Exclusive – CIPS discusses ‘the death of Council’ as part of governance revolution

We reported here that CIPS has set up a governance working party to consider the future governance of the Institute. That may seem very dull and dry, but actually it could have major implications for an Institute that boasts 60,000 procurement professionals as members worldwide. The working group will report back to the next Council meeting in May but they have already circulated some initial principles to Council members.

But we understand those ‘principles’ seem to be pretty much ‘proposals’, already laying out one potentially controversial preferred option for governance. But some background first.

CIPS currently has two key governance bodies. Council is around 40 people, all but a handful elected by members, and is the ultimate governing body; Council members are trustees from a legal standpoint.  It delegates some power for operational management of the Institute to the Board of Management, which has around 10 members, a mix of appointed and elected. The four ‘Officers’ (President, Chair and their deputies) sit on both bodies.

This means that the Board frankly do much of the hard ‘management’ work. They get involved in detailed business planning (with the executive team obviously), decision making, managing performance. But Council are involved in more strategic thinking, and as the formal decision-making body act as a check and balance on the Board and the execs.  And very importantly, Council directly represent the members, being largely elected based on geography and business sectors.

This structure does have its issues however. It is a bit unwieldy at times; and Council is perhaps too large to have meaningful debate (although using sub-groups and break-out sessions has helped overcome that). And there can be tensions between Council and Board.

So, we understand that the new proposal is to move to one single relatively small  ‘governance’ group that looks very much like the current Board, with a mix of elected and appointed members. This would form the official trustee body of the Institute and be the sole decision-making body.  The current Council would disappear as an organisation with real clout, to be replaced by some sort of ‘advisory’ group, elected (I think) but with no authority*.

If what I’m hearing is correct, it seems surprising that the working group isn’t bringing a range of options back to Council, with their views on those options, rather than what seems to be a very definite single approach. Because there are some very different but feasible options; off the top of my head, I would expect Council to consider at least these;

  • Moving to a single governance body (as above)
  • Moving to something that recognises better the developing global nature of the Institute (an international ‘Council’ perhaps but more power to national level governing bodies?)
  • Splitting the Institute – operationally and from a governance perspective – into a more clearly ‘charitable’ body and a ‘separate’ commercial organisation.
  • Keeping the two-level structure but making operational improvements (Council somewhat smaller perhaps, more use of technology such as video conferencing, social media, to speed up decision making).
  • And of course ‘no change’ has to be considered as an option.

Two final points.  Firstly, I hope Council members are making some attempt to talk to their constituents about these issues, and of course, fully contributing as Council members to the debate.

And finally; if the proposal is ultimately as radical as abolishing the elected Council as the body of ultimate power and responsibility, I would expect that to go to a vote of all members. I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome at all here, or start sounding off with my personal views: the final proposal may turn out to be excellent.  But if it is significant in nature, we will certainly be campaigning here for members to have a say in the final decision.

*I don’t really want to get into commenting personally on this yet, but you have to say, why on earth would anyone sacrifice 3 weekends a year to go to Kettering for a meeting of a body that has no power or authority whatsoever?

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Voices (5)

  1. Peter Smith:

    Early days Roy – too soon to worry I think. I can’t believe CIPS will / can rush into something that is truly dramatic, and I do think there are enough interested / sensible folk around, inside and outside of Council, to make sure the proper steps will be taken.

    1. Roy Ayliffe:

      I have just sought some clarification from CIPS.

  2. Roy Ayliffe:

    I have only just sent my nomination form for this year’s CIPS Council election, then read this. I am more than alarmed by this if there is only one option put to the current Council and if CIPS members aren’t given a chance to vote on the proposals. Reform in itself is usually a good idea but good reform is much preferred. This does not appear to be good reform.

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