When is change necessary?
From time to time changes to a board may become necessary. This may be through a change in circumstances or it could be that dynamics inside the organisation are such that the board is operating less well than it should and needs refreshing. The answer may be finding new members, additional training and coaching of existing members or it may be an issue with the planning and vision of the organisation.
Whatever the reason, a review can be a healthy way forward, and in revitalising the board it is important to act effectively to bring together all the skills sets needed to accomplish what you wish to achieve as your organisation’s overall objectives.
How to identify the need to revitalise a Board
Indicators that might suggest the need for change include:
• Membership is stale and people are leaving
• Nothing is getting done and the energy of the board is low
• Some board members are carrying too much of the workload
• There is misalignment between the board and the rest of the organisation
• Old ways of doing things that suit the board are hampering the organisation
• Fundraising activities are no longer working as they used to, or as they should.
• Scope of the organisation has changed so it needs new skills added to the mix
• Infighting and poor morale
• Retirement pending
• Membership has changed and board no longer reflects members
• Fundraisers have abandoned the organisation
Do you need a change?
Long standing members of the board can lend continuity to an organisation and help to keep the culture strong. While this can be a blessing, it can also work against the organisation if the objectives or the make-up of the organisation change.
Fixed terms and regulations about length of tenure can remove the problem of people overstaying their useful length of term, where members are not adding value to the board.
Why and how?
Should change be desired then it is important to have a well defined strategy for what will happen as the changeover routine.
Change for the sake of change is not likely to be productive and replacing members is more effective when you have a clear reason for the change and a defined result that the change is to achieve. Know what you want, and why.
• What led to the need for change?
• Is it something that is likely to affect new members?
• If the board is stale, why is it stale?
• Is the organisation fulfilling its original purpose?
• If funds are drying up, what’s the reason?
• Is the organisation being managed well?
• Are systems in place to ensure efficient duties and reporting?
• Has the business plan been written, and adhered to?
• Are there clear lines of communication, procedures and position descriptions?
• Are members unhappy with decisions at the top?
If you know why, now consider what has to happen to affect this change.
• Is the problem structural within the organisation – or is it a people issue?
• Does the system need to be tweaked, or do you need new people in place?
• Is there a need to improve recruiting practices to get people who are a better fit?
• Is communication poor?
• Is there a lack of proper processes in place to ensure training is given where needed, and responsibilities matched with the appropriate level of authority necessary to accomplish.
• What will making changes do to the way that meetings are held? Should schedules change too? Should duration/ location/format of meetings change?
Changes mean finding someone to fill the role. Recruiting, selection and inducting new members needs a process to follow for that purpose.
Have you reviewed the operation of the existing board?
• Know what skills your board needs
• Consider what changes are in the strategic plan that will call for special skills in the future
• Profile the kind of member that your organisation needs now based on members diversity
• Set up guidelines for recruiting for the future
How will you find your new members?
• Look within the networks of existing members
• Look to past members and people on other boards, committees and volunteers
• People with an interest in your purpose
• Businesses allied with your group’s aims, service clubs, local community figures
• Professionals with special skills that you need
• Members of other boards
- Create a checklist for how you can spread the word about your search for new board members.
- Build a ‘Suspect’ and a ‘Prospect’ list to begin
- Select a criteria to use upon which you will decide who to appoint.
- Screen candidates against your criteria
Think about your approach to prospective board members
Follow your organisation’s guidelines for selection and remember to follow up with a welcome.
Inducting New Members
It is important to start your Board's relationship with a new member on a positive note. Some Boards make the mistake of signing up a new member, handing them a manual and then largely forgetting about them, assuming they will just get on with the job. While many new Board members may well do just that, you can help to make the settling-in process a little less daunting by having procedures in place to welcome and introduce new members to their role.
Develop an effective induction process
Cover off on these areas
Then ensure that processes are in place to transition through these areas:
1. Initial Contact
2. Make the Introductions
3. The Board Manual
4. Roles and Responsibilities
6. Familiarise them with the environment
7. Invite feedback
NOTE: While this is stated as for a board, it is very similar for employees or other members too. They too should have processes documented, clear roles and responsibilities laid out and an effective process for managing their performance so they can achieve great outcomes together with the organisation.
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