Governance For The Future – What Would Freddie Mercury Say?

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Special General Meetings are like buses. You get none for 100 years and then two come along at once. Or at least two in ten years. Because right now you as the members of the IET are being asked to vote. And of course in order to decide, the first thing you will all be asking yourselves is – what would Freddie Mercury have to say?

I’ve talked about Governance for the Future before, right from when it was known as Plan 42  as the answer to life the universe and everything. It’s a plan to modernise the governance of the IET and give us an institution which is ready to take on the modern world. However it has raised some opposition from a group of members and this is the reason for the current vote.

So Freddie says, I Want to Ride My Bicycle – by which he means get on your bike and vote! There’s not long left.

I guess the first thing is to explain it a little bit. G4F is trying to do three things :
  • Put members at the heart of the Institution by, amongst other things, creating a new third main board called the Volunteer Engagement Board. The clue is in the name.
  • Reform Council by engaging all of its members on the three main boards so they are informed and better able to contribute. This means Council will be smaller, which some object to, but more agile.
  • To provide balance on Council a mixture of election (66%) and selection will be used so that we can ensure the right mix of skills and representation of our diverse membership.
And just to be clear here, we are talking about Council. This is a purely advisory body and we are not talking about the Board of Trustees which is responsible for everything in the IET. All members coming onto BoT will remain subject to election.

As I’ve said, a group of concerned members have called a Special General Meeting. This is their right and it’s healthy that people like this are sufficiently concerned and it’s important this this right is supported.

They can and do speak for themselves but broadly I discern they are concerned about not having 100% election, the reduction in Council size and the independence of Council. The democracy bit is understandable and a decision best left to our membership. However it is increasingly best practice to mix election and selection with the National Trust being but one of many examples of this happening.

Similarly we could debate over many pints about what is right size for Council. Ultimately the Trustees and Council have consulted widely and agreed on the reduced size.

The bit about Council being independent will really depend on the good sense of our members who will be on it. I have a lot of trust in our members and believe they are more than capable of wearing one hat (on a main board) in the morning and wearing another (fully independent Council member) in the afternoon. In terms of independence, I don’t think they’ll be Under Pressure.

So it’s going to come down to a vote by you the membership. And that vote is open right now and closing soon.
But what are you voting for? On one side is G4F, laid out in detail after almost 3 years of work and strongly supported by both the Trustees and the majority of Council. So there is no doubt that we have One Vision.
And, after all of that, the earliest we could implement this would be October 2016 – it takes a long time to get through the Engineering Council and the Privy Council.

And the alternative? Well it’s all very vague. What is being asked for is yet another drive round the houses. A working party to re-look at it all again and then make a set of new recommendations if agreement can be reached. And the earliest this might be implemented – October 2017
Five years to decide something like this? No wonder Freddie says I Want to Break Free? And if you’ve seen the famous (or infamous) video for this one, let me put your mind at rest – your Trustees are not going to be re-enacting this one…

Five years - hardly the agile institution we all promised ourselves.

I will spare you further details, however in my opinion the rather varied suggestions I’ve heard from those calling this SGM sound very like what we had in last century. Let me immediately say that our governance then worked pretty well, I was part of it. But that was in a largely UK led institution, in the pre-Internet age and when companies were national rather than international.

To mix my musical metaphors here, it all seems very Back to the Future to me. A bit like proposing radio in television age. Hang on, didn’t Freddie sing a song about that – Radio Gaga?

The one thing we as Trustees and those who have called the SGM do agree on is that the membership will decide. You should already have voting papers for a meeting on 25th September. In practical terms unless you live close to London, that means you need to vote by post or electronically by a few days before the 25th.

The important thing above anything else is that you should vote. I’ve made my views pretty clear, but you must decide for yourself, or give your vote to the President to decide for you. In any case – please vote!

As Freddie would say, it’s Bohemian Raspberry (Ok at slight misquote) or Killer Queen. But if you don’t vote soon it could be Another One Bites the Dust!

Or if the Trustees were to perform a Queen song (God forbid!) it would clearly be Don’t Stop Me Now.

But if we get the governance the Institution needs and deserves, I can assure you that We Will Rock You!
Posted by Alan Watts on Sep 16, 2015 2:58 PM Europe/London

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