Organizational Agility Is Born Out of Good Governance

How can you achieve new heights and remain agile as an organization? Think of governance as your springboard.

By Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE

FRM 005 Perspective

Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE President & CEO, Association Forum

Organizational agility. Your capability to change and adapt; to keep up with technology, cultural shifts and overall market conditions. So how can you achieve new heights and remain agile as an organization? Think of governance as your springboard.

We’re all striving for governance that works, but truly good governance can help you stay flexible in a changing market and meet new challenges head on. The key is to have your processes and procedures in place now—don’t wait until there’s a specific need. It’s our job as association staff to help our boards anticipate change and adjust our governance accordingly. But how?

One way Association Forum adjusts is by implementing a cycle of improvement. It’s a process that allows for planning, execution, measurement of progress and careful assessment. All of this is focused around our mission, vision and core values. It is important to continually adapt and strive for better processes, but also to stay focused on the foundational aspects of your association.

When Association Forum crafted our strategic plan in April of last year, we focused on where we wanted to be in the year 2025. We captured objectives, tied them to initiatives and applied measurements for success. But we also put our mission, vision and core values at the center of every decision. Our goals for the future are important, but more important are the steps we take to get there. Relying on our core values as an organization ensures that we don’t lose ourselves along the way.

Another key to governance is aligning staff and board activities and communicating transparently to both parties. Your staff should be privy to board decisions and your board should be updated on regular progress made by staff members. This two-way communication empowers board members to make better, more informed decisions.

While the pace of technology is creating a larger need for corporate agility, it’s also a tool that can be leveraged to bring efficiencies to governance. Here are three ways that associations are utilizing technology to streamline their governance:

1. Association member forums can be utilized to collect member concerns that may have bearing on policies and other organizational changes. Consider posting your governance documents and opening a discussion thread on the topic of governance.

2. Project management software such as Asana, Basecamp and Smartsheet can help association staff juggle day-to-day work. Set up a project to specifically address the ongoing work of your organization’s governance. Assign responsibilities and regularly check in on the progress.

3. Consider moving governance documents to Google Drive or your organization’s website to make them searchable for staff and board members. Organizations tend to have one staff person who is the “governance guru.” While this person is extremely valuable, all staff and board members should be held accountable for reading and understanding basic procedures and policies.

Finally, the best way to stay agile in this new decade is to adopt a growth mindset. Make sure your staff and board members are always on the lookout for opportunity within and outside of the organization. Be diligent in your maintenance of governance documents, but also be willing to make changes when needed. We can’t know what the next 10, 15 or 50 years have in store, but we can prepare our organizations to take change in stride and flourish for decades to come.

About the Author

Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE is the President & CEO of Association Forum.

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