Why try to govern with Policy Governance?

There is a learning curve associated with using Policy Governance. If you don’t take the time to learn how it works, and why it works, it is possible to use it with the result that you will have a weak form of governance. So why bother? [More on this in the next pane…]

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There is the board at the head of every organization. People believe that those who govern must be in control.

But board members have other lives and they cannot attend to everything. Diligent members will read the staff reports, and if they don’t see what they feel they must see, they will ask for more reports. When the organization faces serious problems, the board will often demand many reports as well as presentations in person by the senior staff. With all of this, board members sometime still feel as if they are not really seeing what is going on, and they are not in control.

Board members are often lobbied by the staff, the union, and the people served by the organization. The lobbyists know that the board has the power to issue an edict that could fix whatever they think needs fixing. Wouldn’t a caring board member do something about a personnel injustice, or poor treatment of a client by a member of staff? When board members think there is some validity to a lobbyist’s claim, the subject can result in a lot of discussion when it is brought to the attention of the board.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Many boards positions are comfortable, enjoyable, and not very demanding. Often the staff take care of business and most of the concerns of board members. This was once a frequent situation, but it is becoming an unusual luxury in the 21st Century.

We have high expectations of our organizations, and board members have a high expectations for their own contribution and performance.

When the board feels that no matter how many reports they demand they don’t really know what in going on in their organization, or feel that all they are really doing is rubber-stamping the work of staff, or the organization is not performing well and the board does not know what strategy is best, sometimes they look to a better way of governing.

While there are several styles of governing, if you do your research you will find that to date there is only one complete model for diligent governance: Policy Governance (PG).

Board members who want to do a better job, who want the operation of the board to be transparent, and who want to govern with real integrity are likely to find their way to PG. This model addresses the aspirations of the most demanding board members.

There is another reason to consider PG, and it has to do with the reason we have organizations, especially not-for-profits. All organizations were created to fill a community need, to provide a benefit to some people, or to effect a valuable change. With PG, the board is able to clearly recognize the need, and with its words hold the staff accountable for producing the benefit or result.

This can be very powerful.

A feature of our governments is that we are allowed to create artificial entities: the corporation. As entities, our incorporated societies can receive funds, maintain bank accounts, own property, and employ an army of people. A corporate entity can be more powerful than a national government. In this sense, there is no limit to what is possible and to what can be achieved by your organization if it can attract the resources.

The words of the board can command all of this.

Being able to see the real need, and articulate it is real leadership. Policy Governance provides the tools for this kind of leadership.

Like any tool, the craftsperson must become skilled in its use so as to provide the required benefits and do no harm. Skill development must take time. The techniques of PG are not always intuitive. Boards that use PG become better with study, diligence, and practice. They also become more powerful, and ensure real benefits for those served by their organizations. When you think about the good that could be produced by your organization, isn’t that worth the effort of learning the business of governance?

© 2007 R. Ballantyne. All rights reserved. This is for your use at your computer screen. For reproduction of any kind you will need the written permission of the author.

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