Governance, What If…

Stacy Brungardt, CAE STFM Executive Director

Imagine an organization where an individual who works in academic family medicine knows where to turn to get his/her problems solved.

Imagine that this disciplined organization aligns products with its mission, uses data-driven strategies, and focuses on members’ needs. This organization is highly functioning and nurtures an inclusive culture that engages in dialogue between members and leaders.

Imagine an organization with sufficient resources to do its work. This organization is agile, proactively addresses issues, assesses and takes action quickly, and makes course corrections as necessary.

Imagine an organization that pursues alliances that relate to existing strategies or that form a tight fit with its mission and purpose. It is selective about determining with whom they should partner to be as effective as possible.

Imagine what we could accomplish if STFM operated like this all the time.

I do imagine this and believe there are literally hundreds of members and staff who are helping us move toward this vision.

I also believe that a strong governance structure either moves you in this direction or provides barriers that staff and members sidestep or hurdle, slowing down progress toward our vision.

Yes, good governance matters. Simply put, governance is the way decisions are made, who makes them, and under what parameters.1

Good governance can make the difference between the Society moving forward or not. It can demonstrate inclusiveness and be accountable for actions, or it can waste time and resources of the organization. By the way, we spend a lot on governance when you consider member time and STFM dollars to support Board, committee, and task force meetings and the staff time to manage these groups.

The STFM Board recently reflected on series of events related to our governance structure that have caused us to consider the best way to approach these issues.

The Board saw a convergence of activities and agreed that we would benefit from taking a more systematic approach to our governance assessment rather than trying to address each of these issues separately. We recognized the risk of each of these groups making separate recommendations that weren’t coordinated or in alignment. In fact, experts in association governance would tell you that groups who approach governance assessment elements in a piecemeal fashion generally struggle and are less happy with their outcomes than groups that approach this assessment in a way that starts globally with how the model assists their organization in meeting its desired ends.

Thus, the Board approved bringing in an outside consultant to facilitate this process of reviewing our governance structure. We will be working with governance consultant Michael Gallery, PhD, a well-respected association management professional who chaired the task force that created 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t. This landmark research in association management applied the work of Jim Collin’s Good to Great to association management. Dr Gallery understands medical associations and association governance. (He also comes highly recommended and is affordably priced!)

What I like about his process is that he starts with the end in mind and includes operational elements such as obtaining member input, creating a communications plan for stakeholders, and evaluating any new structure we would create.

I don’t think we’re doing a bad job at governing the Society, but we haven’t taken an in-depth look at our governance structure since we created STFM in 1967. Until you spend some time thinking about what outstanding governance performance looks like, how our current structure compares, and how to address the gaps, we are likely not reaching our potential as an organization.

What if…

  1. Gallery M. Governance: a new approach to an old problem. Session presented at the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting, Dallas, TX, August, 2012.

3 responses to “Governance, What If…

  1. I was wondering whether and how the STFM Board might gain input from the members-at-large. How can governance development be both top-down and bottom-up? What about using an “un-conference” format to see if members are investing in governance development? For example, …some food for thought. Rick

  2. Stacy Brungardt

    Rick, Thanks for your comment. This assessment process includes opportunities for getting STFM member input. Our current plan is to seek feedback from members on proposed changes to the governance structure via two town hall webinars. We’ll be discussing this input gathering strategy and other ideas at the task force meeting in January.

  3. Stacy, THAT’s GREAT! What about combining the webinars with some kind of crowdsourcing/e-platform, such as google circles or to organize an online learning community on governance development (…. and other projects too). Any one familiar with these kinds of products? More ideas appreciated…….we need something more than list serves and simple blogs. What about asking Ben Miller and the STFM Social Media group? Rick

Leave a Reply — Comments may be moderated. If you don't see your comment, please be patient.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s