Business: Turning Visions Into Organizations That Last–A Book Review

Governing In Excellence
By Gwendolyn Young, Self-Published, 2014, 32 pp., $14.99

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 || By Michael Romain

In a culture where profits are often driven by personality, it’s rather easy to forget that the longest lasting businesses, the real generators of real wealth, are institutions, not individual people. Steve Jobs is gone, but Apple is still with us. And in that respect, Steve Jobs lives on. But how did that happen? We all know about the personal elements of Apple’s success story. Two friends, Steve Jobs, the visionary, and Steve Wozniak, the technical wizard, began building computers in a garage. But that’s not the whole story. If it was, there would be no Apple of which to speak. What’s the other part of the equation?

It’s that other, much less glorified, part that Gwendolyn Young’s terse, insightful Governing In Excellence seeks to explore. Young is the Executive Director of Seed of Hope Foundation, a young woman’s mentoring nonprofit based in Westchester. The organization began as the vision of her mother, Jacquelyne Young, a life coach and inspirational speaker. But the elder Mrs. Young knew that in order for her vision to materialize and grow to scale, she’d need someone else’s expertise.

Mrs. Young, the daughter, had been working for several years as an executive assistant with Advocate Health Care, a consortium of hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities throughout Illinois, so she knew a thing or two about how organizations functioned. She also had a passion for interacting with young people. Thus, an ideal partnership was born. That was five years ago.

Young is now the founder and CEO of G.L. Young Consulting and the recent recipient of a Master of Art Degree in Organizational Leadership from Lewis University, where she graduated Cum Laude. Both experiences led her to Governing.

“Simply put, governance is the way an organization regulates itself,” Young writes. “Governance ensures an organization takes the necessary precautions to protect itself, its employees, and its stakeholders from wrongdoing and unintentional harm; while strategically planning for the organization’s success.”

She emphasizes that proper governance has three critical elements: establishing strategic direction; executing strategies and managing risk; and ensuring organizational compliance with established policies.

This may all sound rather dry and textbookish to the uninitiated, but anyone who’s ever been tasked with the responsibility of organizing, managing and/or advising an organization–whether a business, a nonprofit or a church–will recognize the kind of problems that arise when proper governance isn’t followed. Young details those problems vividly.

“Micromanaging the CEO screams, ‘we don’t trust you!’,” she writes. “Not setting limits for advisory board terms leads to […] ‘complacency.’”

Other pitfalls of improper governance include a board that lacks self-reflection, establishing goals that aren’t aligned with the organization’s mission and not having an ‘elevator speech’ at hand to describe precisely what your organization does and why it does it.

These are the mechanisms of a successful organization that Hollywood movies about entrepreneurs and visionaries often leave out. What you see on the screen is only a component of what it takes to translate individual leadership and vision into an organization that lasts beyond the leader–which is the real measure of organizational success.

So the next time you’re mesmerized by Asthon Kutcher’s brililant performance in Jobs (the movie), perhaps you should follow up with this book. The visions of people such as Steve Jobs and Mrs. Young’s mother, became organizations because of the reasons outlined in Governing In Excellence. VFP

Gwendolyn Young will be signing copies of her book at the Maywood Public Library on Saturday, March 8th, from 12pm until 2pm. To purchase a copy, click here.  

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