An update from the Governance Restructure Task Force
As communicated in the March issue of ISA Insights by ISA President Leo Staples (www.isa.org/link/Leo0311), ISA has formed the Governance Restructure Task Force to look at ISA’s governance model. I took the role of chair of this task force because I consider this work to be crucial for the long-term viability of ISA. It is certainly the most significant project I have been a part of with ISA. I do not make this statement lightly.
I have worked on quite a few important ISA projects, and I am proud of my contributions to the profession and the Society. But I see this particular project as vital to ISA’s ability to continue as an organization.
Many societies, associations, and other membership organizations are plagued with problems. Declining membership, dwindling leadership pools, and internal disagreements are often common occurrences. On the surface, these situations might appear to be isolated and need specific attention. However, these are not independent problems. No amount of education, marketing, or mediation will solve the symptoms of the larger problem.
Like many comparable organizations that were formed decades ago, and have been tinkered with but never rethought, ISA needs to re-examine its basic operating structure. A governance model left largely intact for more than 60 years is worth re-examining. ISA must determine if changes are required to enable the Society to meet the needs of today’s members, tomorrow’s members, and the larger community we serve.
ISA formed the Governance Restructure Task Force to review ISA’s strategic plan and anticipated challenges over the next several years. It will then examine various trends in association governance with an eye toward revalidating its current structure or proposing a more optimum configuration to meet anticipated challenges. I would like to provide a status report on the work of the task force to date.
On 9–10 December 2010, the task force met at ISA Headquarters in Research Triangle Park, N.C., with Plexus Consulting. Steven Worth of Plexus has extensive experience in assisting associations with their strategic planning needs.
With Worth’s guidance, the task force gave careful consideration to the structure established by ISA’s founders when they brought together 18 local instrument societies to form a national organization. The task force examined our geographic, decentralized governance approach, which has allowed the Society to distribute authority among local sections. This structure has remained in place for the past 65 years. During this time, ISA has expanded to more than 130 sections around the world. The task force also acknowledged that while ISA has grown, competitive threats upon the Society increase daily.
Using a concept of “form follows function,” the task force initiated a SWOT analysis to identify ISA’s internal strengths, weaknesses, external opportunities, and threats. This analysis was shared with the Society’s officers and officers-elect, and their input was integrated into the analysis. Using the SWOT analysis, the task force is currently working through ISA’s established strategic planning process to develop a strategic plan. This strategic direction (function) will guide discussions on the best governance model (form) needed to advance ISA’s strategic mission.
Concurrent with the ongoing development of the strategic plan, and using the SWOT and strategic planning efforts that have been completed to date, the task force retained Worth to develop an ideal governance model that would best enable ISA to fulfill its mission. We will be releasing a snap shot of the ideal model in April with an open call for discussion on how different our governance model should be from the ideal, and why. We encourage all of our leaders to engage in a productive debate, either online or at your District Leadership Conference, on the merits of the prospective models versus our current structure so we can reach an initial consensus at the Summer Leaders Meeting in St. Louis in June.
I invite you to engage in the discussions. We have created an open webpage where documents can be reviewed and anyone can submit comments throughout the process. To view a list of the task force members, access the feedback page, and view documents as they become available, go to http://www.isa.org/governancerestructure.
Thank you to all who get involved in this important process.
—Written by Ian Verhappen, CAP, Task Force Chair