Connections - Spring 2017 - 18

>

Questioning
the Orthodox
Beliefs of Association
Governing

BY JEFF DE CAGNA, FRSA, FASAE
IT HAS NEVER been more vital
for association decisionmakers to think deeply about
the future. Powerful forces of
transformation are reshaping the
world, creating profound shifts
that will irrevocably alter, for both
better and worse, the trajectories
of their organizations, their fields
and their stakeholders' lives. To
anticipate and prepare for how
these forces may unfold in the
years ahead, association boards
need to focus their attention on
learning with the future as much
as possible through the consistent
practice of foresight.
By embracing this duty of
foresight, association boards can
capitalize on the opportunity to
build governing mindsets and
mechanics better suited to the
challenging work of making sense,
making meaning and making
decisions around the increasingly
complicated issues they will
confront in the years ahead.
Standing in the way of making this
essential transition, however, is the
wide range of orthodox beliefs that
underpin association governing. In
this context, orthodox beliefs are
deep-seated assumptions about how
governing is supposed to work that
can interfere with designing and
experimenting with next practices
and fresh approaches. Let's examine
a few of these orthodox beliefs.
18

> Spring 2017

Association Governing Should
be Based on a Government or
Political Model
Many associations have built
their governing structures with
inspiration from the example of
the U.S. government: a president (or
chair) at the top, with other officers
in the line of succession, and overall
board composition determined by
the representation of local, state
or regional constituencies. Larger
boards often have what amounts to
a "cabinet" of senior officers who
hold specific functional portfolios,
such as meetings or membership.
Some associations operate with
a separate "legislative branch" in
the form of a house of delegates
or general assembly. These models
also tend to include competitive
elections, featuring active
campaigning, endorsements from
key association influencers and
candidate forums.
Despite its pervasiveness, this
orthodox belief suffers from an
obvious and inescapable flaw:
associations are not governments.
The U.S. government is a complex
entity that must manage extensive
economic, diplomatic, military and
other interests around the world,
as well as serious ideological
disagreements between two
major political parties at home.
Associations could not be more
different in terms of their reasons

for being, as well as the scope
and scale of their activities. To
become adaptive and resilient
in the years ahead, associations
must move beyond their past
preference for more bureaucratic
and insular government-style
structures that encourage risk
aversion in favor of open, inclusive
and flexible governing systems
that enable collaboration, learning
and innovation.

Board Presiding Officers (BPOs) are
More Important than Other Directors
Consistent with the choice to build
the work of governing around a
political metaphor, most association
boards place special emphasis on
the role of the president or chair.
The "chief elected officer" enjoys
outsized influence within the
association, usually including direct
oversight of the chief staff executive,
and the ability to shape both board
and organizational activities based
on personal priorities. In addition,
chief elected officers represent their
organizations at local, national
and international association
events, industry or professional
conferences, government hearings
and with the media. The unique
status and privileges accorded to
the individuals who occupy this
role can convey the impression
that chief elected officers are the
first among equals on their boards,



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Connections - Spring 2017

GSAE News & Events
New Members
Living Legends: Tim O’Donnell, CIC, Bill Anderson, CAE, LEED AP, and Robin B. Gray Jr., JD
Georgia Partnership for Educational Excellence: A Culture of Continuous Improvement
Questioning the Orthodox Beliefs of Association Governing
The Future of Education and Employment
Building Organizational Resilience
My Internship with the Southern Economic Development Council
GSAE February and April Luncheons
Meetings Thought Leadership
Advertiser.com
Index of Advertisers
Connections - Spring 2017 - intro
Connections - Spring 2017 - bellyband1
Connections - Spring 2017 - bellyband2
Connections - Spring 2017 - cover1
Connections - Spring 2017 - cover2
Connections - Spring 2017 - 3
Connections - Spring 2017 - 4
Connections - Spring 2017 - 5
Connections - Spring 2017 - GSAE News & Events
Connections - Spring 2017 - 7
Connections - Spring 2017 - 8
Connections - Spring 2017 - New Members
Connections - Spring 2017 - Living Legends: Tim O’Donnell, CIC, Bill Anderson, CAE, LEED AP, and Robin B. Gray Jr., JD
Connections - Spring 2017 - 11
Connections - Spring 2017 - 12
Connections - Spring 2017 - 13
Connections - Spring 2017 - Georgia Partnership for Educational Excellence: A Culture of Continuous Improvement
Connections - Spring 2017 - 15
Connections - Spring 2017 - 16
Connections - Spring 2017 - 17
Connections - Spring 2017 - Questioning the Orthodox Beliefs of Association Governing
Connections - Spring 2017 - 19
Connections - Spring 2017 - The Future of Education and Employment
Connections - Spring 2017 - 21
Connections - Spring 2017 - Building Organizational Resilience
Connections - Spring 2017 - 23
Connections - Spring 2017 - My Internship with the Southern Economic Development Council
Connections - Spring 2017 - GSAE February and April Luncheons
Connections - Spring 2017 - 26
Connections - Spring 2017 - Meetings Thought Leadership
Connections - Spring 2017 - 28
Connections - Spring 2017 - 29
Connections - Spring 2017 - Index of Advertisers
Connections - Spring 2017 - cover3
Connections - Spring 2017 - cover4
Connections - Spring 2017 - outsert1
Connections - Spring 2017 - outsert2
Connections - Spring 2017 - 38
Connections - Spring 2017 - 39
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