The first meeting of the Succession Planning and Emergency Backup Planning Task Force took place on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. The new Task Force is co-chaired by Tom Adams and Amy Odegaard. Stephen Holland and Montrese Hamilton are co-secretaries.
Backgrounds of the Members of the Task Force
Tom Adams is retired and has extensive experience as a non-profit transition and succession consultant. He has lived in GHI for 6 years. Amy Odegaard has experience as a project manager for various government agencies. Frank DeBernardo has fifteen years of experience working with a national non-profit and has participated in succession planning projects. Tim Murray currently advises a foundation on fundraising and has prior experience consulting with non-profits. Montrese Hamilton has experience as an HR generalist and recruiter, HR librarian, and book publishing specialist.
GHI Board Treasurer Chuck Hess is also a member of the Task Force. The Board liaison for the Task Force is Stephen Holland. Maesha McNeill is the Staff Liaison.
Highlights of the Meeting
Tom Adams had met previously with GHI General Manager Eldon Ralph, as well as with the Board President and Vice President to gain a better understanding of why the task force was created and to obtain some guidance. As a result Tom Adams came prepared with a document that included the Task Force’s Draft Charge and a discussion of possible Task Force activities and products. A final Charge will be provided to the Board of Directors for their review and approval in the near future.
Tom Adams also provided an agenda for the meeting that addressed:
- Background on why the task force is being established and guidance from the Board,
- Initial brainstorm on possible goals, results, and timelines from the Task Force work, and
- Short overview of non-profit succession practices and commonly used terms.
When possible goals and results were discussed, there was consensus on the Task Force about what success would look like. The result would be a written strategic plan for succession. There seemed to be consensus on the Task Force that to reach this result it was important that the process reflect member input and perspective on what comprises a successful management transition.
A Task Force member felt that Tom Adams’ call for transparency means that member input is essential and the process should be conducted in a way that is open to all to see and provides opportunity for members to share their opinions. It was also mentioned by others that the search for the new general manager should be a national search.
Another Task Force member stated that the final products of the Task Force should be flexible, facile, and affordable. Throughout this discussion, there was also discussion of the importance of “unpacking” not only the General Manager position but perhaps doing the same with the next tier of senior manager positions. It was mentioned that several senior managers may retire around the time the GHI Home Improvement Program is completed.
This discussion was followed by a brief overview of succession practices. Tom Adams explained to the Task Force that the staff will have to come to terms with change when the General Manager departs, and that the transition starts before the departure of the General Manager. For a transition to be successful, it needs to be open and transparent so staff will buy in. His presentation also provided a detailed discussion of the concepts included in this type of planning.
There was also discussion about why new executives leave. The executive may feel they were mislead about the job, they accepted a lower compensation than they wanted and decide that it is a problem, or the Board of Directors’ and the executive’s views are out of alignment. Tom Adams also stated that it is important to define what success will look like for the new General Manager and what qualifications the person will need to have.
There was also discussion of the need for an Emergency Backup Plan for unplanned or emergency absences of key employees and a written succession policy to guide the Board whenever the General Manager retires or leaves. Tom Adams divided the proposed products that would be generated by the Task Force into three categories and also suggested a timeline. Short-term products will include the draft Emergency Backup Plan and the Succession Plan. These products could be delivered in early 2020.
He also proposed mid-term products that would better prepare GHI for inevitable transitions of executive and senior managers. What these products will consist of and the timeline for them will be finalized during the January meetings of the Task Force.
Tom Adams also mentioned an optional product that, if approved by the Board, could build on the work of the Task Force. The optional product would include a Task Force review of the GHI Board of Directors’ succession policy, a review of similar policies for other cooperative community boards, and recommendations for GHI’s Board to consider.
As a result of the amount of work to be done and the time remaining before the General Manager’s departure, the Task Force will meet twice a month.