Monday, 24 November 2014
Big questions on governance
5 November 2014, 2.30 pm
After the IGC meeting there is a Council meeting. Luckily for everyone involved, I do not have to chair it: the President has cancelled all her foreign travels specially. They begged her to.
We talk about rewriting the Bye-Laws. To do this properly, we have to agree on exactly how CIPA is to be governed. This is a tough one, because secretly every one of the 26 Council members wants to be in charge, and so does Mr Davies, which makes 27, and there is no way we are going to agree on this unless someone steps in as a ruthless dictator. Of course, not everyone has time to be a ruthless dictator; in fact, of the 27, probably only 4 would be able to get away from their day jobs for long enough, and one of these is the EyePeePee whose day job doesn’t really count anyway because it’s in an engine shed. I, however, having little more in my diary than a date with a washing machine, and little more on my skills list than an endless capacity to watch it go round, am sorely tempted by the idea.
But first, let me tell you how CIPA is governed at the moment. At the top there is Council. Council is in charge of high-level stuff like strategy and policy and biscuits. It does Leadership. (By consensus, naturally, there being 26 of us, so it is a rather ponderous kind of Leadership but it is Good Leadership nonetheless.) Next down there is the IGC, doing the management and the operational stuff, making sure that CIPA and its financial handbag continue to function properly even when Council members are busy having high-level arguments and dropping biscuit crumbs.
Next there is the Chief Executive, aka Mr Davies, and his staff at 95 Chancery Lane. They are in charge of just getting on and doing the things that need doing. They are answerable to the IGC, which is good because the IGC has lots of questions, like How does this work? or What do we do about X? and the CIPA staff can answer all of these questions. Also, when the IGC issues numpty instructions, the CIPA staff can gently remind people what it’s like in the real world these days.
But what no-one is entirely sure of is the role of the President and the Vice-President. The current Bye-Laws are not very helpful on this point. They say that the Pee and the VeePee can sit on any CIPA committee they like and can chair Council meetings. It is also well known (although this is not actually in the Bye-Laws; it is more like the problem-and-solution approach which is just so obviously right that there was no need to spell it out in the EPC) that the Pee and the VeePee can wear the CIPA swimming gala medals, a big one for the Pee and a smaller, though no less ugly, one for the VeePee. And it is accepted, although again not written down anywhere, that the President is entitled to wield the ceremonial gavel and to nick things out of the CIPA stationery cupboard.
Other than that, there do not seem to be job descriptions anywhere. I suspect this is because job descriptions seem a tad plebeian for someone in so exalted a position. Having a job description for the CIPA President would be like having an appraisal process for The Queen.
Now, whilst I accept that chairing meetings is a vital job around here, ditto the wearing of swimming gala medals, surely the person who has been elected to stand at the head of our Institute should be doing more than just shouting at people to stick to an agenda. When we rewrite the Bye-Laws, this is something we need to address.
So what should the President be? A regal figurehead perhaps, who dons the aforementioned medal and goes forth to meet and greet and smile a lot, and who says yes to everyone but then goes back and checks with Council whether they should in fact have said no? (Even I could do that.) Or how about a leader, who drags people kicking and screaming in pursuit of Grand Visions? Body language suggests that the latter would not be the majority choice, presumably because all 27 of us secretly want to be in charge, and are unlikely to cede power to someone simply because they are wielding a ceremonial gavel and a stolen stapler.
Or should the President be a manager? Managers read lots of books about monkeys on people’s backs and chimpanzees in their brains, and about doing things in one minute or seven steps so as to have more time for getting an MBA. A manager’s job is to make everyone feel good about being dragged kicking and screaming, and also to ensure that Grand Visions stay within budget. And if he is a woman manager, he must do this without being too aggressive because who likes an aggressive woman?
Personally I believe the President’s main job should be to ensure the uninterrupted supply of biscuits. This is after all quite a tough remit and not everyone would be up to the job. The self-service checkout machines will do everything they can to thwart you.
One thing we are all agreed on. Or rather, the others are definitely agreed on, and I have been told I am also agreed on. The new definition of the CIPA President’s role must specifically exclude straw-dropping, Morris dancing in public, excessive Red Bull® consumption and seditious diary-writing. And it must require the President to know at least a little about at least something that is vaguely connected with IP. I am not sure why we need to spell these things out. Surely no-one would even dream of standing for President if they dropped straw wherever they went??