One of my clients recently asked me to weigh in on what would be the “right” composition of the Board. They are considering adding permanent positions to the Board (via a bylaws change) so that four different publications editors would be Board officers (they currently have two).
So what do you think? Is this “wrong”? I will admit my initial reaction is a wrinkled brow–why would you need all those editors on the Board? Doing the work of the association (publications) and the ultimate decision making authority (the Board) are two different things. Though I know enough about associations to know that there are probably examples in the industry of every “strange” composition you can think of. I’m not sure there is a “best practice” here (not to mention my general issue with the concept of best practice).
So here’s my advice to this client. Make sure you are answering the right question. The question is not how many editors should have voting rights. The question is, what structure will enable the Board to do its job most effectively. Form follows function. You have to decide what the function of your Board truly is, because only then will you be able to determine the appropriate composition. Like much in association management, our current systems, structures, and processes exist simply because that’s how we’ve always done it. That doesn’t mean they are bad, but they might need to be re-examined.
Does your Board set a direction for the organization, or does it manage competing interests of functional units? Does it make strategic choices, or does it manage the implementation of programs. Depending on how you answer these questions, you could compose your Board in a variety of different ways.
Personally, I think most associations would benefit from a strategically focused Board of directors. For this particular client, publications are very important. But I think there are plenty of ways to ensure the strategic importance of publications is reflected in Board decisions–outside of changing the bylaws and adding permanent director positions.