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.
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.