Licence to Practice – CIPS Congress doesn’t seem too positive

You may remember that CIPS failed to answer our eleven questions (see here) about the Licence to Practise ‘policy’ but told us that more information would be forthcoming after the Congress were consulted in the meeting at the beginning of December.

"Our Global Board of Trustees signed off the policy statement back in September with the intent that the framework would be finalised next month (December) in time for congress consultation".

There was no formal feedback from that Congress session, and I was told to speak to my representatives in Congress for their feedback. I contacted the 10 who are responsible for the South of England. Five got back to me – thanks – although two of them merely said that they hadn’t attended! I also had two private conversations with Congress members who spoke on a non-attributable basis.

The general feeling was that the Congress meeting was unsatisfactory from the point of view of discussing the issue. The topic was presented as a “for information” agenda item rather than ‘for discussion / consultation and Congress input”.  In terms of the Congress members views, here are a couple of quotes:

 “The idea lacks a practical way of implementing that is considerate of the impact it will have on organisations..”

I liked this one a lot.

“…the intent is right i.e. improve the level of professionalism,  but I’m not convinced this is the way to do it.  I believe CIPS will get tied up in long debates over this, which will distract them from focusing on initiatives that promote the profession and  good practice, and ensure people want to do the right thing rather than being forced to i.e. carrot rather than use the stick approach. It is also my view that everyone in our business is a buyer to some extent and for that reason I cannot see how it would work in practice”.

Those I spoke to had the sense, rightly or wrongly, that the Trustees and Chief Executive were not really interested in Congress views. (But see my later comment below).  There is a fair amount of negativity about this and other issues where Congress don’t feel ‘in the loop’.  There also seems a lack of clarity around who is really driving the licence to practice beyond David Noble (the CEO), as somewhat surprisingly, no Trustee has gone on the record as supporting the policy!

I also picked up some wider concerns about governance and the role of Congress. It hadn’t dawned on me that the Trustees don’t attend Congress now. In the old governance structure, Council members were the Trustees. So the Board (who frankly did run the Institute in most senses) were also Trustees and part of Council, and most Board members attended most Council meetings. Not now.

So there is a real separation, which is not helping Congress feel useful or important, and means Trustees don’t pick up on the feelings of Congress members.  Two Congress members (Nicki Bell and Steve Johnson) have now been elected to the Trustee group by Congress itself, and certainly the people I spoke to hope that this will bring the two groups closer together.

I also learnt that David Noble also did not attend Congress. Maybe that was a diary issue, but I would respectfully suggest that he really should try and do so, if he wants Congress to be a positive contributor to the Institute. I’d also suggest that Trustees need to engage positively with Congress, or this is going to become a running battle between the groups, which won’t help anyone.

Coming back to the Licence to Practise, I’m hoping to have some further discussions about the idea shortly with some key people, so we’ll keep you in touch!  And in the meantime, if you hear CIPS claiming that members are 'overwhelmingly positive' about the Licence to Practice, I would take that with a HUGE pinch of salt.

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Voices (7)

  1. Trevor Black:

    As a member of CIPS Congress I recognise that there is a global demand to raise the standards of the profession and Congress should have been used to debate the widely publicised issues. One of the reasons why I put myself forward for Congress was that the culture in CIPS was changing in that it was to move towards a bottom up rather than a top down organisation. I am aware that many colleagues on Congress share my view that the way in which the “Licence to Practice” issue has been rolled out to be a disaster and the future of Congress is in doubt. The next meeting is at the end of March and this issue must be resolved at that meeting. It has been insulting to Congress members and a PR disaster. For an organisation that is supposed to be a leading light in the commercial world, this simply isn’t good enough.

  2. RJ:

    To be pefectly honest, I’m not sure if this debate validates my decision a few years back to allow my CIPS membership to lapse, as it seemed completely out of touch and irrelevant to my job or my clients, or whether it is now a dangerous beast that I ought to be engaging with more directly to influence from the inside. Heaven help us if this goes through!

  3. Phoenix:

    None of us who campaigned to protect a wider representative member body for CIPS with executive authority will be surprised to see the toothless Congress bypassed and ignored. CIPS is now primarily a consultancy business with little interest in advancing the professional development and status of its members, unless there’s a buck in it. We predicted this outcome and the CEO’s obvious lack of concern for the views of Congress speaks volumes.

    I don’t doubt that David Noble is a decent man, but I for one hope that the frankly dotty Licence to Practice idea turns out to be his Poll Tax.

  4. Peter Smith:

    I should add this – CIPS have told me that Congress members “had received a communication from us with the Licensing paper attached and asking for feedback from both them and their members. Some of them did feedback, … it’s a tough one but we certainly did ask them for their feedback to engage them in the debate”. Thanks for that – certainly, some responsibility rests with Congress to be proative in getting involved!.

  5. Lionel J. Botch:

    CIPS Congress doesn’t seem too positive, why should they be different from anyone else? No one I have spoken to thinks this is in any way a good idea. And even if it was it is hardly practical on any level.
    As you have previously stated, there are far more questions than answers. Simple things like:
    What sectors does this cover?
    Who needs to be licensed? Will it be everyone or is it based on position or spend?
    I have a list of these, but I have made my point.
    But importantly, what constitutes a license? A membership of the institute is not a qualification in itself, but is granted as a result of doing something, most commonly the completion of the Professional Diploma. So does everyone need to have a Professional Diploma from CIPS to have a licence? Really, to place a £20 stationery order I need to have passed 15 exams?
    Also will any other qualification from another awarding body be taken into consideration?
    For what it is worth I think this will drift away and the focus firmly placed on the Chartered Membership as it seems a far easier task to promote and administer.

  6. Gordon Murray:

    If Trustess and the Chief Executive don’t actually attend Congress, is there some evidence that it serves a purpose? Let’s remember that it is member fees which finance attendance of Congress meetings.

    1. Ian Taylor:

      But Gordon as I think Peter meant, the benefit of the old regime was that at least Board members were in some way accountable to the views of ordinary members, representing different sectors and areas elected to Council which I think used to make for at least some real consultation and listening especially over controversial subjects. If thats gone we are led by an unaccountable board.

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