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Wan's Column - Of Governance, Transparency, Succession Planning & Tribute to the Outgoing President & his team

PACM AGM 22 March 2008
Last year I did not attend the PACM AGM, my first absence from it in nine years. As I have left the Exco for one year and felt that the club was doing well under Munning Jamaludin. I have also read the annual report in detailed and was satisfied that it was well managed. I knew I only need to turn up for the dinner and just enjoy myself. This year I decided to attend the AGM as there are 2 issues that warrant my attention; (1) Munning is stepping down as president and (2) the proposal to acquire a timing chip system. I feel I ought to attend the AGM to give my 2 cents worth my views during the discussion.

For those of you members who have never bothered to attend the club's AGM, our club practices democracy to the fullest and have very high standards of governance. You need to exercise your rights as a member by attending the AGM and vote; the same principle as a citizen of Malaysia. I have seen many clubs and associations failing due to mismanagement that resulted in misappropriation of funds. While each club would have an appropriately drafted constitution or rules to guide it, the real safeguard is to vote in capable individuals with integrity into the Exco.

Timing Chip System
During the discussion on the acquisition of the timing chip system, I made a little speech. I can't remember word for word what I said but roughly the gist of the message is as follows for those who were not at the AGM;

I congratulated Munning and his team for being transparent in bringing in the proposed acquisition of the timing chip system to the AGM. Under the existing rules of the club, the Exco has the power to make such an acquisition even though it is a significant capital expenditure. It is a sensible decision on the part of the Exco to table this proposed acquisition to the members at the AGM.

"Today is a proud day for the club, to be able to decide on the acquisition of the timing chip. I fully support the proposal to acquire the timing chip system as it would enhance our capability in event management. We have 3 strong reasons to do it;
1. We have the events in the pipeline, 5 events this year.
2. We have the financial resources to purchase it outright.
3. We have the team to be able to manage it as it sounds easier than the present semi-auto system we use with the laptop, logging in runners as they finish the run at the gate."

Downside Risk and Suggested Mitigations
As a risk manager by profession, I often highlight the downside risk on seemingly upside decisions. Having 5 public events a year to manage, including 2 outstation events in Penang and Johore Bahru, I feel the Exco will be fully stretched. We may end up a cut back in the pure members' events like the various breakfast runs and the track meet. We must remember, PACM first exist as a club, only second as an event organizer. Our members are from all walks of life; from the young to old and from the slow to the fast runners. The club needs to have activities to satisfy this broad spectrum of members. As our statistics show, only about 600 to 700 of our members take part in the public road races we organize such as the Great Eastern Pacesetters 30km and New Balance Pacesetters 15km. What about the other 1,000 members? They are the recreational runners and families that look forward to our breakfast runs and the kids that enjoy the track meet. These events usually non-competitive help to bring out the families. Over the years I have seen the kids from a number of families growing up with PACM's activities.

One strategy to manage this is to engage the area groups, get them to organize such members' events. To the credit of the Exco, this has been implemented sporadically. We have done it successfully for 3 breakfast runs, with the Klang Group in 2006, the Putrajaya Group and the Sabak Bernam Group in 2007. The Kuantan Group is a class of their own, they did the Kuantan TC Run with 500 runners. I also notice that a few area groups have lost some fire as compared to previous years, judging from their participation in the club's activities. Getting these groups to organize an event could possibly help bringing back the fire in them.

What the Exco need to do is to commit the area groups, fix the date, allocate them some funds, assign someone from the Exco to guide them and cheer them on, communicates the events via our website and Footloose. Fixing the date in advance is very critical as it is impossible to find a date without a run event during the active months. We must be prepared to have a clash of dates so long we don't clash with major events like KLIM, Penang Bridge Run or Singapore Marathon.

Succession Planning
This is one subject that best in class corporations practice but rather unheard of among local clubs. In 2002 we changed the rules of the club, to introduce a limited term on the president, 5 years. Munning co-wrote the changes with me. Such a rule is democratic and it prevents the president from over-staying and encourages healthy leadership succession. In the United States, the president is limited to 2 terms of 4 years (total 8 years). We are probably one of the few clubs in the country to practice this but this is common among professional societies. When I was due to retire in March 2005, I have been talking to both vice-presidents, Jimmy Tong and Phoon Yoke Heng to stand for election. I feel both are capable to take over as they have been working with me for several years. Unfortunately, both were unwilling to take up the job and I was getting desperate to get a candidate from the existing Exco to take over. I do not like the idea of parachuting a new person into the president post from outside the Exco. I feel strongly about continuity and getting someone who has contributed for a few years in the Exco is the best bet moving forward. I decided to turn to Munning who has served the club for about 12 years then in the previous Exco, took a few years break and then joined my Exco. He was a reluctant president from day one but he also recognized the importance of continuity since the club has grown quite big with 1,400 members and with 2 public events a year. His agreement to take stand for election has avoided a possible leadership crisis in the club.

Going forward I wish to emphasize that it is important to groom successors to ensure the changeover of leaders is without disruption. The purpose of having 2 vice-presidents, though not spelt out is that in the event the president is unable to continue for whatever reasons (say he get posted overseas for a job), one of the two vice-presidents must be prepared and able to take over. This time round when Munning decided to step down, in fact he announced it at last year AGM Dinner that he is stepping down this year. Francis Toh , the more experienced of the two vice-presidents decided not to take on the position and Rustam Affandi, who is willing to take on the post, stood for election and won without contest.

I would appeal to members who are interested to serve the club to come forward to volunteer your services. You could start by being a volunteer in the club events or area groups and if you feel passionate enough, come forward to offer yourself for election. Our club is a fine place for budding managers to get some experience in managing. In our case, we have to manage people who are not paid to work; they too are volunteers. You could really improve your people skill in the process. We also need some special skills like IT, the club has to move forward with on-line registration that could be payment enabled to stay competitive in event management. Kelab Roadrunners Ipoh has got their on-line registration going for the last two years but not payment enabled yet. We have to catch up in this area.

Wan and Hooi Siew Weng

Lily and Veronica at the PACM Annual Dinner

Tribute to Munning and his team
Munning has a distinct different style from me, I am more publicity seeking to promote the club's branding via the media while Munning believes in working hard quietly. His original intention was to stabilize the club after years of growth during my era. However, circumstances did not allow him this luxury as more organizations seek PACM participation in various events. The momentum of the club continues to grow with one successful event after another. The Mizuno Wave Run and the Great Eastern Pacesetters 30km were two key events added to the club's calendar during Munning's era. The club's membership continue to grow to 1,700 from 1,400 three years ago. During this period, the club's magazine, the Footloose has become a very professional runners' magazine with top notch contributions from members and has the support of several brands of running shoes and ancillary products / services. Tan Swee Huah, the outgoing secretary and Footloose editor has ensured the quarterly magazine come out on time, with good contents and with a professional layout. Two consistent work horses of the Exco that retired were Uncle Sonny Ng and Naidu from the Gasing Group. I have worked with both of them and they were very hard working in many of the field assignments given to them during events they took charged. With them we even got extended help from Jenny Leong (Sonny's wife) and Naidu's children.

With Dr William Chan, Clara and Lee Shew Keng
I have a unique story with Munning that I once narrated during the 2005 AGM Dinner and I wish to repeat it here. I joined the club in November 1984 according to the club's records, 6 months after the club commenced on 20th May 1984. In 1987, I got married and moved to Subang Jaya and decided that it was too much hassle to come down to Bukit Aman to run with PACM. I did something that most members won't bother, I sent in a resignation letter to resign from the club. Most members would just don't pay up and wait for the club to deregister them. To my surprise, I received a reply from Munning, secretary of the club, urging me to continue my membership. I was very gratified with his gesture and decided to renew the membership.

I continue to renew my membership for the next 11 years without stepping foot into Bukit Aman car-park till 1998 when I became treasurer of the club. The next was a twist of fate, I became the president of the club in 2000. I still have the copy of my resignation letter and Munning's reply in soft copies.

PACM EXCO 2008 - 2009

In all our 24 years of existence, with Rustam elected as the 8th president, the leadership changeover in the club has been smooth and the support by the immediate past president exists both in form (provided by our club rules that the immediate past president stay one year in the Exco) and in substance (Munning was in Bidor on 27 April 2008 to help organize the registration for the New Balance Pacesetters 15km 2008). I am confident the in-coming Exco will take the club to the next level. In 2009, we shall be celebrating our 25th Anniversary and I have suggested that the club re-enact the inaugural run we did on 20 May 1984 that marked the formation of the club. It may be too difficult to use the original route (traffic safety reasons) and the logical choice is to use the Pacesetters 15km 2009 on 17 May 2009 as the celebration event.

Wan Yew Leong
15 May 2008


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