IHF By-Law Changes: yes, they are needed, but ‘first things first’!

During its ‘ordinary’ Congress 2 months ago, the IHF decided that an ‘extraordinary’ Congress should be held, for the purpose of considering changes in the By-Laws. Some handball friends have approached me with questions and ideas about the type of changes that should be considered when there will now be a special opportunity. Of course, from my own long experience, I have plenty of ideas for important and necessary changes in the By-Laws. The roles of the Executive Committee, the Council and the Commissions need be completely overhauled, and so do the By-Laws regarding the composition of these bodies. The decision-making processes and the meeting procedures require major improvements and, based on negative experience, areas such as budgeting/auditing, communications, and legal review regrettably need to be clearly regulated in the By-Laws. The same goes for the question of the overall supervision of the continental qualifying events. There are many more examples…

But despite these obvious needs for change, my main concern is that it would be [b]totally wrong to rush ahead now and implement some selected changes[/b], along the lines of the motions that had been forwarded for the recent Congress. [b]There are three main reasons why a different approach is needed:[/b]

[b]First[/b], the tendency during many, many years has been to make [u]selected changes on very specific points[/u], typically to suit some political or personal agendas regarding the way in which IHF functions. Yes, there have been intentions on several occasions to undertake a more systematic review, where all the resulting changes fit together and have a common objective. But every time these efforts have failed, partly because of a lack of a genuine determination to achieve such change, and partly due to the lack of the leadership and stamina needed for such an effort. The former Chairman of the IHF Arbitration Tribunal, Ulrich Strombach, expressed his serious frustration on precisely this point to the recent IHF Congress. Indeed, yet another set of selected, disjointed changes would be worse than having no changes at all, so the time must be taken for [u]a truly complete review[/u].

[b]Second[/b], the [u]timing[/u] of a major set of changes in the By-Laws is really the least optimal at this point, simply because we are now right at the beginning of a 4-year period for which a new set of officials were just elected. It would be totally naïve to think that a new structure and new processes under revised By-Laws would suddenly lead to major improvements when the very same people remain in place. The ideal timing would instead be some time [u]prior[/u] to an election Congress, where a new set of officials would be elected in conformity with a new structure and in the spirit of new processes. However, as the decision was already taken to set up an ‘extraordinary’ Congress, it would seem unrealistic to delay it for so long, and some of the necessary changes may after all be to urgent to delay so much. Nevertheless, a [u]fully participatory process[/u] is complex and time-consuming, even if the necessary priority is given, so the timing of the Congress must take this into account.

[b]Third[/b], there is obviously no such thing as an ideal structure and a general set of processes and procedures that fit every organization in every kind of circumstances. Any person with experience from managerial and organizational responsibilities knows that [u][u]the starting point for establishing structures and processes is the existence (or development) of overall strategies that are tailored to the goals and objectives of the organization[/u][/u]. In the case of the IHF, the overall strategies and goals clearly need to be updated, articulated and implemented. This should really be the more immediate focus of the IHF and its officials, in close collaboration with its experienced and dominating national federations globally, and with reliance also on external expertise. [u]So time must be allowed for this critical initial step, before one gets ready to focus on By-Law changes[/u].

As I noted in a recent article on August 18, http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.810 I seriously doubt that the IHF has focused enough on establishing explicit goals and strategies that serve to make the sport of handball able to attract more players, more leaders, more spectators, more TV contracts, more media coverage and more sponsors globally in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With a steadily increasing number of new sports, many specifically geared towards younger generations, and with a more difficult environment for sports to compete with other leisure interests, [u]has handball really positioned itself to maintain or improve its traditional position[/u]??

It is too easy to be satisfied with our glorious past, and to point out that we are presently working very hard. But working hard in the absence of well-defined strategies may not be enough! It is too easy to be optimistic and complacent, arguing that handball is such an attractive product that we will always survive. But watch out, the competition is tough! So, I urge all handball federations and handball officials with the necessary experience and competence to insist on getting the opportunity to work with the IHF and its officials to ensure that [b]modern goals and strategies [/b]are in place for the future work of the IHF. The goals and the strategies determine the need for new structures and processes. [u]After[/u] that has been done, the time will be right for a focus on By-Law changes, and at that point I will be prepared to come back with detailed suggestions!