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What a difference a council meeting can make

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At the last riba council meeting, included among the papers was an apocalyptic vision of the near-collapse of the institute from none other than the honorary treasurer, Colin James. He cited in evidence a chronic work overload, failure to prioritise, and failure to train staff or to communicate well with members. Moreover, there had been a failure to manage and monitor individual budgets, there were no quality assurance systems, and there was no coherent corporate identity. As if this were not enough, current working methods were unfocused, unco-ordinated and inefficient.

This condemnation of the institute's management style scarcely registered with council, nor indeed with the representatives of the fourth estate. Director-general Alex Reid did not look overly concerned. No doubt this was partly because the pudding was being over-egged by the honorary treasurer, anxious to put through measures to eliminate most the institute's committees in favour of a more focused administration.

Three months on, apparently all in the garden (apart from the future of the special collections) looks considerably more lovely. The papers for next week's council breathe optimism. The silly idea of calling all members fellows has been abandoned. The new board and committee structures, approved in principle in May, have been tweaked and tuned and will probably be approved. Finances appear well under control. The d-g presents a five- year action plan based on increasing members of all descriptions, reducing subscriptions, promoting policy studies, becoming an Investors in People organisation, and concentrating on the role of influential information resource. All criticisms dealt with.

As for the library/special collections, the recommendation by the institute's fundraiser that a sister trust be created will probably be approved, though the location of the resource remains a moot point. Next council, perhaps.

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