What will you do next year to build a high-performing board for your association?
With only a few weeks left in 2018, every association board presiding officer (BPO) and chief staff executive (CSE) should be thinking about what they will do together in the coming year to build the performance of their boards in a world experiencing intensifying societal transformation. Here are three recommendations:
- Upgrade your board's definition of governing--In my eBook, Foresight is The Future of Governing: Building Thrivable Boards, Stakeholders and Systems for the 21st Century, I define governing as “an intentional and dynamic process for enabling the coherence, capability and continuity of the system.” The orthodox view of governing encourages boards to focus on long-standing priorities, including financial oversight, legal compliance and policy-making. In 2019, association boards must begin to make the shift away from performing traditional activities that can be handled using other approaches and toward a sustained pursuit of the essential outcomes of governing (as described in the definition above) to fulfill their stewardship responsibility to stakeholders and to make progress in strengthening overall board and organizational performance.
- Capture your board's governing intent--Governing intent is a specific expression of the outcomes the board will strive to achieve through stewardship. Usually shared in the form of a brief "stewardship statement," governing intent creates a stronger connection between purpose, i.e., the association's reason for being, and strategic intent, i.e., the ways in which the association proposes to create value with and for its stakeholders through an ongoing process of learning. In addition, BPOs and CSEs can use the board's articulated governing intent as a basis for nurturing the performance of individual directors and organizing the full board's ongoing capacity-building work.
- Focus your board's attention on foresight--Foresight is an intentional process of learning with the future. Association boards have a duty of foresight they must fulfill on behalf of their stakeholders. By focusing their attention on building a consistent practice of foresight, boards can understand, anticipate and prepare for a full range of plausible futures for their associations, stakeholders and the broader industry and professional systems in which they participate. By pursuing a disciplined process of learning with the future, boards can strengthen their performance and help build their associations to thrive in a time of profound societal transformation.
The challenge for 2019 is clear: build a high-performing association board by adopting a future-ready approach to governing that focuses the board's attention on the long term. Will you accept it?
Click the cover image below to download my eBook!
Jeff De Cagna FRSA FASAE is executive advisor for Foresight First LLC in Reston, Virginia and a respected contrarian thinker on the future of associating and associations. Jeff advises and serves on association and non-profit boards, and he has pursued executive development in both the work of governing (BoardSource and Harvard Business School) and the work of foresight (Institute for the Future and Oxford University). He writes The Duty of Foresight column for AssociationAdviser.com, a Naylor publication.