- Posted by Paul Zilz
- On September 27, 2016
- Board Focus, Board Leadership, Strategic Focus
You joined the board because you believe in the organization’s mission. Perhaps it is a not-for-profit whose mission is to ensure intellectually disabled people in your community have the resources they need to succeed at each stage in life. Perhaps it is your church whose mission is to demonstrate God’s love by ensuring the disadvantaged in your neighborhood have the resources to thrive physically and emotionally. Both organizations exist to make a real difference in people’s lives! You joined the board or one of its committees with high hopes!
Then the meetings rolled around, and you noticed the agendas are packed full of operational details. Your meetings are spent poring over financial details instead of investing time establishing and evaluating the strategic results the board intends the organization to achieve. You wonder: Is this the board’s job? Is this my role as a board member? Am I supposed to be involved in these management issues? But if not this, then what?
The answer: The board should govern, not manage, on behalf of those who have an “investment” in the organization!
An easy way to remember the difference between the board’s role of governing and the executive’s role of managing is to remember the etymology of the word “governance.” Governance comes from a Latin word meaning “to steer”. Yet so many boards get in the boat and row! Why? Because well-meaning board members see getting waist deep in day-to-day operational decisions as the (only) way they can make a difference. But being so focused on rowing the boat, they fail to steer the boat. Loaded down with operational details, the board fails to look up from the day-to-day details in order to look ahead to the intended future. Simply put, the board fails to appreciate that its purpose is to have a strategic and future-focused impact on the organization.
When a board gets bogged down in operational details at each meeting, the meetings can become tedious and long. And you become bored, because quite frankly most of the details don’t interest you, and you wonder why the executive isn’t just dealing with these. Ever wonder why the board doesn’t focus on the larger values related to what actions they would find unethical or imprudent, even if they worked to achieve the intended results of the organization? Ever wonder when the board will actually engage in a strategic discussion focused on what should be achieved for which targeted recipients or what should be the relative priorities between these strategic targets?
When the board begins to govern systematically according to its values and with a clearly defined role, board meetings become focused on achieving key strategic and future-focused targets and ensuring operations are conducted in an ethical and prudent manner. The result: Boredom drops, and board engagement in the key strategic and fiduciary issues increases as the board creates a values-based, accountable, future-focused, and strategic-oriented culture.
Policy Governance® is a system of governance that is designed to help boards focus on the achievement of the intended strategic results within the limitations of ethics and prudence that it perceives as unacceptable, even if such actions achieved the intended results. This system of governance enables a board to capture its values in policies regarding strategic ends and the actions it considers unethical or imprudent and thus unacceptable. Policy Governance creates clear roles for the board and the operating organization and has the potential to create a strong accountability culture. Policy Governance helps boards become future-focused on key strategic issues.
Do you want to have engaging and future-focused board meetings with strategic impact and get rid of the boredom in the boardroom? Policy Governance will move your organization forward in its mission and allow your board to govern with a strategic and future focus.