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December 7, 2023

Maximize Your Impact: IDSA’s strategic approach to governance


In 2019, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) partnered with McKinley Advisors to build a bold strategic plan, which required new investments and a reprioritization of IDSA’s strategy and portfolio. Following approval of the plan, Chris Busky, CAE, CEO of IDSA, recognized the association’s governance structure was not aligned with its new strategy, limiting the organization’s ability to realize its desired outcomes. 

As time progressed, the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world, and Infectious Diseases professionals were at the epicenter of the pandemic. It became more important than ever that IDSA have an agile and efficient governance system to support prompt decision-making and execution. IDSA leadership identified a need to rapidly adapt to continuing public health crises while advancing the Society's strategic plan.

Navigating the Governance Structure Review

Last year, IDSA partnered with McKinley to thoroughly review its governance structure. Busky and his leadership team aimed to align resources with their strategic plan, enable the Society to act quickly and efficiently on new opportunities, and further the Society’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, access and equity. 

“One of the primary reasons that IDSA decided to reexamine its governance structure is that they wanted to create a more clean, streamlined structure that really aligned critical volunteer and staff resources with the strategic priorities of the Society. We also wanted to be more mindful of our member’s capacity and the increased constraints that were occurring on their time post-pandemic. One of the other really important reasons for restructuring was to provide more meaningful volunteer opportunities that were aligned to member interests and preferences. We also wanted to coordinate and improve the communication between the different volunteer entities, because a lot of times many of the different committees really did not know what the other committees were doing,” explained Tina Tan, MD, FIDSA, FPIDS, FAAP, IDSA Vice President and Chair of the Governance Task Force, in a recent episode of IDSA’s President’s Podcast.

The McKinley Advisors team executed several research phases to inform the work, such as engaging with a Task Force to explore critical questions and findings, discuss scenarios, and advance and refine recommendations. McKinley also executed a series of telephone interviews and developed and deployed a membership survey to explore perceptions, expectations and preferences related to IDSA’s governance model and volunteering. 

“Throughout the process, there were ongoing town halls and communications with the membership to ensure transparency and opportunities for feedback. We also facilitated sessions with the full staff and leadership team to gain critical insight and ensure alignment with staff needs and expectations,” said Alanna Tievsky McKee, MSW, McKinley Advisors Practice Director.

Busky emphasized the value of involving their stakeholders throughout the process. “Because we have never performed a comprehensive review of our governance structure, it was critically important to provide transparency to the process.  We made sure to engage all segments of our membership, including trainees who are our future volunteer leaders,” said Busky.

Aligning Governance to Strategy

Based on the insights from the research, conversations and data, McKinley and IDSA identified several vital learnings that informed concrete recommendations to advance IDSA’s approach. 

“The research revealed that volunteer entities focused on strategic plan work streams were not always coordinated with one another and lived in several areas of the governance model. Additionally, many members did not feel connected to the strategic plan or each other's work,” said McKee. 

As a result, IDSA’s leadership team created a Coordinating Council (CC) to oversee the execution of the strategic plan and ensure coordination of activities and resources across governance entities. In shifting these responsibilities to the CC, IDSA realized the added benefit of freeing up valuable board time to keep them focused on charting the organization's direction and larger specialty.

“We now require volunteer leaders to submit annual work plans, which I envision will be a more impactful use of staff, volunteer and financial resources in advancing our strategic plan,” said Busky.

Increasing Agility

An essential aspect of the restructuring was simplifying the model and increasing its agility. There was a significant reduction in the number of committees and subcommittees, from 25 to 17. 

“We discussed and evaluated the role and purpose of each governance entity and ultimately restructured the committees with a focus on a programmatic area or board objectives. This also led to the creation of new approval, decision-making and evaluation processes focused on increasing transparency and eliminating multiple layers of review or approval,” said McKee. 

With the reduction of evergreen entities, IDSA significantly increased the number of targeted, short-term volunteer opportunities aligned to a function, program or project. This shift had the dual benefit of reducing the burden on staff and increasing the accessibility of volunteering. 

Although IDSA is still early in the process, IDSA’s leadership is committed to this journey and is confident in the projected impact of the changes. 

“We’ve seen a very positive response from our members who appreciate the need to modernize our governance model and create new pathways for volunteering that are meaningful to the Society and to each member,” said Busky.

Would you like to discuss how you can achieve strategic agility in your governance? Get in touch with our expert advisors. 


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