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Does Your Governance Structure Need a Reboot?

A new report finds that association boards struggle with strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic unquestionably made associations more agile: In 2020 and 2021, they quickly learned how to establish virtual meetings and hybrid offices, ramped up their efforts around workplace wellness and social justice and generally did things faster than they were used to. But how much of that effort was strategic? How many board discussions during that time were framed around putting that agility to broader, longer-reaching purposes?

That question is at the core of a new report from McKinley Advisors, Next-Level Governance: Leading With Strategic Agility. Based on a survey of trade and individual-membership association CEOs conducted earlier this year, the report finds that associations are still struggling to get their boards to think strategically. Perhaps more important, they’re not creating a governance pipeline that’s populated with leaders who have a strategic mindset.

For instance, the survey finds that while a large proportion of organizations are talking about DE&I (78 percent), only slightly more than half (53 percent) say they have a comprehensive DE&I strategy. There’s similar softness when it comes to committees: Only 28 percent of boards say they set desired strategic outcomes for their committees. As the report puts it: “Without such oversight, committees and task forces can take on a life of their own with yearly goals and activities not aligned with organizational strategy.”

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