On My Mind
By ASHI President Bill Loden
A Moment of Introspection
Last year as I contemplated what my term as ASHI President would mean, I considered the changes needed in the governance of ASHI. Most of you will remember that about four years ago the ASHI Board of Directors (BoD) initiated a very complex and comprehensive bylaws change that would fundamentally change ASHI’s governance structure.
The bold proposal encompassed reducing the size of the board by reducing the number of directors and officers. The proposal also fundamentally changed how directors and officers would be elected. I personally considered some of the changes to be positive and some to be negative. Unfortunately the changes could not be voted on individually and when the membership vetoed the change, the elements I favored were rejected along with those I opposed.
When I first brought up the possibility of addressing some of the governance issues this year, I was warned against it. I was advised that the topic of governance was the ASHI third rail that should not be touched and that this topic would be both controversial and divisive.
I took the advice seriously but I believed there had to be a way to make some small positive changes in our governance without causing alienation and discord within the ranks. I devised a plan.
Step One: Keep it simple. The only real change I felt we needed to tackle was to make the board just a little smaller. I would propose we reduce the number of directors by one per year for three years to a final size of 12 directors rather than the current 15. I would also propose eliminating an officer position such as the Vice President. This would reduce the size of the board from 21 to 17.
Step Two: Don’t start the process by building a team to support the proposal but rather start by going to those likely to oppose a bylaws change. Since I opposed the changes four years ago, I had a good idea who I needed to speak with and I called them, receiving some great feedback on how to make the proposal more acceptable. One person I spoke with could not support elimination of the Vice President.
Another said an officer position had to be eliminated. This person was fearful that a change in the ratio of officers to directors would somehow shift the power of the board in favor of the officers. While I have never considered there to be any power struggle between the officers and directors, I respect that person’s opinion and tried to find a way to maintain the current ratio of officers to directors.
Step Three: Keep the Governance change out of the hands of the Board of Directors. By my reading of the ASHI Bylaws, changes should come from the Council of Representatives. Having an excellent working relationship with the Speaker of the Council Tony Smith, I asked him to put this on the Council’s agenda to see if we could make this small change. I appreciate the Council’s cooperation and help in moving this forward.
Step Four: Take the time to get it right. This is not a change that needs to be rushed through. I believe that everyone should have ample time to fully consider this proposal. I believe everyone who has an opinion should be heard. I also believe this should be done respectfully.
Step Five: Clearly and concisely express the positive outcomes of a smaller Board of Directors to the ASHI members. This change will mean ASHI has to pay for 12 fewer plane tickets, 24 fewer lodging nights and dozens fewer meals to attend the quarterly board meetings. This will save conservatively between $12,000 and $15,000 of ASHI members’ money every year, money that can be spent on member benefits.
While other benefits may occur, these are the tangible benefits that are sure to be accrued. So far the few opponents, and there are a few, have yet to express a tangible negative outcome from making this change.
As I’m writing this column, the Council has not yet completed its work on this issue. Maybe by the time this is published in November a motion will have been moved from the Council of Representatives to the Bylaws Committee and the process will continue and eventually sometime in the spring, you, the members of ASHI, will have the opportunity to express your will through your vote. You see, you are ultimately in control of this association and that is the way I want to keep it.