Board Development: Succession Planning

By now you know how much I love a sporting analogy. So it should come as no surprise that I’m going to use another one here to look at why being strategic about your board development and succession plan will help your organisation to deliver greater impact and focus resources more effectively.

After England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 a lot of the experienced squad retired, and we had a hiatus of about ten years when frankly we weren’t that great. Mike Catt, one of that winning squad summed it up, “There was no legacy from our win. We didn’t pass anything on.” This has often confused me with British sports, why’d we get so good and then suddenly after a great achievement we’d seem to have to begin all over again.

I asked a friend of mine, a professional rugby player, why this was. His answer was succession planning. Well, his answer was a bit longer than that, but that was a large part of it. He used the example of the All Blacks, a team that has dominated the game for decades, they are the most successful sports franchise in history.

Museums and other charities can learn a lot from how the All Blacks, and other great sporting teams evolve and develop, continually striving to be better and do better.


“We always want to make sure that the place we go to, we leave it in as good if not better shape than when we arrived.”

– Sam Whitelock, City AM 2015

The All Blacks have a clear culture and values that they embed in every player, from the grassroots to the elite and all the support staff of coaches, trainers, in fact everyone involved in the game. ‘Better people make better All Blacks’ is the mantra that underpins the team’s culture.

Steve Tew, CEO of New Zealand Rugby says, “You have to live those values and live them 24/7 otherwise they end up being just words on a strategic plan or brand poster or some other fancy document.” They unite behind a shared vision of what success looks like.

The All Blacks never lose sight of who they are playing for: family, friends, their team mates and every single Kiwi scattered across the world. This is a lesson for every charity, to keep your stakeholders at the heart of everything that you do.

The All Blacks train relentlessly, elite players constantly hone the fundamental basic skills of their game, continually improving. An All Black would never consider they have nothing left to learn or suggest that they have all the necessary skills to deliver the best they can. The All Blacks have as high expectations of themselves as their fans do. Resting on their laurels is not an option.

To learn more about effective board development, please see our Governance eLearning modules (coming soon) or get in touch with us about our Good Governance programme by emailing

– Clare Pennington, RPR Programme Manager

Trustees’ Gala Lunch keynotes and outcomes

On the 18th of May, Cornwall Museums Partnership hosted its first Trustees’ Gala Lunch in Heartlands, Pool. Over 50 senior decision makers from Cornwall’s heritage sector attended and discussed the vital importance of good leadership to the future of the UK’s museums and galleries. Recent conspicuous failures in governance in the not profit sector headlined by Kids Company, but with some notable difficulties in museums too, have highlighted the need for all Trustees to take leadership seriously. Cornwall Museums Partnership is at the forefront of raising awareness of the need for excellent levels of leadership and governance. The event included two high level speakers: Michael Day, Chief Executive of Royal Historic Palaces, and Paula Sussex, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission.

Attendees discussed the need for ongoing trustee skills development in order to help heritage organisations to survive and thrive in challenging times. Paula Sussex reinforced the critical importance of the Board in a charity’s performance, and Michael Day illustrated the importance of strategic leadership and the critical role Trustees can play in fundraising for their charities. Some of the key outcomes from the event included the importance of having diversity on the board, commitment to board development, the significance of establishing a relationship of trust between the Chair and the CEO, and the need to develop of succession plans.

Trustees’ Gala Lunch

With support from Heritage Lottery Fund, Cornwall Museum’s Partnership are hosting the Trustee’s Gala Lunch on the 18th May at Heartlands. We have secured two amazing and inspirational  keynote speakers for the day – Paula Sussex, the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission and Michael Day, Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces. There’s also the opportunity for Trustees to be involved in the ‘Manifesto for Leadership Workshop’, hosted by Sir Ferrers Vyvyan in the morning, with a lovely lunch provided by the Red River Café at Heartlands, and really get involved with a Q&A panel in the afternoon for all things leadership.

Museums and galleries should all have received 2 invitations for the event, if you don’t think your organisation has, and you’re a Trustee interested in attending please get in touch with Clare Pennington at Cornwall Museums Partnership – t. 01209 500750 before the 13th of May.