Hatches, Matches and Dispatches

Posted: 27 October 2010, in Blog

Has your board had a meeting to discuss the future of your organisation recently? I don’t mean a wee bit of a board meeting with that as an agenda item but a single issue meeting to discuss the future. If not, get them to have one soon. If they have, how did they behave and report afterwards to the staff and your beneficiaries, clients and members?

The future is going to be painful but we should not be passive about this. We should be proactive and see this as an opportunity to think creatively. So, the dreaded word “merger” comes to mind. Putting aside the ego of some social entrepreneurs and the antipathy between similar types of social enterprises with similar social missions, are we now going to see leaders and managers and funders come together to discuss mergers (and acquisitions?) as an option?

Let me be up front here. Too many of our social enterprises are too fragile to survive in the current climate. Should we let them die or should we recognise the experience, knowledge and intellectual and social capital they possess and seek to absorb and protect that rather than a mere organisation.

I remember 2 well known sector CEOs telling me different things about organisational development a long time ago. The first said that it was always personally advisable to avoid organisational marriages and funerals but new births were great. The second said that most people in the sector were feart of scale and were content to run their organisations as hobbies or lifestyle businesses – particularly if they could rely on grant funding over the long term.

These positions may be a bit cynical but do they reflect your thinking? If some other organisation approached your own and asked for a meeting to discuss merger would be they shown the door or would they get a fair hearing? Are mergers only on the cards if a social enterprise is a sinking ship?

I recall advising a board once that if they could not defend a major decision as being in the interests of their beneficiaries, clients or members then they should reconsider that decision. The conversation quickly got to the point about the interests of staff and founder board members and whether these would always be in synch with the interest of other stakeholders.

So, I’ll end here with a question about democracy and control. Have you told the folk who rely on you for services and jobs about your future and have you asked them for their thoughts and opinions? If we talk the talk sometimes we have to walk the walk.