Posted in Governance

BACon Blog - Great Association Policies: 5 Questions to AskAssociations tend to create a lot of policies… internal policies on the management of the association and external policies on issues facing the members of the association. One reason for the excess of policies is badly conceived policies.

Policies are often slapped together in haste, run through the grinder of a highly political process, and then implemented with fingers crossed and no real hope that the policy will address the problem at hand. And when a policy isn’t effectively addressing an issue, the association creates another policy to layer on the one before. And if that doesn’t work, layer one more.

Before diving into developing a new policy, stop and ask yourself these five questions:

1. What is the problem? Really work at defining the problem. Don’t take it at a surface level… dig deep. What is the real problem you are trying to address? Really work through this.

2. What is the cause of the problem? Again, dig deep. What is really causing this problem to occur? Don’t make a snap judgment… think about this and push yourself to get at the root problem.

3. What can we do? Throw every idea you’ve got on a whiteboard. What are the range of possibilities to address and mitigate the problem? Really think through what your association can do. Hone the list of ideas down to the ones that you think will best address the problem in front of you.

4. How will it work? Now that you’ve determined what you can do, enunciate how it will work. Lay it out in detail.

5. What will the result be implemented? One the policy is implemented, what will happen? What will be the effect? Be honest. What do you really think will happen?

Working your way through these 5 questions will help you develop better policies that truly address the internal and external challenges facing your association. It will help make your association more effective and efficient and provide higher value to your members.

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