh Wintz, CAE and Bud Crouch. This book is intended as a handbook for developing strategies for change in governance, based on an extensive study of information collected from governance specialists. While analyzing the results of the study, three themes emerged as keys to developing the will to govern well: Knowledge, Trust and Nimbleness.

The authors begin by looking at why governance needs to change: to remain relevant and sustainable.

“Absent of a vision—a sense of direction and an understanding of where the industry and its members are going—an association exists in a constantly reactive mode. For a while it may retain its role as a viable information source for its members, but over time it will lose effectiveness as increasingly it learns about changes in the industry, profession, or cause at about the same time that members do.”

I’ve decided to summarize some of the key points I took away below, but recommend you buy the book yourself for the details:

Changing Governance Systems

“Board meetings should be a platform for dialogue and deliberation on issues of strategic importance, rather than an opportunity to review information already provided, redo work already completed by others, or set administrative and/or operational program policy without sufficient study of context, alternatives, consequences, or likely implementation realities.”

1.       Boards are wise to consider how much time they spend in Management, Operations and Activities as this will take time away from Policy and Strategy.

2.       Boards should ask themselves if their decision-making process elicits a continuous stream of information from members, prospective members, customers and stakeholders. They should strive to understand what is important to a broad community of stakeholders.

3.       Boards should evaluate their current governance system (including structure and process) to determine if it enables or hinders them from effectively changing priorities to ensure relevance to their members’ changing marketplaces.

4.       Boards should be able to define what constitutes value to their members. Instead of being power-driven, boards should strive to be value-driven.

5.       Boards who are moving from a constituency-based board to a competency-based board must remember that they still have to have a sufficient connection with their membership.

The Role of Knowledge in Governance

“Knowledge creating is the act of taking relatively random data from a broad spectrum and translating it into a meaningful, insightful context through study, investigation, observation, and experience.”

6.       Successful boards recognize the importance of collecting and using knowledge in their decision-making process. This helps the association establish itself as a knowledge leader which provides value to their members as well as the larger community.

7.       Successful associations must be committed to research. It should be budgeted as an ongoing functional line item.

8.       Successful boards constantly ask the following questions: Whom do we serve? What needs is the association best positioned to meet? How will the association meet those needs?

9.       Successful association staff members know where to find relevant information and know how to transform this knowledge into meaningful information to be shared with board members. Staff should be careful to give the right kind of information and to ask the right kinds of questions of the board—it should revolve around the execution of strategy and not operations.

10.       Successful boards are conscientious of time and therefore are less tolerant of information designed primarily to demonstrate how busy staff or committees have been.

11.       Successful boards are known to make their decisions and the rationale behind those decisions more accessible to their members.

12.       Successful governance is evolving from retreat-driven, product-oriented, traditional strategic planning to a process of ongoing strategic thinking.

The Role of Trust in Governance Systems

“Creating and sustaining a culture of trust becomes imperative for success as an association develops strategies for a more responsive and effective governance structure. Trust can be considered the alignment of what an association has promised with what it ultimately delivers to important stakeholder groups such as members, volunteer leaders, staff, legislators, and the general public.”

13.       Trust allows an association to eliminate needless controls which in turn increases nimbleness and responsiveness.

14.       Trust is strengthened as groups work together and create strategy.

15.       Trust is derived from openness and the communication of ideas. Therefore boards of highly competitive professions or industries are challenged to create a safe haven for those around the board table to dialogue freely about the issues that will mutually benefit the industry, profession, or cause the organization represents.

The Role of Nimbleness in Governance Systems

“Nimble organizations allow thoughtful groups, guided by strategic principles, to determine whether the work they propose to do in support of the organizations’ agreed-upon outcomes fits within the parameters of strategic direction and governance’s intent, without having to seek permission from management or governance before they act.”

16.       Nimble associations have strategic plans that are focused on delivering external value and benefit to members.

17.       Nimble associations have clear focus.

18.       Nimble associations should have a set of boundaries based on values, which then empowers association staff to make decisions at an operational level without direct board involvement.

19.       Nimble associations should have a process for analyzing their portfolio of programs and services and aligning them with its future strategy.

20.       Nimble associations have a commitment to leadership succession so they will be able to pass the baton to future leadership successfully.

That’s it… Check the book out!

Want some more quick tips? Check out 21 Tips for Better Board Meetings.

What type of books are you reading at the moment and are there any you recommend to those involved with governance? Tell us in the comments!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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