This is how a former President of the United States of America answered a question about how they manage an impossible workload and the toughest job in the world.

Last month we looked at the team in the office and the importance of “getting the right people on the bus”. In this second of the three-part series on the changes at the BVNA, we are looking at the role of the Council members.

These two parts of the BVNA – the Council and the staff in the office – perform different and important, complimentary functions. Simplistically, one part makes decisions while the other part makes them happen. Together they create a very powerful and robust partnership. If there is a degree of ambiguity, the process becomes uncertain resulting in a decrease in efficiency, poorer decision making and an overall reduction in the quality of service to members.

One of the biggest changes we have made through the governance review has been to make sure these roles are differentiated clearly and build the strong partnership that is behind good governance.

As the BVNA has grown over the years, the Council retained its operational focus, making decisions on everything from government consultations to the colour scheme of table covers, staffing issues and finance. The result was long agendas but little information, long meetings and lots of discussion. It is a credit to the Councils and members down the years that the organisation has continued to grow. But making an effective decision, for example, booking a Congress venue for several years in advance, is difficult if your agenda is also filled with decisions on the colour of table covers for the next event.

Today’s Council runs very differently. Three sub-committees have clearly defined responsibilities for Congress and Operations, Learning & Development and Membership. You will recognise from these names that each of these is aligned with one of the BVNA’s core business units, which in turn produce their own results (discussed more in the last article of this series). In this way, structure and reporting is used to link delivery to decision making. Council members also have the opportunity to get more involved, in more depth in the areas that are of interest to them, confident that their colleagues are looking in the same detail at other areas.

This also helps clear the decks for the Council to focus on strategic matters and long-term decisions. As a result, the “planning horizon” has shifted from matters that are just weeks away to those which are months and years away. Each Congress for example has a 24-month cycle of planning, delivery and review. Long term contracts such as Congress venues, publishers and the like can be looked at strategically and ascertain how they deliver value and remain relevant for members.

Council also knows now when it will be meeting at any time in the future – simply because it has agreed and fixed regular meeting dates (the second Saturday of every other month, starting in January). The primary role of the Council is to make decisions – setting the direction of the organisation and its values and priorities, responding to public issues. These simple steps clarify that kind of governance. If you know who makes what decisions, where and when, then making decisions becomes automatically more accountable, more transparent and likely to be better informed. It also helps prepare for meetings with other organisations. We can now make sure that we have a decision on a key issue ahead of any meeting with the RCVS or BVA because we know exactly when these meetings will take place, allowing for adequate preparation.

This is the real work of organisational change. Not glamorous, or eye catching, but essential. So far we have covered “people” and “process” aspects of the changes at the BVNA. Next month we will conclude the series with a look at “profit” – or how we can measure if the changes have been a success.


Robin Millar Strategic Director

VOL 33 • November 2018 • Veterinary Nursing Journal