Towards an Organizational Structure that Actually Works

In a well-functioning non-profit organization it is the Board of Directors’ job to protect the organization and the public it serves, and to manage the organization’s moral, fiscal and legal matters responsibly. It delegates authority over specific activities of the organization to qualified individuals who lead committees. Committees of the organization are accountable to a section or division of their organization, and divisions are directly responsible to the Board. Procedures for evaluation of division/committee output must be transparent and approved by the Board.

The structure of a functioning non-profit needs to be rational. Clear lines of responsibility and authority and the requirement of accountability are vital to smooth and productive functioning. (Jaques, E, Clement, SD. 1994. Executive Leadership: A Practical Guide to Managing Complexity. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.) APsaA is no exception. It is anomalous for our educational leaders to feel they require autonomy and a firewall between themselves and their fellow analysts who are members of the organization. In a well-functioning professional organization oversight of education and recommendations about policy would be delegated to educators. But finalization of policy would be the duty of the Board of Directors.

It may be that most analysts who have administrative roles in APsaA do not view their organization as a non-profit with a stated mission. Many seem to view their organization (or their part of APsaA) as unique and their roles as defined by something bigger than themselves – perhaps history, or prestige, or threat – but not the overall, unifying mission of APsaA.

The efficiency and effectiveness of the current BOD would benefit from a smaller size, more frequent meetings, and clear job descriptions. I know there are organizational pressures that have made it hard to transition to this kind of model but it has been suggested by past elected leaders and is basically the recommendation of the strategic plan of 2011. How could we transition to a modern structure without disenfranchising any component of the organization?

My vision of a modern APsaA Board of Directors would include society, institute and center representatives; candidates; non-analyst Directors with expertise in finance, law, and/or marketing; and representatives of other Association stakeholders such as Psychotherapy Associates. Ideally it would have 15 to 20 members, all of whom would be voting members. The Executive Director would attend meetings but not be a voting member because his/her task is implementation rather than definition of policy. The group would meet monthly by phone, or more often if necessary, and meet in person 2-4 times per year. Its size and frequency of meetings would enable its members to become deeply immersed in organizational affairs and to coalesce as an effective work group. Its authority to act on behalf of the Association would derive from APsaA’s voting members who would elect the Board of Directors.

Many organizationally involved members feel Executive Council, our current BOD, is too large to be effective and its membership changes too often to remain focused. Others feel it must stay intact as it currently is because it is representative and in that sense democratic and it has accomplished needed changes. In the absence of a unified effort to serve all interests of the organization, we continue to define ourselves according to power politics rather than task. We need a cooperative, representative, mission-directed leadership group that is informed by constituencies and able to take responsibility for the overall functioning of the organization. Internal turf war will be our undoing rather than a contribution to our discipline.

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