Creating More Organizational Structure

This is Part 3 of my 5-part series giving details about my campaign platform for running for President-Elect of the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy. Voting opens April 1, 2021 and I would greatly appreciate your support.

When I served on my first position of leadership within the AASPT in 2005, I became acutely aware of how things were controlled in the Academy. It was very top-down. Anything that was to be done had to come directly from the Executive Committee (EC) with every final detail being approved by the EC.

I get why this was the case. We were a relatively small organization with a relatively small agenda. Also, the EC was made up of the only people who were directly elected by the members. In that model, they really are the ones who should be making all of the decisions. But it created problems.

First, it forced the members of the EC to try to be experts on every facet of the Academy’s functions. Second, it created an environment of micromanagement. And third, that environment of micromanagement stifles innovation. Great leaders keep an eye over the total strategic plan, then delegate to others to implement that plan. A mantra of leadership is to “Delegate good people, then get out of their way so that they can do their jobs.”

Over my 15+ years of serving some of these delegated roles within the Academy myself, under a number of different ECs, I have seen a loosening of this control. But I have seen that this is a little bit of a messy transition. I have seen ECs that feel good putting their trust in individual people whom they know personally, but little trust in the Academy positions themselves.

I don’t understand…

Ok. Here would be an example. When a task needs to be completed, an EC would think, “What person/people would be good for this task?” and then appoint that person or an ad hoc committee/task force to take care of it under EC supervision. Here are the problems with that:

  • The people who are picked tend to be “insiders” within the networks of the EC, with a tendency of recycling the same people
  • This creates a bottleneck for leadership development
  • Often, when the job is completed, it leaves no institutional memory of the process
  • It also creates a structure that supports one-off tasks, but no real strategic plan

So what would be a better way?

Instead of asking, “What person/people would be good for this task?” the EC should be asking, “What position/committee would be appropriate for this task?” and making the assignment there. In order to do this, an organization must create a framework and establish institutional history within the positions.

Haven’t there always been committees?

Yes, for a long time, but often they had little control/autonomy over the details of their work. There was no clear charge or guidelines to their processes, making everything being assessed on a case-by-case basis with direct oversight of each step coming from the EC. It really stifles the number of projects that can be taken on by the Academy as a whole.

I have noticed that the SIGs have really blossomed in the past 18 months. Is this related?

YES! When I was elected to the EC in 2019, my first proposal was to expand SIG leadership to create microcosms of the Academy. This created distinct positions with distinct charges within each SIG. The idea was to create a framework for more members to contribute to the Academy and develop into future leaders.

An analogy here is to create boundaries to a sandbox and then allow people to explore creatively within that sandbox. And wow, did our members get creative!

The key is to provide oversight and support, but not take control. That was one of the reasons that the current EC hired a Director of Membership Engagement, so we would have a full-time salaried professional assisting our SIGs by providing the necessary oversight and support. Jayme Little, who currently serves in that position, is a living, breathing example of “Find good people and let them do their job.”

Does this scale beyond the SIGs?

That is the plan. My mission has been to create the framework for our Academy members to organically inhabit and thrive within. Create those boundaries and then let people do their jobs. An example here would be for the Practice Leads within each SIG to get guidance from the Academy Practice Committee.

So the Academy Practice Committee would set the practice agenda for the Academy, and the SIG Practice Leads would set the practice agenda for the SIGs. Instead of the EC micromanaging each action of each SIG, they would just get regular reporting from the Academy Practice Committee.

In this example, this allows many more members to have experience with Practice related tasks, also spreading the workload among many. And it allows the EC to hand new practice related initiatives to the Academy Practice Committee to address and delegate as they see fit. Why? Because the EC would have trust in those positions to do those jobs.

How does “Organizational Structure” fit in?

What I’m describing can’t happen without the formal, written framework. And that takes detailed organizational structure that lives beyond any one EC.

People need to know what their lanes are, who they report to, and who reports to them. That means clear written understanding of job descriptions, expectations, initiatives, and funding. Once that is created, then people can thrive in their roles.

When our members thrive, our Academy thrives. Not just for today, but setting up for the future.

Questions/comments about the AASPT creating more of an organizational structure? Contact me!

Look for my post next week when I will discuss creating a separate, larger Executive Board to advise our Executive Committee.