APSP is undertaking some of the biggest changes in the organization’s history, starting with a restructured organization chart and a new model for carrying out the association’s work. 

In purely practical terms, for starters, the organization will reduce its Board of Directors by half, from 24 to 11 or fewer, and the Executive Board, which included the top five Board officers, will be eliminated entirely. 

But that’s just the beginning. The Association is determined to revamp its entire mode of operation and organizational culture, moving to a process whereby the association’s work will be more project-based. That is, people will be brought on to solve a particular problem or tackle an issue, and then released.

These striking transformations were not conceived overnight and will take time to implement. In fact, APSP’s course change is the fulfillment of extensive research, which began more than a year ago, and included a thorough sounding of its membership, according to APSP president and CEO Bill Weber.

“This didn’t come out of the blue; we went through a long process of looking strategically at the Association, and what’s happening in the industry. And we realized that things are changing for everyone, and we need to change, too.

We need to reflect the changes that are going on in our members’ lives, and also in the world volunteering and associations.” 

As the Association was structured, Weber says, there were a limited number of opportunities for people to get into leadership positions. “And some of those positions,” he adds, “required significant commitments of time, which, increasingly, people don’t have.”

The Association also felt the board needed to spend more time on strategic concerns and less time on tactical matters, while volunteer commitments needed to be more flexible, with a defined endpoint.

“At the heart of this is the opportunity to create a smaller board, but many more committees, task forces, places where people can come, lend their expertise, tackle an assignment, and then step back,” Weber says. “They can be plugged in and then plugged out.

“That’s what our people are telling us they want. For many of them, with their schedules right now, that’s about all they can manage. We have a tremendous reservoir of talent within the membership, but these people do not have the opportunity to commit the kind of time that their forbears could.”

Weber notes that this is the direction leading-edge associations are taking all over the world — reduce the size of the board, and expand the number of opportunities for people to exercise leadership through other means. 

A couple of completely new structural entities should help smooth the Association’s operation. A leadership development search committee will be developed, whose job will be to create a database of talented potential volunteers, so that when specific topics or needs arise, these people can be tapped to step in and help.

Steve Gorlin, APSP chairman, provides an example of how the search committee will operate: “Say the Career Institute is looking, for example, to add to their curriculum. 

The search committee will have people in the database with experience in that area — who knows, maybe they were teachers in their previous life? The search committee just matches them up. They’ll submit names to the Career Institute, and then a nominating committee and the board itself can select the ones that can best meet the need.”

The Association is also establishing a young professionals network, says Weber, “where we’re really trying to tap into a lot of the people that, within their own companies, are moving into leadership positions. We want to give them an opportunity to engage with each other and create their own peer group.”

All in all, Gorlin says, this change is one of the most significant in the 57-year history of the Association. “This is something that’s been needed for a number of years,” he says, “and it took a true act of courage to take this step. In many instances, these directors were actually voting themselves off the board. 

“It’s a transformational event that will define APSP’s future, and there’s real momentum behind it. The responses we’ve seen already from the membership have been tremendously supportive.”

Scott Webb is Executive Editor of AQUA Magazine.