A suggestion for IBMA Governance and Management Architecture

This commentary is a contribution from Henri Deschamps, long tine supporter of the International Bluegrass Music Association, and a recently resigned member of their Board of Directors. Henri has a lifetime of experience in business, where he has achieved substantial success, and has served on multiple boards in both the non-profit and commercial world.

He writes here with a suggestion for what he feels would be a more easily governable framework to organize the IBMA. It is Henri’s belief that the current structure is not well-suited to the state of the IBMA.

Walking The Talk, IBMA Governance and Management Architecture

Henri DeschampsThere are many options available for reforming IBMA’s governance and management architecture. It’s relatively easy and simple to improve performance through better design rather than more effort, more funds, or more people. It is desirable and possible to do so without revolts and upheaval. We have much of what we need; It is a principally a matter of configuration to improve performance of the human and material assets we already have. What is below does not require any expense to setup, or any increase in expenses afterwards to maintain. It’s Free, and you’ll see a section titled “Why Bother?” near the bottom.

Below is one option-scenario. Many people may not readily see the basic elements and tools, or the process to implement reforms via an organized transition. And even when they do, it may be helpful to have an executive summary. For others this is not their field of experience, competence, or expertise. Much as I am unfamiliar with how to tune, much less play a mandolin, and would make myself scarce if someone asked me to do so, many members prefer to avoid discussing these types of things without a ready supply of Advil on hand.

The problem is, if you own a mandolin, you gotta tune, and if you own an organization, you gotta tune it.

It’s really not brain surgery, rocket science, or even rocket surgery. In the hopes of highlighting how those things might look and get done, it might be useful to illustrate one option as an example. The example below is also one I believe will work well, and I think many former board members such as I will have a forehead slap moment. It can in fact help resolve our current impasse, as well as create the better model for our organization’s future that many seek.

That being said, these are not the only options. Any coherent architecture that is enabling rather than control based is a better bet for the future; enabling the many controls the few.

I have purposely left the descriptors basic so the framework stands out more. Obviously each of those sections requires development and fine tuning. I had filled in the blanks in great detail using the feedback culled from numerous sources the last 6 weeks, but it is important to gather more input by seeing how more people would fill in those blanks, and add precision. In that regard, I have actually removed from the framework below quite a bit from the notes I have. It makes for a shorter “key-points” text and hopefully encourages more dialogs around these issues.

As stated above, this is what might be one (among many options) for a more effective architecture at IBMA. This one is based on the premise that in a constituency based organization, hoarding power is counter-productive and destructive, while distributing power is productive and constructive.


Mission & Mandate: Govern and manage the organization, assure its growth and development so it accomplishes its mission: IBMA is the trade association that connects and educates bluegrass professionals, empowers the bluegrass community, and encourages worldwide appreciation of bluegrass music of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Composition: 7 Board Members

Officers: Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, Communications

Logic & Considerations: Voted by the membership from a slate double the number of board members. Professional grade directors and managers from the following and similar professions and field: Business, Music, Arts, Marketing, Legal, Banking, Financial, Accounting, Engineering, Education, Professional Fund Raising


Mission & Mandate: Oversee the board’s performance much as a shareholder might in a corporation. To behave as a General Assembly does in business. Beyond evaluating the board’s return on member investment, assure the board’s vision is the one desired by the membership; that it meets the double bottom line of performance and social mission. To consult continuously with and represent the members, to bring to the board ideas, options and programs, to help develop member services based on services to their constituency. To assure members voices are heard by the board, by the commissions, and by committees, and the office. To communicate continuously with members so they remain aware of and familiar with IBMA’s ongoing programs and status of same.

Composition: 18-24 members

Officers: Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Communications

Logic & Considerations: Voted by the members from a slate of at least 3 nominees for each category. Representatives of the professions in our industry; Songwriters, Producers, Sound, Artists, Bands, Media, Festivals, Venues, Agents, Record Labels, etc… ; but also other cross-thematic constituencies such as regional geographic: North-East, Mid-Atlantic, South-East, Midwest, Mountain, Northwest, Southwest; Other cross-thematic constituencies might be youth, amateur, professional, retired, and others such as local band, regional touring band, national touring band, ensuring broad representation.


A commission is an instruction, command, or duty given to a person or group of people; it is a group of people officially charged with a particular function, mandated and officially authorized to autonomously perform certain duties. It is the act of granting through delegation certain powers, and the authority to carry out a particular task or duty. In our case, where the responsibility, decision making, and power have coagulated over time to reside with the very few at the top, distributing power may be effective, especially so as training wheels and extra support during a transition phase. One, two or all three of the commissions below could be setup on an experimental basis for a year to see if they work in our framework.


Mission & Mandate: Consult continuously with members to see the type and nature of the organization they desire and the types of services they require. Determine how their organization can be improved as concerns operations and services. Review management practices and financial controls. Support the Executive director and staff. Work with the board and office to build a nimble organization responsive to members’ needs. Help develop the organizations management capabilities and the quality of its performance. Manage the current and future IBMA committees related to its mission and mandate.

Composition: 5 Members

Officers: Chair, Secretary, Executive Director

Logic & Considerations: Designated by the board. Business People, CPAs, IT, Marketing, Artists. This liberates the board and executive committee of the board to focus on big picture, strategic, investment, fund raising, delegates the oversight of the organization’s management to this commission and the ED


Mission & Mandate: Survey the members continuously to determine what kind of business conference they want and how they want it. Design, develop and sell out the business conference by designing a program responsive to member needs. Manage the conference. Manage the current and future IBMA committees related to its mission and mandate.

Composition: 3-5 Members

Officers: Chair, Secretary

Logic & Considerations: Significantly focused on networking, conducting business and education, the yearly trade show and business conference is one major piece of IBMA, and requires specific types of focus and development, hence people with significant expertise and experience in that field.


Mission & Mandate: Design, develop and manage the performance events aspects of world of bluegrass, including the festival, street fest, awards show, and ramble; to work in close collaboration with our city partners. Manage the current and future IBMA committees related to its mission and mandate.

Composition: 5-7 Members

Officers: Chair, Secretary

Logic & Considerations: World of Bluegrass which contains the performance aspects are another significant piece, and all performance related aspects are intertwined to create on major event. The people logically on a commission such as this would be event producers, partners from Raleigh, media.


Mission & Mandate: Manage the day to day affairs of the organization. Assure the board’s objectives are met. Collaborate and coordinate with the board, board of constituents, commissions, committees and staff to accomplish the organizations mission. Continually enhance the value of membership for members.

Composition: Executive Director, Communications, Member Services Manager, Administration, Accounting

Officers: Executive Director and Member Services

Logic & Considerations: The office is the operational arm of the organization and in this context a major part of its mission is not to provide a vision and execute or represent that vision but to coordinate and manage.

The commissions are unlikely to hurt and quite likely to help. They create an operational scenario where the natural day-to-day leaders and managers become primarily:

  • The Chair of The Board of Directors
  • The Chair of the Board of Constituents
  • The Chairs of the Commissions
  • The Executive Director
  • The Members Services Manager

Seven key people, each focused on a significant piece of the puzzle, working together, is quite a bit of competence, yet nimble enough to make the organization responsive.

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