The highly anticipated report of the AAPG Ad Hoc Committee on Governance – offering recommendations regarding all segments of association governance – was presented in its preliminary form and discussed at the recent AAPG Mid-Year Business Meetings in Houston.
Past AAPG president Lee Krystinik headed the committee and presented the findings of an effort that had been under way for more than a year by committee members representing each of the three AAPG governance bodies (Executive Committee, Advisory Council and the House of Delegates).
The presentation was the first step toward finalizing recommendations that will eventually be presented to the Executive Committee (EC) for its consideration.
The charge to the committee from Randi Martinsen’s and John Hogg’s Executive Committees was:
- Recommend the best options for governance of AAPG into its second century.
- Review AAPG governance and compare it to other learned societies.
- Recommend a structure and form of governance that is efficient, representative and flexible enough to adapt rapidly to a changing technical and business environment.
- Make recommendations for potential changes in governance and suggested implementation, if any.
An immediate and dominating conclusion of the report is that a significant amount of money – some estimates rise to the $2 million range – and efforts are being expended in support of AAPG governance.
“While the committee sees our present structure as perfectly adequate to achieve the tasks required of it, present AAPG governance does not presently provide adequate value to AAPG for the $2 million per year cost of governance,” Krystinik said. “Each governance group should strive to more directly address issues that advance our mission and positively impact our members.
“The key observation regarding all segments (of governance) is, significant opportunity exists for much greater focus on advancing the mission of AAPG,” he said.
The AAPG mission statement includes an emphasis on advancing the science of geology; promoting the technology of exploration; fostering a spirit of scientific research; disseminating geological information; inspiring a high standard of professional conduct; providing the public with means to recognize adequately trained and professionally responsible geologists; and advancing members’ professional well-being.
“We all work hard, but we’re not working on advancing our mission,” he said. “Instead, too often we’re working on governance for governance’s sake.”
The Current Reality
The committee’s report, from its formation in 2014, was slated to be unveiled at the inaugural AAPG Mid-Year Business Meetings event, which included leaders from the Executive Committee, Advisory Council (AC), House of Delegates (HoD), Division of Professional Affairs (DPA), Energy Minerals Division (EMD), Division of Environmental Geosciences (DEG) and Young Professionals (YPs).
The committee’s report first offered several observations of “the current reality”:
- Much of what AAPG does is focused on managing governance of AAPG.
- Some boards may be highly efficient, but not representative of the membership.
- Governance is an intangible “product” that is important to a “small but vocal 1-2 percent of the membership.”
- The Executive Committee has seven officers focused on governance and one focused on science.
- The House of Delegates has eight committees – seven for internal matters and one for AAPG legislation.
- Lack of strategic and business alignment between AAPG, Sections and affiliated societies is “costly and divisive.”
- Volunteers and staff often envision different perspectives of AAPG priorities and functions.
“There were some simple financial observations that were a part of our study,” Krystinik said. “They include, we can’t continue to support and fund all the programs we have in the past, and we have to be careful in adding new projects. And when we do so, we must be certain we understand how they will be funded.”
The committee’s report included “radical options” that were discussed but discarded, including the idea of eliminating all AAPG governance bodies.
Although “radical” and challenging to implement, the committee considers the option of potentially running AAPG as a wholly owned business entity under a board answering to the Executive Committee to be worthy of further discussions.
The Discussions Begin
Presentation of the committee’s findings and initial recommendations sparked an energetic and lengthy discussion – dominated by as many questions as responses to the recommendations.
Among the concerns was the potential for newly defined roles for the House of Delegates.
“The committee sees significant opportunity for the HoD to expand its role on several fronts while maintaining its legislative duties,” Krystinik said, “including membership, mentoring of future AAPG leaders and providing market research and strategic input to the AC. All of these recommendations have been reviewed in consultationt with the HoD leadership team.”
Findings also expanded on the other areas of governance.
“The Committee recommends that the AC focus much more actively on the AAPG Strategic Plan, to be dovetailed into the three-year Business Plan,” Krystinik added, “and the Committee recommends that the EC take a much more direct and active role in budgetary constraints during down years and that potential new positions be added to the EC to address key mission functions.”
The committee will continue to work on the final recommendations for presentation to the EC in 2016.