Posted in Governance

BACon Blog - Is Your Association Clumsy?Does your staff trip all over themselves as they attempt to do their work?

When a decision needs to be made, does everyone stop in their tracks in order to try to figure out who makes the decision and how it gets made?

Does your policies and procedures manual weigh over 10 pounds? 20 pounds? More?

Do your board meetings slog along with lengthy reports that no one listens to?

In a word… is your association clumsy?

If so, it is likely that your governance is too burdensome and cumbersome, that your policies are too plentiful and dense, and that your programs are too numerous and unfocused.

Review your governance. Prune it. Simplify it. Clarify the roles and responsibilities. Make it less oppressive. Make it easier for your members and staff to work with your governing bodies.

A governance review is a lot of work and will challenge the status quo… but a more efficient and effective governance system will help your leaders make better decisions at less cost to your members.

Trim your policies. Do you really need a policy for every possible scenario that your association might face? Instead of a mandated policy can you rely on the good judgment of your member leaders and staff? Instead of using your policies as a club to punish people can you refine and streamline your policies so they help facilitate the work to be done?

A policies and procedures review can seem like an arduous task… but having too many complicated and unnecessary policies means you have no policies at all (I’ll tell you a dirty little secret… no one is following the 1,072 policies that you have on the books anyways so you may as well clean them up!)

Refocus your programs. Are there programs that have gone on year after year through sheer inertia? Do some of your programs continue to exist just so staff have a job? Do you have programs that are addressing the supposed needs of just a handful of members?

A program review will mean taking on some sacred cows… but the review will help you focus the work of the association so it is better able to meet the needs of the members and fulfill the mission of the association.

So make your governance more effective and efficient. Trim your policies so they are focused, transparent, and sensible. Eliminate the programs that are not essential to your association and your members. Move from a clumsy, ham-fisted organization to a graceful one!

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