January may be over, but Governance Month continues for another week on Acronym. (We are not bound by your standard calendar here!)
Our next guest post comes from David Kushner, CAE, of the Kushner Companies. David has extensive experience as an association executive, consultant, and board member, and he agreed to share his thoughts on what association governance might look like in 20 years, in the spirit of the January Associations Now cover story, "Visions for the Future of Associations."
Here's what David had to say:
The governing boards of associations in 2030 will not look like the boards of today. As we sort through all the changes we are facing in associations and philanthropic organizations today, including social media, enhanced access to information and knowledge through the Internet, reduced willingness to travel for meetings, time pressures from work and family commitments, and changing perceptions of governance, there will continue to be a series of shifts in our not-for-profit organizations.
Today, when we conduct new board member orientation sessions, we advise participants to exercise great care when using electronic media for governance communications. We all know of regrettable instances when accidental distribution of sensitive information result in hurt feelings, political crises, or worse, legal problems.
Now shift your thinking forward, factoring in the incredible level of acceptance of these means of communications, and ask yourself: How will your association deal with the even more rapid and constant levels of interaction that are coming? How will governing boards ensure the participation of all board members when using new forms of communications? How will they maintain confidentiality of electronic discussions? How can they build processes for deliberation on issues and policies that will avoid legal challenges to decisions made in a world of universal access to information?
I propose that the business of governance will no longer be episodic. Rather, there will be a constant stream of both text and visual interaction among leaders that could challenge the abilities of association staff to manage the organizationâ€™s messages and to deal with unexpected problems as they surface. The pace of business that we find so challenging today will seem as slow as the fax machines we used just a few short years ago.
We will not be required to physically travel to a site for most board meeting to take place. Our organizations will be required to modify policies, procedures, and expectations for how to handle governance meetings. The important interactions that result from the present model of face-to-face meetings are rapidly changing, and few groups have considered how they will resolve the varied challenges that are sure to result. As board members spend less time together physically, will they actually have more net interaction electronically?
I expect service on governing boards will be easier to perform, be less costly for members, and allow for more nimble action on issues. This will, however, require us to plan now for a process of smooth transition to new governance models that embrace change.
What do you see as the critical governance issues associations and foundations will face over the next several years and how should they begin the process of considering fundamental governance changes?