Posted in Governance

BACon Blog - Association Governance Improvements: Dinosaurs and LeadersImproving and updating your association’s governance system is a significant challenge… made more so when encrusted individuals and interest groups work to preserve the status quo. These “dinosaurs” will do all they can to thwart the efforts to reforming your governance process and structure.

In any governance system there are individuals and groups that perceive that the way things work currently are to their benefit. They have gotten to a leadership position using the current system so they are opposed to changing it. It could be a board member who was elected using your current election process or an elite group in your association that feels they have an advantage over others due to their insider status with the Board.

As the years go on, and these individuals and groups continue to fight against improving the association’s governance, your association becomes sclerotic due to its large and complex governance. This sclerosis impedes dynamism by protecting arrangements that have worked well for the insiders. These protected arrangements block upward mobility for members less understanding of the bureaucracy that the insiders have put in place.

The defenders of the status quo might say, “So what? Who is being hurt by keeping things the way they are?” The answer: Your members and your association.

Younger members of your association are not going to wait around for years in order to play a leadership role in the association. They can form a group in a matter of minutes through the numerous options on social media. Younger members have many more options for involvement and they are not going to wait around for an antiquated governance system.

Your members will not believe that your association is relevant to them when it takes years to make decisions due to your inefficient governance.

Your members will not have a high level of trust in an association that is run through an insider’s game.

Your members are not going to remain members of an association that doesn’t listen to their voice.

And your association won’t be able to make critical decisions in the most effective and efficient way with a large and complex governance system.

While there may be “dinosaurs” that work to preserve the status quo to preserve their role, even when they know that it hurts the association, there are also individuals who see that positive reforms are needed in order to ensure the future success of your association and the members you represent.

These individuals are called “leaders”.

John Barnes is President of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association Boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Barnes Association Consultants helps association leaders make their associations better.

John can be reached at or 703.321.6866. For more information about Barnes Association Consultants, go to