An association needs good governance in order to implement a strong strategic plan. And the opposite is true: in the absence of strong strategic priorities and direction it becomes difficult for the leadership team to govern well. The link between strategic planning and effective governance is what Carolyn Everson examines in the most recent podcast by the OREA Centre for Leadership Development.
Carolyn has seen firsthand the relationship between governance and planning. When boards are not operating effectively, she sees volunteers get frustrated when they are not achieving the goals they’ve set. When strategic planning is not effective, she observes that boards lack a clear understanding of what direction they need to go in, which makes those boards much less successful. So where do boards begin when they realize they need to improve? When Carolyn is working with a client, she prefers to start with improvements to governance. Although she is often asked by boards to start by helping with their strategic planning, she finds that improvements to how the leadership team functions are often the quickest and best ones to implement first.
One of the first steps that Carolyn suggests is for boards to take an objective look at how they have been operating. This includes such things as taking a look at how they conduct meetings, how they make decisions, and where they may have stumbled in the past. As Carolyn says, she prefers to keep this assessment relatively simple. She suggests boards look for a couple of key areas where they can leverage what they do in a more effective way. Once those areas are identified, it could be a case of providing better training, enhancing board rules, improving guiding documents or conducting coaching.
After 25 years of working with associations, Carolyn has seen some trends emerge. From these trends she has identified some critical success factors for boards looking to improve. One of these success factors is to make sure there is a strong partnership between the President and Executive Officer. When this bond is strong, it increases the likelihood that changes to governance and to the strategic planning process will result in improvements. Another success factor is to appropriately engage the people who are interested in an improvement initiative. There is sometimes a tendency to overdo stakeholder involvement. Carolyn says it’s important not to exhaust the people involved while a board is getting genuine and useful input from them. The final success factor Carolyn discusses is the need for boards to challenge their assumptions during strategic planning. At times, she says, we inadvertently plan for an environment that may exist right now but may not exist in 10 years.
Carolyn Everson is President of The Everson Company Inc. She possesses a wide-range of experience in strategic planning, organizational development and board governance, as well as executive coaching. Carolyn’s experience in strategic planning and governance also extends to her volunteer activities. She’s involved as a volunteer with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (formerly the Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre) and Upper Canada College. Carolyn is a Certified Management Consultant and holds an MBA from Queen’s University and an Honours B.A. from the University of Western Ontario.
Title: Good Planning Good Governance
Featuring: Carolyn Everson, President, Everson Company
Length: 7:00 minutes