Posted in Governance

BACon BLOG - Association Governance Status Quo and LeadershipImproving and updating your association’s governance process and structure is a significant challenge… made more so when encrusted interest groups work to preserve the status quo.

In any governance system there are individuals and groups that believe the way things work currently are to their benefit. They have achieved a leadership position using the current system so they are reticent to change it. It could be a Board member who was elected using your current election process or a specialty 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 those powerful enough to put the arrangements in place. It also blocks upward mobility for members less understanding of the bureaucracy that the old guard has 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 are not going to wait around for years in order to play a leadership role in the association. Today, groups are formed in a matter of minutes through the numerous options on social media. Younger members have many more choices for involvement and they are not going to wait around for an antiquated governance system.

Members will see the irrelevance of the association when it takes years to make decisions due to your inefficient governance.

Members will not have a high level of trust in an association that is run through an insider’s game. They aren’t 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 its large and complex governance.

While there may be individuals that work to preserve the status quo to preserve their role, even to the detriment of your association, there are also individuals who see that positive reforms are needed in order to ensure the future 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