Societies: Is Your Governance Fit For Purpose (Fireside Chat)
Societies: Is Your Governance Fit For Purpose (Fireside Chat)
JENNIFER VELTEN: All right. And then, Claire, I'm going to make you the host. And you're good to go. I'm going to duck out. And I'm going to put my email in the chat if you need me. Good luck, everyone.
CLAIRE ANGUS: Hello, everyone. And thank you for joining us today on our fireside chat about governance in associations and professional bodies. So this session came about from a discussion on what keeps senior leaders in associations and professional bodies awake at night. And one of the top topics that came up was governance. In the UK, we've seen some very serious failings in terms of governance in a number of quite large professional membership bodies over the last few years.
CLAIRE ANGUS: And I know it's certainly given many of us pause for thought, especially in sort of the smaller organizations, about whether this is something that might happen to us. So I'm delighted today to be joined by three great speakers who are going to help us explore this topic. So firstly, we have Katy Amberley, who is the CEO of the British Society for Haematology. We've got Dr. Josh Wright, who is a Consultant Haematologist, and the President of the British Society of Haematology, and Andrew Chamberlain, who is the Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer at the consultancy Elevated.
CLAIRE ANGUS: And I'm Claire Angus. I'm Director of Membership Services at the Royal College of Podiatry. And personally, I'm really pleased to be moderating this session, because it was something that I raised as something that keeps me awake at night. So I'm hoping that our conversation on this topic and some of the ideas and insight might help us all rest a bit easier at night.
CLAIRE ANGUS: So no pressure, Katy, Josh, and Andrew. So as I mentioned, one of the reasons for this conversation was that we've seen these high profile failures in terms of governance. And so really, to ask the panel to start off with whether they feel these are isolated incidents, or actually, are they an indication that the governance structures in professional bodies and associations are no longer fit for purpose?
CLAIRE ANGUS: Have they failed to kind of evolve and adapt? We know that many of these are now far more complex organizations, and actually, for many of them, the governance structures have been in place for tens, I might even argue in some of them, maybe hundreds of years. And actually, is that one of the reasons we're seeing these types of issues and things? So if I start with Katy, for your initial thoughts on the topic.
KATY AMBERLEY: Well, thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be taking part in this discussion I have to say, there have obviously been a few developments on the political front today in the United Kingdom. And I think no matter how problematic we may feel sometimes that our society governance is our within our organizations, it can't be anywhere near as bad as the appalling governance on display in the United Kingdom at the moment, where it seems certain people are more concerned about the standing of their party and their jobs than they are perhaps, the overall health of the country that they're supposed to be governing.
KATY AMBERLEY: And in fact, one of the things I've been thinking about today is what if a really serious thing happened in the UK right now? Who would deal with it? How would they deal with it? There is so much chaos going on in Westminster, it's actually not hard to imagine something really terrible happening, and everyone flailing around trying to work out who's in charge, and who's actually dealing with it.
KATY AMBERLEY: But I think, having worked in membership bodies for over 20 years now, and at the BSH for 15 of those years, I think certainly, in professional membership bodies, as opposed to membership bodies more widely, and the two are not interchangeable, there are particular issues that we do face as societies. And I think some of us, yes, we've been going a long time.
KATY AMBERLEY: BSH celebrated its 60th anniversary a couple of years ago. But the Royal College of Physicians, for example, celebrated 500 years in existence sort of two years before that. So we do tend to have been around for a long time, again, a bit like some British institutions. And again, you know that can lead to certain ossification perhaps, to use a medical term in the body politic.
KATY AMBERLEY: However, I do think that membership bodies are a really interesting places to work, and do some great work that is often unheralded, unsung, and little known about. And I think that we can make improvements to our governance. And if we do that, we will see improvements elsewhere.
KATY AMBERLEY: And I hope that later during this conversation Josh and I might be able to say a little bit about how improving some of the BSH governance over the past five, six, seven years has led to improvements in other aspects of our work.
CLAIRE ANGUS: Lovely. Thanks, Katy. And Andrew, to bring you in.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, I mean look, you're opening gambit about being kept awake at night, I want boards of directors and boards of trustees to be awake at night about governance. I want them, because I want them to be excited about the prospect that being on the governing body of a professional body offers. I think, I spend a lot of time working with dysfunctional boards. The nature of a lot of the work I do is I get parachuted into governance environments where fundamentally, the structures are good, but it's arguably the culture, and the understanding of the structures that is failing the organization.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: I think a lot of the membership organizations that I work with, and in fact, arguably, every or every organization, every membership body has evolved organically from its from its creation, be it 500 years ago, through to those organizations that are just a few years old now. What we see is that the culture evolves organically. So do the structures evolve organically. And so does people's understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And invariably, where we see the rub a lot of the time is where we have effectively, the clash of two professions within the board environment. And what do I mean by that? Well, the reality is that I've been a chief executive in membership organizations, and a member of leadership teams, in membership organizations. I have never professed to be of the profession for whom that organization exists.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: I am a membership professional. That's my that's my professional expertise. But what we see invariably, is this kind of sort of toxic combination of an organic culture, arguably, a poor culture sometimes, a structure that's not probably as well designed as it should be, or certainly not as well understood as it should be, and an environment where two different professions are trying to work together to advance the interests of an organization.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And that invariably comes down to-- for me, it comes down to a lack of training for our volunteer leaders, as well as often, structures that are lacking, or rather, are not underpinned by sufficient communications, et cetera, et cetera, within the board environment. And we end up with some horrible sort of "them and us" structures, where you have the executive, the volunteer leaders, the trustees, and the directors clashing rather than complementing one another.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And for me, like I said, I get parachuted into environments where people are awake at night for the wrong reasons. And it's because people at board level are not necessarily focusing on the opportunities that they have as directors, and as trustees. And likewise, the executive is kept awake at night for very similar reasons. The trustees and the directors are not focusing on what I need them to focus on.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: So I think an awful lot of the piece is a long way of saying, I think the structures generally are fit for purpose. I think, however, it tends to be more about people's understanding of their roles and responsibilities, people's understanding of how they are there to complement one another rather than to compete with one another. I'm sure Josh and Katy will agree, that you guys work and recognize you work as a partnership.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And that actually neither of you can fulfill your role as well without the other. And that is where you want an organization to get, to recognize that the board and the executive are there to support one another. And the governance doesn't exist over here in the ether as some kind of thing that is done to us, and it's a painful experience. It's actually a core component of the organizational structure, culture, purpose.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And I think where I want to get to working with the membership world is I think, where the BSH is, which is understanding that actually-- and I've observed it-- is the governance is part of the exciting(?) foundation on which the organization is growing.
CLAIRE ANGUS: Lovely. Thanks Andrew. And Josh, I can bring you in.
JOSH WRIGHT: Yeah, thank you. And thank you very much for inviting me along. I've got two membership organization professionals. And as you rightly point out, I'm most definitely not one. So I've been involved with BSH for about seven years now starting as a trustee. And I absolutely feel that the governance is the thing that keeps me awake at night.
JOSH WRIGHT: Though admittedly, because I'm aware of how seriously Katy and the senior leadership team take that, it's enormously reassuring to me. So I'm a full-time doctor. And although a lot of this stuff does really excite me, the prospect of being involved with an organization that is representing your profession, but is also an important entity in itself, and has to grow and evolve is absolutely fascinating.
JOSH WRIGHT: And I wouldn't swap where I have ended up for anybody. Thank you very much. It is a really positive experience. But I wouldn't feel this enthusiastic if I had to worry about the governance myself, because in all honesty, neither me or the other professional members on the board, particularly at the moment, I don't know if you've read anything about the NHS recently, but apparently, it's in a bit of trouble.
JOSH WRIGHT: We have all the in our play. And the reality of it is this is not completely entrusted to Katy and the team. We absolutely have to recognize our role and our responsibility. And that's very much part of our induction into becoming a trustee is that this is sort of thrust at you, and you have to realize the significant risks that you carry if this is not done well.
JOSH WRIGHT: And I think if you engage with that, and see this as another interesting area that you hadn't perhaps really considered much about before that, and couple that with as you say, the opportunity to do things for your own profession and society, it's an enormously stimulating opportunity.
CLAIRE ANGUS: Lovely. Thanks, Josh. Just thinking, actually, your point, Andrew, was really interesting about potentially actually the structures may actually be fit for purpose, but around that sort of culture, and that understanding of the structures. And one of the things-- and actually, especially having Katy and Josh here-- I want to explore in my own professional body that I represent, we have a purely elected board of directors.
CLAIRE ANGUS: So they all come from the profession. They're incredibly passionate about the profession, and the organization, and what we do. However, as a board of directors, and I think about some of the things we look at in terms of governance of the organization, finances, strategic planning, sometimes, that may be not necessarily their strength, or maybe they've had little or no experience in before being elected onto the board.
CLAIRE ANGUS: And so we're increasingly seeing some professional bodies now looking at how you kind of diversify that board of directors to bring in other people. But again, it's quite challenging if those that are elected are the ones making the decision. So I'd just be interested-- I know, you know, that Katy and Josh, you've done some work on this about that sort of elected versus appointed board members, and what the opportunities are around that topic.
CLAIRE ANGUS: So Katy, should I come to you first on that, because I know this is something you've done a lot of work on.
KATY AMBERLEY: Thank you very much, yes. So it's sort of 2015-2016, we really started to think about our governance structures at BSH. And we'd had a review of the organization done in 2014. And governance and communications were probably the biggest things that came out of that review, areas where we needed to work on. And I became aware around the same time through helping to set up a sort of a little group really, of charity CEOs who belong to membership bodies, that actually, some of the other people on that group, some of the other CEOs had-- some of them called them appointed trustees.
KATY AMBERLEY: Some of them called them lay trustees. But anyway, they were not trustees who were elected by the membership. And they were specially appointed by the board to bring in expertise that was perhaps, less likely to be found amongst the other board members. And this really struck me as something that BSH should look at, because at that point, our board was entirely from the membership.
KATY AMBERLEY: Some people had been appointed by the board, but most people were elected by the membership. And everyone was within haematology itself whether they were appointed or elected. And when we were looking at governance sort of in that time, 2015, 2016, 2017, that was one of the things that I really wanted to push forward with. And I think-- because you know, because we'd had this review which we'd done ourselves, we'd wanted to do, I could see that the board were open to exploring various options.
KATY AMBERLEY: We did a skills audit in the summer of 2015 of the board, and we realized that there were things we needed on the board that we were unlikely to get from the membership. And so we decided to go out and recruit our first two lay trustees. And we took on a couple of people, a communications expert, and someone who had a lot of financial and business expertise, and also had been, and was at that time, a charity trustee, and sat on that charity's investment committee.
KATY AMBERLEY: And so this was really you know, a big step for us, but it was very exciting. And in fact, we had such good applicants that although we'd only intended to appoint one lay trustee, and we felt that actually we could really benefit from appointing both of these people, and our articles allowed us to do this, which is not always the case with some organizations, which is perhaps something we can come onto.
KATY AMBERLEY: Not all professional membership bodies' articles permit external people to be appointed to the board, which is a bit of a barrier, but ours did. And so we were able to do that. And in April 2016, we appointed our first two lay trustees. And we felt it would be nice to have two rather than one so that the person we appointed wasn't just sort of a lone voice crying in the wilderness, so to speak, but they would have another non-elected trustee potentially to you know, to buddy up with.
KATY AMBERLEY: But in fact, the elected board members found the whole thing incredibly positive. You know, they were fully engaged with the recruitment process. They were amazed at the caliber of people who applied. We really couldn't believe our luck with the people we chose. And it was a completely positive experience. And they were very welcoming to the lay trustees who soon felt very at home.
KATY AMBERLEY: So we had a really, really good experience of doing that. And we've since appointed other lay trustees. And I notice other specialty societies are also doing this more and more. And it's something I would really, really urge them to do if your articles allow it.
CLAIRE ANGUS: And Katy, can I just ask, when you did that, did you reduce the number of elected seats? Or was this in addition to your number of elected seats?
KATY AMBERLEY: No. Well, what we ended up doing not immediately, but over the years was, we did lose a couple of officer roles on the board. So we lost the immediate past president role, and we also lost another officer role on the board, which sort of became subsumed into work elsewhere. But we still have four officers and eight elected trustees, and we can have up to four lay trustees.
KATY AMBERLEY: So the elected trustees will always be in the majority by you know, by quite a long way. But what we've got at the moment seems to work.
CLAIRE ANGUS: OK. Lovely. Thank you. So Josh, it'd be great to hear from you. Like you said, for some of us, this just feels like it's quite innovative. I'm sure to others, they're like, oh, surely, this is quite obvious. But you know, for a board that's actually done this about your experience of doing this, and hopefully, the positive aspects, or anything you know, those that might be thinking about doing this can learn from your experience.
JOSH WRIGHT: I started at the same time as trustee at the same time as our two new lay trustees. So we sat down at the same table to do our induction around trust and charitable governance. And so actually, this is my norm. So it's difficult for me to draw any comparisons. But I entirely echo what Katy said. I cannot imagine functioning without them, to be honest. A group of haematologists may be very good at what they do, but there's an awful lot they don't know about.
JOSH WRIGHT: And if you can supplement your board with the correct skill set, it's enormously positive for the rest of the board. And I think it's enormously positive for the lay trustees as well. I think most of us have conversations, most of the haematologists have had conversations over the years about what's in it for these people, you know? They're not paid to do this. You know, obviously, it's clear what's in it for us.
JOSH WRIGHT: We're haematologists. It's our profession. But clearly, there's a lot to be gained in terms of interest and experience for those individuals as well. And they have been remarkable. I probably haven't learned much about finance, but that may reflect a degree of personal inadequacy rather than anything else.
JOSH WRIGHT: But communications and some of the media aspects have been hugely enlightening from my perspective. And the lay trustees in all levels of discussion, so we go on our board retreats and we just we might discuss things which are very much focused on the haematology profession. So the recent one was we had an entirely focused on workforce challenges, which are well-publicized and affect us as much, if not more than anybody else.
JOSH WRIGHT: But our lay trustees, from entirely different professional backgrounds bring enormous sort of new eyes to the subject, which are hugely helpful. So they help you with your core work, not just the skills that they were recruited to bring.
CLAIRE ANGUS: I think that's one of the things we've talked about in our organization, just having almost people who are-- I don't know, sort of say, less emotional about the organization, but obviously, it's their profession. They're incredibly passionate. But somebody just sort of stepping outside of that, I think like you say, brings a lot to the table. Andrew, I want to bring you in at this point.
CLAIRE ANGUS: I'm assuming then in terms of your sort of consultancy what you've probably seen kind of a mixture of different models across. So it'd be great to hear from you about your experience of working with different organizations that have these different types of make up of board of directors.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, and I run hot and cold when it comes to hybrid boards, elected and appointed. I don't have any objections whatsoever to the model that Josh and Katy have described. And clearly, it's working extremely well for you guys, which is excellent, which is how it should work. I think where I run cold on it is often, I've seen examples where the elected members of the board can tend to defer the decision making to an appointed member of the board, because there is an assumption that because an individual is potentially perhaps, a portfolio director, or has what they perceive as significantly more relevant qualifications as it were to be on the board, I have seen examples where the elected people around the table have become more diminutive in their contribution to the board discussions.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: It goes back to my point, however, about-- and clearly, that's not the case for you guys, which is excellent. It's really encouraging to hear what Josh is saying there, that actually, I'm learning from them, and they're learning from you as well, which is excellent. You want that virtuous learning cycle in the board environment. And so that's when I run cold. And I think it goes again, to that piece about-- it goes again, to that piece around training and continual professional development.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: The reality is that every member of the board is equally accountable for the performance or otherwise, of the organization. But where I've seen that hybrid model falter is where people have been unwilling to be held accountable for a board decision, because they felt they haven't been able to make an informed decision. And it's because they've deferred to what they perceive as superior knowledge and expertise of the appointed individuals.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: But I would argue it's because that nobody around the board table in those scenarios had been given sufficient training and professional development opportunities. The reality is, as employees of our societies, and of our membership bodies, we quite rightly expect to be given training and development opportunities. Professional education is absolutely critical. And as employees of all of our organizations, we expect it. I argue that so should our volunteer leaders as well.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: People who walk into the boardroom, put their hands up to volunteer, they are assuming a significant responsibility without over-egging it and dramatizing it. It is still a significant personal and collective responsibility. So we absolutely need to make a commitment to the ongoing professional education and professional development of our trustees, and of our directors of our volunteer leaders as well.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And for me, that's where-- and actually, it's not just the hybrid model, actually, it's where governance comes a cropper continually, which goes back to my point about structures. Actually, usually the structures are fit for purpose, but it's how people are working within that structure, or not working as the case may be, is where it begins to falter. I actually work with-- I provide advice with some boards where they've had exceptionally large number of trustees, I mean, we're talking 30-40 trustees, which is just a ridiculous amount, because you can never, ever make informed-- I'd argue you can't even have informed debate, never mind informed decision making with that number of people around the table.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And actually, I routinely advise membership organizations to whittle right down to no more than three, three trustees, or three directors, but make sure that you have an active vehicle for member engagement, because that's key. One of the other issues that I routinely am coming up against is this false impression that the board table is the opportunity to represent the membership. And it's not.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: The boardroom is the opportunity to be the custodians of the society. And your responsibility at the board table is to the priorities and the interests of the society first. And that's where I often argue, I often advise whittling right down, have a small, flexible, dynamic group of individuals who are only concerned with arguably, with the compliance piece, but they are underpinned by a more robust and engaged membership that gets to exercise its voice, but not in the governance environment, but around the value proposition, et cetera.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Katy, I can see you nodding your head then. And I don't know if--
KATY AMBERLEY: Yes.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Have experienced.
KATY AMBERLEY: Yes, if I could come in there, this is not so much from my BSH experience, but having worked for another membership body for a number of years prior to-- you know, some years before I joined BSH. This was not a professional body, but it sort of had two trustee boards. It had the wider council, which was, yes, somewhere between 30 and 40 people, which as you say, is just daft. You know, a board of that size is really not efficient.
KATY AMBERLEY: And then within that there was the executive committee. And so all the executive committee were also on the council, but not all the council were on the executive committee. It was one of those sort of a board and an inner board situations. And this produced quite a number of problems. For a start, the executive committee used to meet every month.
KATY AMBERLEY: And I was the lucky soul who got to table the minutes of those meetings, because I was PA to the chairman and chief executive at that point. And the council only met three times a year. But one of the real problems-- and again, we were an organization going through change, and going from a volunteer run to a volunteer led ideally, organization, was that a lot of the people who were on the council were regional reps, if you like.
KATY AMBERLEY: And with the best will in the world, try as they could, they could not take off their regional representative hat, and put on their board directors hat and think, I'm not thinking of the northwest, or I'm not thinking of the southwest now. I need to be thinking of the organization as a whole. And it was really, really difficult for them. In the end, the organization-- well, first of all, it was incorporated, because it was an unincorporated association, which of course, the risks are huge staying like that.
KATY AMBERLEY: But also, it slimmed the board right down. The council became an advisory council, so people were no longer board members who were on that council. And then there was the smaller inner board, which sort of met four or five times a year rather than 12 or 13. And that worked much better and of course the board were not within this conflict situation of thinking, if I take this decision, how can I take that back, and sell it to my constituency, if you like it?
KATY AMBERLEY: It brings us back to the state of the nation, so to speak. You know, MPs have this same conflict in a way. Possibly, one of the reasons why it doesn't always work very well is that, yes, they're constituency MPs, but also, if they're part of the government, they're kind of like a board member, and they're sort of being taken in two different directions. It's not a comfortable ride.
JOSH WRIGHT: I think the issue that you raise about engaged membership is a really interesting one.
JOSH WRIGHT: And to a degree, people get more engaged when they think things are not happening smoothly, or being run well. And actually, if you've got any tips about membership engagement, I'd be very glad to hear them. I think this is an issue for us. Our surveys of membership do suggest that we're doing a reasonably good job and people are happy with what's happening.
JOSH WRIGHT: But actually getting people to stand up and volunteer-- so for instance, I do worry a bit where I think two of the officers' positions, the secretary and treasurer demand a particular quite big commitments, and demand a particular sort of personality types. I think I'm worried that we might struggle to replace those posts when they both come vacant in the not too distant future.
JOSH WRIGHT: And so do we struggle to get people to give up their time voluntarily for roles. And I think it's very difficult sometimes to articulate the benefits in doing so. For a lot of people, it's my job is very busy. I'm not after another busy commitment that takes me away from that. So membership engagement is hard. I think our membership is engaged, but actually getting them to actively engage in the roles within the society is quite hard sometimes.
KATY AMBERLEY: It is tough. And again, that sort of again, it sort of comes back to the idea of, yes, if you're a professional body in particular, you really need your members to do certain things, you know, things that people like Andrew and I can't do because we're not within the profession, and therefore, we need the membership to be engaged. But as you say, Josh, particularly in the medical sphere, and particularly at the moment, you know, with busy day jobs, you can really understand why people might be reluctant to come forward not just for board positions, but for all the committee and special interest group positions as well.
KATY AMBERLEY: It's a struggle.
JOSH WRIGHT: I think more the special interest group roles, because they're more time committing.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: But are you trying to force by having something like a special interest group, that's sort of formally structured, as I presume somebody has to volunteer to sort of chair that, or facilitate the discussion in the special interest group, are we just trying to force member engagement where it doesn't actually exist?
JOSH WRIGHT: I don't think so. I think these are special interest groups around areas that individual members have passion for, and enormous passion for. And so some of those groups work really, really well, and are hugely productive. So our educational group always performs amazingly, I think, considering it is largely voluntary. I think the more you grow those special interest groups, and the more successful they become, the more your membership is engaged, becomes engaged through things that they're interested in rather than the society itself, the professional aspects, basically, then the trouble is then that means that your governance has to evolve alongside that to make sure all your special interest groups are not risking you, transgressing your articles, or whatever, or acting out with their roles.
JOSH WRIGHT: So that's part of the evolution of the governance structure. The more engaged and varied your organization becomes, your governance has to keep pace with that. And that's been I think, quite a challenge. Katy, I don't know if you'd agree.
KATY AMBERLEY: Yeah, it can be a challenge. I mean, people genuinely want-- I don't think that BSH from the center has said, oh, we'd like a special interest group for this. It's always come from outside. I mean, some of our special interest groups, one or two of them were like pre-existing groups. And they said, oh, BSH has got a new governance structure. You're thinking of having special interest groups. We'd really like to be your special interest group in this area.
KATY AMBERLEY: And it would be fantastic to have your backing and your support. And we're kind of like a pre-existing. And some have sort of grown up because people have said, oh, you know, it'd be really great if we could have one on this disease, because you know, it's a big, big disease. Lots of haematologist treat it, makes sense for us to do it. So I think they have come up from the bottom upwards.
KATY AMBERLEY: I mean, board committees, that's another matter, obviously. They come from the board. But the special interest groups do come from the members. But I think perhaps, sometimes initial enthusiasm of perhaps, the founding chair, and secretary, and vice chair of those, you know, they sometimes then a few years down the line they might want to pass it on to someone else. And then it can be a struggle to find people to sort of take it over into the next generation, so to speak.
KATY AMBERLEY: And I mean, some of our board committees struggle with this as well. So you are sort of having to evolve things. I think it's just the case that in a professional body with so many people already working flat out in the NHS it is going to be a struggle to get people. And that's perhaps, where we haven't really come on to the sort of the staff and the board sort of situation.
KATY AMBERLEY: But this is perhaps where we need to get to a stage where you know, where there are more staff to do things so that the volunteers just do the things that only the volunteers can do, so to speak.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, absolutely. I think, I would argue that how you're describing your special interest groups, I wouldn't advise that they are a-- they're not part of your governance structure. They're part of the value proposition. They're something that members benefit from, because they provide opportunities for members to peer support, to share ideas, to be creative with one another.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: But it doesn't actually have any impact on the governance of the organization. They exist because--
JOSH WRIGHT: I think you still have to-- you're right. If you stifle people with governance, then you lose the creativity, and you lose the fun and incentive for partaking in that. But equally, it's equally well those groups, we work to sort of provide a terms and conditions for how those groups operate. The chair is not there for life. They're there for three years.
JOSH WRIGHT: And they have a vice chair. And so it's more basic structures rather than governance.
KATY AMBERLEY: Hard governance.
JOSH WRIGHT: But that's part of the governance, really. So you don't end up with something that's hijacked by one particular group of individuals for their own purposes or something, not that that's happened. But that's a possibility, I suppose.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: They go AWOL and start writing policies on behalf of the BSH.
JOSH WRIGHT: Yes, exactly. And you don't know it's happening until you're confronted with it.
KATY AMBERLEY: Yeah, I have known some-- I mean, not thank goodness, within the BSH, but I have known of situations where that sort of thing can and has happened. And yeah, and obviously, that's a bit of a risk. So you just need to sort of think about that when you set up the groups, and when you sort of support them as well, you know. And that comes back to sort of having the staff in place who can support these groups, so that they know when they can go off and do what they want in terms of putting together a program for an event, and whether when they need to come back to you know, to the staff member, or to me to say, oh, this has happened, you know.
KATY AMBERLEY: Is this something that we should be doing on behalf of BSH? Can we discuss it? So yeah, there are ways of doing it.
CLAIRE ANGUS: I think it's really interesting obviously, as we start talk about sort of the staff aspect there as well, and also, again, member engagement in the wider governance, because I don't know about other organizations, but I know our turnout at things like AGMs and voting on changes to articles and things is very low. But like you say, things like special interest groups and things we get far, far more engagements. If you can kind of find a way of bringing them together and using that engagement to get them some way involved in the governance side, just in terms of engaging with it.
CLAIRE ANGUS: But I think, and again, I think Andrew you touched on this in sort of your opening comments about the way these types of organizations have evolved. And I know thinking about myself, you know, in fact, I've ended up working in membership bodies for 20 years, quite different membership bodies. But the way we were structured as a staff team has really changed and evolved.
CLAIRE ANGUS: And I would now also say that my sort of professional career path is as a membership professional. But you know, 20 years ago I started in that, you were just administrators. And you were there to administrate, and support the board, and whatever they asked for, that's what we did. But actually, now that's kind of evolved and changed. And you know, more and more of these organizations now have professional CEOs and leadership teams, but also, we now have that sort of dynamic.
CLAIRE ANGUS: And you talked about, Andrew, that sometimes that creates a tension. And so just yeah, maybe sort of as our sort of final points that look at thinking about who is leading these organizations in terms of making sure that the kind of governance is followed. Is it the CEO and directorship leadership team? Or is it the of board of directors? Or is it ideally, some sort of working together or marriage of those two?
CLAIRE ANGUS: But yeah, Katy, I didn't know if you want to kind of kick us off on that.
KATY AMBERLEY: Yeah, I mean, I think as you say, ideally, it's a case of complementing and knowing when it's your role to step forward, and when it's Josh's role to step forward. So one of the things that the BSH has been doing more of this year is external affairs work, which is really a very new area for the society. And we've touched on the workforce issue a couple of times in this discussion.
KATY AMBERLEY: It's pretty acute in haematology. And Josh can testify to that. So really, I would see my role in that as sort of facilitating how Josh and the other clinicians, whether it's board, or whether it's one of our committees or special interest groups, sort of supporting them so that they can go out and you know, as and when necessary talk to the press, or talk to NHS England, or talk to other bodies, because they're the people who are actually living this workforce crisis, not me.
KATY AMBERLEY: So I think there is a role for the CEO to help in this sort of leadership space. But I would perhaps, take the lead on the infrastructure, the governance, and the finance side of things. And I would perhaps, defer a little more to Josh and his colleagues, his clinical colleagues on the board when it comes to issues around workforce, and other external affairs, and certainly, anything to do with actual practice of haematology.
CLAIRE ANGUS: And Josh, obviously, say in terms of that, let's say that you have that role then as the president of the organization.
JOSH WRIGHT: So I think that's a really interesting question. And I think what's been in place in BSH-- because so mine's a two year role. Previously, it was a one year role. And if you're not careful, you can be changing direction every 12 months or 24 months, which is enormously disruptive, and largely, probably achieves nothing. But it you're not careful you end up pursuing each particular president's pet thing.
JOSH WRIGHT: So I think the thing has been very actually, really reassuring for me is that we have this renewed five year strategy, that we sit down every few years, refresh, update, and move on again. And there is a set, series of targets that we're aiming for, and anything you do has got to operate within. So that's a trustee set and board set strategy. And anything you do has got to be within that framework. So you can't then decide to come along and completely charge off at a tangent.
JOSH WRIGHT: And so I think I think that's actually-- so partly, you feel that there is an evolution of what's happening within this framework. And I think that's absolutely crucial to the governance and for the society to thrive, because then everybody knows what we're supposed to be doing, where we're supposed to be heading. There may be a slant on it, or a slightly different flavor with different people, but the end aims are clearly set out, and you have set them as a board.
CLAIRE ANGUS: Lovely. Thank, Josh. Andrew, did you want to come in on that?
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, no, I mean, I agree with both perspectives. I think often, I see it sort of go from one extreme to the other. You see perhaps a dominant board, or even a dominant executive, or dominant chief executive, dominant president. And actually, the organization should transcend an individual personality. You shouldn't be so unstable that somebody new walks into a position, and everything just sort of collapses in on itself.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And the culture of the organization needs to be absolutely underpinned, as Josh rightly said, you know, under structures that everybody knows what their roles and responsibilities are, what the parameters of those roles and responsibilities are, and that actually, yeah, I mean, Katy is absolutely right. I would never profess to stand and talk about an issue pertaining to the profession. But I would stand up and talk about an issue pertaining to the society.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: As the chief executive of the society, I am qualified to talk about that, because I'm the chief executive. Ideally, I'd be standing up next to the president, we'd be talking together about this society. But it's absolutely being able to understand where those parameters lie. And so for me, it fundamentally is about having that clarity, so that when an individual-- and having it written down, having that point of reference.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Too often, we make too many assumptions about-- which sometimes, I know this isn't the case for the BSH. But sometimes, we're just so grateful that someone's volunteered to be on a board that we don't want to encumber them with any more information. And it's like, no, that's so unfair to everybody. Let's make sure that we all know what our decision making processes are, what our reporting protocol is, what our scheme of delegation is.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: It all sounds really boring, but it's stuff that actually, if we just get it right, and it's all written down, and everyone understands it, and it's explicit, then that means the board then doesn't try to fill a silence. It knows that something is going on, that the executive is dealing with it, or the executive knows that the board is handling something. We don't then try and fill those voids, that we're worrying that something's not happening.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: And then that's when I think we can focus on how I understand governance, as being exciting, which is the strategic piece, and the transformative piece. What do we need to do now to invest in this organization so that we remain highly relevant in the next 20, 30, 40, 50, 500 years? That for me, is the exciting piece about governance. I can think of nothing more tedious than sitting in a boardroom poring over balance sheets and monthly management accounts.
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Oh my god, how dull is that? But actually, if you get in there, and you get to have a real impact on the evolution of the organization, that for me, is where governance really gets exciting. But it requires everybody to understand where they fit within the system of the organization.
KATY AMBERLEY: Yeah, and just to add one final point, where I worked before, where they initially had the 30 to 40 person council, it was there when I was helping the then executive committee to sort of move the governance along for that society that I really became interested in governance, you know, as the PA to the chair and chief executive. I got to liaise with the lawyers on the new articles. I learnt about incorporation, becoming a company limited by guarantee.
KATY AMBERLEY: You know, that was really where I initially learnt a lot about governance and where my interest in it came from, and I brought that with me to the BSH.
CLAIRE ANGUS: I'm conscious that the time flies when you talk about governance. I appreciate we could have had a fireside chat for about three or four or four hours. But I think, hopefully, we've touched on some really interesting elements. But before we close, I didn't know if everyone just had a final thought before we wrap up. So Josh, any final thoughts?
JOSH WRIGHT: I suppose final thought is just that these are organizations. Everybody on a board works in an organization that may be separate. All organizations are slightly different, but they're still organizations. And it's still about people. So you concentrate on the, people and interacting with a team of able individuals with different sets of skills, such as the leadership team and Katy at BSH is one of the positives of doing such a thing.
JOSH WRIGHT: People, I suppose, its my final point, attention to people.
CLAIRE ANGUS: Lovely. Thanks, Josh. And Andrew, your final thoughts?
ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Well, linked to that, I think over- communication is far better than no communication. I'd rather hear something half a dozen times than not hear it at all. And for me, it's how that flow of information, that communication within the team-- and by the team, I mean the executive and the board, because they are both sides of the same leadership coin-- how they communicate consistently is absolutely fundamental to the success of the organization.
CLAIRE ANGUS: Thanks, Andrew. And Katy, your final thoughts.
KATY AMBERLEY: I think Andrew has mentioned culture several times. And Josh just mentioned people. And of course, it does all come to that. Culture trumps everything. And it does all come down to people, communication, and the culture of an organization.
CLAIRE ANGUS: That's brilliant. Thank you everybody for obviously, your contributions. And I hope that those listening will hopefully sleep a little bit easier having taken on board some of the insights and learning from the panel. So obviously, I just want to say a big thank you to Andrew, Katy, and Josh for giving their time today to come along and talk to us about governance.
KATY AMBERLEY: Thank you.
CLAIRE ANGUS: Take care, everyone. Thank you. Bye. Officially stop recording. Yes.