A task force was appointed by President Patricia Thompson at the beginning of the 1999-2001 Biennium to review Sigma Theta Tau's, today known as Sigma, current governance and committee structure. Task force members included Chair and International Director Clarann Weinert SC, International Director Linda Everett, International Director Heather Clarke and Nancy Dickenson Hazard, Chief Executive Officer. Their charge: to examine the extent to which the organizational leadership structures support the work of the five-year strategic plan.

The group will meet for focused discussions at each of the Professional Development Conferences, with a summary of findings.


 At the beginning of the 1999-2001 Biennium, President Patricia Thompson appointed three board members and the Executive Officer to serve on the Governance Committee Structure Review Task Force. Task force members included Chair and International Director Clarann Weinert SC, International Director Linda Everett, International Director Heather Clarke and Nancy Dickenson Hazard, Executive Officer.
Their charge was to examine the extent to which the organizational leadership structures supported the work of the five-year strategic plan. Findings would inform recommendations for board consideration in July 2001. As the present form of governance has been in place for 10 years, the evaluation is timely and in keeping with the current review of organizational systems.
For example, the evaluation of the regional infrastructure indicated that additional regions were in order. A review of the staff support system resulted in a reordering of service areas to make possible fast and flexible responses to member requests, opportunities and general conditions arising out of the changing professional and health care environments.

The task force members drew the conclusion that an organization, poised to make vital, flexible and informed decisions on behalf of members who live and work in a fast-paced, diverse and changing world, needed to be guided by a board free to vision and set policy in support of the mission and vision. This was validated by the board, committee members and regional coordinators during the annual meeting, held in Indianapolis, in October 2000. To that end, the task force developed a conceptual framework, featuring a policymaking form of governance.  

 Focus Group Discussions

 The Professional Development Conferences will be used as platforms to inform chapter presidents, regional coordinators and other interested parties and to secure their feedback. This follows the successful format implemented during the strategic planning process. Responses will be folded into the board recommendation process. Following is a summary of the highlights of each of the focus group discussions.


January 25, 2001

Focus group leaders: International Director Heather Clarke and Jeanne Floyd, Director of Strategic Development.

Brainstorming highlights were as follows:

  • Themes of successful policy making boards include:
    • using service and time efficiently in order to vision the future of the organization on behalf of members,
    • remaining open to opportunities and flexible in times of change,
    • inviting member experts to provide advisements on an as-needed basis and in accordance with project requirements.
  • What kinds of structures are needed to provide the ‘form’ necessary to carry out the mission, vision and functions (goals and actions steps) in Vision 2005?

    Entailed in this examination is consideration of the current board, committee and task force structures.

    There is an underlying need to provide continuity so that each board’s Program of Work, through 2005, may be achieved in a timely, seamless manner.

    Decisions about ‘form’ should build in adequate time for the board to think and vision, based on the best possible information.

    Pods of work groups may provide advisement that will allow the board to take the best course of action on certain topics. In this biennium, the Evidence Based Practice Work Group, for example, has employed experts to shape a response to member concerns elicited during the strategic planning effort. Members turned to the society for assistance with developing a practical understanding of what it means to place evidence into practice. The work group is carrying out this mandate and will report findings and actions to the board in July 2001.

  • Integral board functions were identified as management of finance, bylaws and nominations for elected office.
  • It is clear that the organization would prosper as a result of applying the talent and expertise of members. How are talented individuals identified? Volunteers might self-identify on the society website. In addition, the board could post questions and issues with a request that members provide feedback, following some creative, freethinking. All ‘big picture’ responses would be welcome. This type of virtual structure could include chat rooms.

    Maybe this level of electronic interaction calls for a broader audience and request for responses. Perhaps individuals who are not members might be invited to respond. In such a case, the drivers would be the issues and the need for expert information that could come from within or without the organization.

  • We could end up with fewer standing committees and a less prescriptive approach to conducting business.


February 23, 2001

Focus group leaders: Task Force Chair Clarann Weinert, SC and Jeanne Floyd, Director of Strategic Development

Following were comments made during the discussion:

  • The regional coordinators and STTI staff respond to queries immediately and provide excellent service.
  • The structure that is ultimately put in place ought to accommodate policy recommendations from the regional coordinators.
  • Consider a blend of policy expert advisement, i.e., combinations of savvy members working with policy experts from outside the profession.
  • There is a need to do more to educate all members about how the organization works. Young nurses and inductees fall between the cracks and are lost forever to the organization—how very unfortunate for all concerned. Technology helps to invite feedback for the young in the profession, but they need to be supported to feel comfortable in making contributions among older colleagues-many of whom are up on 'pedestals'.
  • What are the health policies affecting our initiatives? Do we have experts within the organization who can help us to address the health policies? How do we mesh healthy policy with our vision? Typically, STTI is not viewed as proactive in setting policy. Policy linkages to ICN and WHO would be helpful. However, how would the links be operationalized?
  • We need to get involved with individuals and groups outside the organization, all around the world. We need to hear and understand thoughts that differ from those generally held within the continental U.S.
  • STTI could be instrumental in building community between the 'haves and have nots'. Policy could be established about how STTI might assist during times of international disasters such as earthquakes. Initial discussions about this could occur on the WEB. The results of these discussions could serve as a period of discovery about how such an enterprise would work at STTI—from thought to operations.
  • As policy decisions are considered, ideas ought to be filtered through the lens of diversity or cultural competence. People around the world will be influenced in different ways as a result of policy established by STTI; therefore, potential effects need to be forecast and understood beforehand. This is particularly difficult as the organization is U.S. based. Policy cannot be established on the basis of North American considerations alone.
  • One of the first questions to address will be, "What does it mean for STTI to embrace cultural diversity?" This query entails considerable examination.
  • When it comes to setting policy, this organization cannot be viewed as one that solely addresses issues of importance to educators. Policy setting must encompass the needs of nurses in clinical practice.
  • Chapters are interested in policy issues that address or influence world conditions. As an example, chapters meetings that feature international speakers are usually well attended by local participants.
  • When we talk about setting policy, how do we provide support for people who may not be able to participate as the society would prescribe?
  • Interaction among chapters is just as important as the interaction between chapters and international. WEB boards that promote interactions on clinical issues would spotlight for the international board the issues that concern members at the grassroots.
  • Region 1 has its own listserv, including all chapter members. This could be used as a prototype for the other regions. The listserv allows members to exchange ideas about items of importance. Some of this information could be sent to the international board for policy setting considerations.
  • Minimize barriers to communications. Let members interact in several ways at the chapter and international levels. This would stimulate communications about cogent clinical issues, much of which could be used to determine policy directions.
  • International could pose questions on the WEB and invite responses. This would be another way of finding out what's important to members.
  • Our leaders should not be allowed to become complacent. They ought to be challenged during their terms of service to consider what they are doing to contribute to policy setting on behalf of STTI. For example, the Research Committee might consider the future of nursing research in a variety of contexts.
  • This group could query members about related issues and feed summarized responses to the board. The board could then take policy drafts to other organizations for consideration. These types of activities would tie together the novice interested in learning about research and the expert who wants to share rich knowledge about professional issues.
  • Virtual communications hold the promise of the greatest amount of free flowing thinking among members. The question then becomes, "How do we capture the thoughts that ought to proceed upward to chapter boards and the international board?" Who will monitor the conversations to identify and summarize seminal thoughts-and get these important notions to the right audiences? Experts need to be involved in the issues under examination. How does this occur?
  • To determine the level of member consensus that is developing behind an issue, consider using voting software. This invites and honors member participation.
  • Inductees will contribute to free flowing thinking if they participate in an 'unfreezing' exercise. The young in profession, especially, must be given the message that their thoughts are as important and as expected as those of well-known and admired nursing leaders. Some chapters begin the 'unfreezing' process by placing inductees on chapter boards. Board service provides avenues for learning how the organization functions and levels the playing field when it comes to making contributions to the society.
  • Key to sound policy setting is strong chapter leadership. Chapter boards that address policy make for a strong organization, especially if the information is shared with the international board. In turn, if international is good at setting policy directions, this action serves as a role model for policy development at chapter level. We see in this discussion the beginnings of a dance between chapters and international when it comes to policy implications.
  • As we learn about issues of importance to members at the chapter level, the task will be to analyze themes and draft consistent policies. The organization needs to be willing to undergo a period of discovery about how this is done and what works best in shaping policy. As this is occurring, provide background information for members and follow-up with summaries in the publications and on the web site.
  • The BIG challenge before us is how to engage the members in conversations of substance. The will bring us around to capturing policy language, including cultural implications. What is important to members and how do we shape that information into what's good for the entire organization?
  • Let's take time to educate members about what setting policy means in a variety of contexts. That will stimulate everyone to contribute in a way that makes sense, person-to-person. Not everyone contributes in the same way, but everyone can contribute something significant. It boils down to being able to use one's intelligence to inform the right people at the right time.



March 23, 2001

 Focus group leaders: Dr. Linda Everett, International Director, and Nancy Dickenson-Hazard, Chief Executive Officer

Following the viewing of ASAE's video entitled "Knowledge-Based Governance," Dr. Linda Everett, task force members and STTI Treasurer, presented an overview of the existing governance structure, issues of form and function in existing structure affecting policy governance and a summary of feedback from previous focus groups on the question of "What structure best supports STTI's realizing its vision?"

Nancy Dickenson-Hazard led discussion of how to accomplish fluidity of the organization so that It can be responsive to external and internal needs and influences as well as assure dialogue between members and the board. The strategic planning process was reviewed, with an emphasis on: 1) the need and timing of member feedback and conversation; and 2) the need to have open communication and prevent prescriptive behaviors. Brainstorming early in the process was considered important for maximum results. Additional feedback that organizations are moving to "minimalist" bylaws to accommodate rapid response and fluidity to need was noted.

Model from the first Governance Task Force focus group, held in January 2001:

Bylaws Finance Nominating




(Rules) (Money) (Leadership)

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Member Experts



Board of Directors

White Space

Participants discussed what was missing from the above continuum and determined the following:

  • Research and membership (involvement of and value of) were missing;
  • Program or agenda of organization (big picture, mission and vision) were not apparent, nor was professional development;
  • Sigma Theta Tau International needs to move from concrete to abstract in form and structure;
  • A circular versus a linear model would more accurately reflect the dynamics of the organization;
  • The decision and delegation makers need to be connected to the membership;
  • Experts need to advise board in its decision and policy making, differentiating between expert members and uninformed. Expertness should also be determined by the issues under advisement and embrace entirety of membership, i.e., a novice or new member advising group should be composed of new members; a research advisory group should be composed of novice to expert researchers, etc.

Participants then went on to discuss potential models and depictions. Consensus of the group was that the model:

  • Should be multidimensional and reflect interactivity versus "linear, top-down" (words such as "hologram," "slinky" and the community health model, "ecomay," were used);
  • Should overlay Strategic Plan 2005 (or futurist strategic plan) on continuum of member and board;
  • Should demonstrate fluidity, worldwide commonalities and communication in and out;
  • Needs bylaws, nominating, finance and experts as constants;
  • Needs to reflect the diverse, international components of Sigma Theta Tau International, as well as global issues;
  • A potential model is to overlay Strategic Plan 2005 on the member ------ board continuum. Discussion occurred about the center of the graphic and the driving force (i.e., mission and vision, members and chapters, board and staff). Several graphics were drawn by participants and follow this summary;
  • Needs standing committees (bylaws, finance, nominating), ad hoc or advisory groups established as need and issues dictate, and an 'ebb and flow' communication loop.
  • A model that clearly shows the seven areas in the strategic goals is highly desirable. This structure needs to interweave fluidity!

The participants further discussed where tasks of existing committee would go in a different structure. Consensus was that the board would determine policy, informed by the advice of expert members; that expert members would facilitate development of criteria and standards, and that staff would implement through guidelines, process and procedures, as directed by board policy (and member advisement).

Further participant comments and thoughts include:

  • Sigma Theta Tau International breeds self-confidence and needs to consider additional approaches to potential members and undergraduates;
  • Improved online and other means of communication with the membership is needed;
  • Initiatives that balance needs and communication between academic and practice settings is needed;
  • Town hall forums (focus groups) are well-received and appreciated;
  • Resource allocation is more than money; the recognitions and awards that Sigma Theta Tau International presents are highly valued;
  • Each member can actively participate in achievement of each of the strategic goals as they desire. Many options for involvement in the organization exist.