Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From Salary to Leadership: Results on CIRM Survey on Criteria for New Chair

The California stem cell agency has unveiled the results of a survey of its directors concerning their own performance and desired criteria for a new chair of the $3 billion research effort.

James Harrison of Remcho, Johansen and Purcell of San Leandro, outside counsel to the board, said in a memo to the board,
"The survey reveals that members have a wide range of views, especially in connection with the allocation of responsibilities between the chair and vice chairs, the board, and the president, and the appropriate time commitment and salary for the new chair. The survey also suggests, however, that members are more aligned with respect to the desired attributes and skills for the chair. For example, ten members identified the ability to collaborate as the most important attribute for chair. In addition, ten members concluded that advocacy skills are critical for a new chair, while 12 members indicated that leadership skills are also important. "
Only 20 members of the 29-members of the board and/or alternates responded to the survey last week. CIRM did not specify the number of alternates who participated. The results were posted yesterday, just two days before tomorrow's meeting of the directors' Governance Subcommittee. The panel is in the process of determining criteria for a new chair to present to the full board, probably in March. Results of the survey can be found here and here.

Some of the questions and responses spoke to the problem of overlapping responsibilities of the chair and the president, which are locked into law by Prop. 71. In the past, those ticklish issues have sometimes surfaced in public.

Based on the survey, board members seem to prefer more delegation and less operational activity on the part of the chair.

One board member, who was not identified, wrote,
"CIRM has 'grown up' enough that we can now clearly define responsibilities. The chair should oversee and guide, and empower the president to be the true CEO of CIRM. Judicious interventions will be more effective than micro-management."
On the question of how much time is needed to peform the chair's job, responses varied from 20 percent to fulltime. One unidentified board member wrote,
"While the designated effort is 50 percent, the role of the chair has been expanded so that the actual time probably exceeds 100 percent. This makes for confusion between the chair, president and others. The board chair's role should be to oversee the governing board, not manage CIRM. This percent effort should not exceed 50 percent."
Salary suggestions ranged from $50,000 to $550,000, depending on the time commitment.

Salaries are a hot button with the public, and the top scales at CIRM have triggered concern from various parties in the past.

Harrison's summary of the survey said,
"One member cautioned that, given the state's current economic circumstances, the chair's salary should be kept at a minimum level, while another member expressed the view that the board must be prepared to compensate the chair appropriately if it wishes to attract a great leader. One member added that limiting the compensation paid to the chair would enhance public trust and another member stressed that the board should look for candidates who do not require a high salary."
The survey identified "advocacy" as the most desired "skill" in a new chair. "Leadership/vision" ranked third with scientific expertise third. In the "attributes" category, the top, desired attribute was "collaborative/consensus builder" with "leadership/vision" and "knowledgeable/intellectually curious" coming up two and three.

As for the board's self-assessment, 90 percent agreed that that "CIRM lives up to its mission." (The survey had a choice of yes, sometimes or no on the statements.) A significant percentage of respondents indicated some areas of concern. Fifty percent agreed that the board is "too influenced by the views of the president and/or other management staff." Only 25 percent said "yes" to the statement "board members have appropriate input into the preparation of the agendas. While 65 percent said they "feel comfortable raising and discussing dissenting or contrary opinions," 35 percent said they agreed only sometimes with that statement.

Still missing from the Governance's meeting agenda for tomorrow are proposed changes in CIRM's governance policies, which could include issues related to the chair.

The public will have a chance to participate in tomorrow's sessions at locations in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, La Jolla, Irvine and Calistoga. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda. Sphere: Related Content

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