He said 'The new governance made a difference'

The benefits of great governance made it to the BBC breakfast show business slot yesterday.  What a change from the gloom of all the stories about boards malfunctioning or in meltdown!

In an interview about the turnaround in the fortunes and future well-being of the Co-operative Group their Chief Executive, Richard Pennycook, stated that they owed their achievements to their refreshed governance arrangements.  The excellent new board that had been put in place had been able to power their new strategy forward .

With its 170-year history, this very mature membership organisation was facing a very bleak future – or perhaps no future at all.  Then its new Chief Executive decided to fundamentally re-examine what the organisation was doing and how it was doing it.  Not an easy task and it didn’t happen without a fairly noisy soundtrack.  However, as a result, the governance structures and processes underwent a somewhat radical ‘refresh’.  The results have been more than impressive, taking the organisation out of decline and probably into a very positive future.

Obviously this is not the only membership organisation with a very long history but it is this very maturity which can pose the greatest challenges in how to meet member needs and try to exceed member expectations today.  Staleness and the effects of ‘but we always do it this way’  can be very difficult to counter.  It can take some bravery to face the fact that a review must be the way forward but the results, as we can see, can be outstanding.  Your members will certainly thank you.

If your organisation has reached that point then delaying the inevitable can be costly. So, if you need a place to start, just pick up the phone and talk to someone external and completely unbiased who will be able to help you make a start. Or you may like to try our  "Non-Profit Health Check Quick Quiz" before you call.  Either way, you will be making a great start.

"The GGF Group had grown rapidly and our governance and structure had not kept pace.  We approached Susie Kay from The Professionalism Group to assist us to move forward.  Susie’s knowledge and experience in the field of Trade Federations was invaluable.  Her pleasant and approachable manner meant the employees were at ease and spoke freely to her allowing her to reach her conclusions.  Her advice and guidance has been invaluable and it has allowed us to commence the process to make the necessary changes to our governance and operations to allow us to proceed.’   Nigel Rees, Group Chief Executive, Glass and Glazing Federation

Great governance - what are you waiting for?

As the old year fades into memory, the Third Sector as a whole realises that the issue of less than great governance is a price that no organisation should be prepared to pay.  In fact, as last year’s very public examples demonstrate, having less than optimum arrangements does organisations no good at all.  It can make them stagnant and internalised and can impede the important work they want and need to carry out on behalf of members, those they represent or those they exist to help.  More than a few organisations, or their controlling boards, suspect that things could be better but haven’t tackled the problem yet.  So what should they be doing right now?

The answer is to agree that this is the year they get it right.  In most cases, all that is required is a review and, potentially, a small refresh or adjustment.  Governance reviews should ideally happen every couple of years but sadly many organisations will admit to a dozen or so years having passed since the last one.  Granted, in some cases, something a little more root and branch will be the conclusion but it’s still no reason to put off starting to look at how things are going.

Unfortunately, results aren’t achieved by wishful thinking.  It takes a serious ‘stand-up-and-be-counted’ moment for a Chief Executive or a board member to insist that the work must start today.  It is so easy to put off in the general busy and worry of day-to-day business.  It is too easy to adopt Scarlett O’Hara’s attitude of ‘I’ll think about it tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is another day’.  We had plenty of examples, both minor and horrendous, of the results of that attitude last year.  It is worth remembering that members of governing bodies must accept overall responsibility for proper administration of their organisation as well as having a responsibility to act  in the best interests of the organisation at all times.

Starting something that has the potential to create significant change can be very intimidating.  But you might find that it’s not really that bad at all. We also know that having only internal voices in the conversation can limit your thinking.  So just pick up the phone and talk to someone external and completely unbiased who will be able to help you make a start.  

"Susie’s knowledge, her perception and ability to translate into a new Corporate Governance environment which should stand for the next ten years, was exemplary. The Board and Management of FSDF will continue to seek Susie’s advice from time to time on specific issues, but believe that given the quality of work already completed, that will be on rare occasions.”                                                  - Chris Sturman FCILT, FRSA, Chief Executive, Food Storage & Distribution Federation

Change, however small...

This blog post is written in my alter ego of "Wise Owl" guest blogger for the MemberWise Network Blog.   These articles are written with the Chief Executives, senior managers and staff of non-profit organisations in mind.

At this time of year we all see and receive endless numbers of tweets and blogs reminding us that this is the time of year to make resolutions which will make us better, happier, healthier in the coming year.  The inferred threat is that we will only be successful if we do it all NOW.

There is some very well-meant advice at the heart of these reminders, the belief that we can look forward to improvements of all kinds if we, as individuals or organisations, can implement change.  However, that is where most good resolutions come apart because most of us, quite naturally, find altering the status quo incredibly threatening and are consequently quite resistant to the idea.

The most interesting element of making changes that is often left unidentified is that improvements can be found by making the smallest of changes.  Our resolutions and our need for change need not be about promising ourselves or our colleagues that fundamental differences will happen following sweeping changes.  The most valuable change can happen with only the slightest effort and following the smallest adaptation. 

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