Models are just that: models. They provide a framework for the board to do its work, and to express clear expectations for organizational performance. Consultants and writers sometimes refer to a “traditional” governing model. Traditional governance most often isn’t a model at all, but rather the absence of a model. Governance, for most boards, is nothing more than a cobbled-together mix of state or federally mandated policies, procedures and practices based on tradition.

In our experience, there are only two true governing models: our own Coherent Governance®, and John Carver’s Policy Governance®.

Both models have structure and form that hold the separate parts together in a coherent whole. Both models are values-based systems enabling the board to effectively:

GOVERN itself, to exercise discipline and integrity as a whole to lead the organization for which it is responsible, making decisions that are the board’s to make, and doing so at a broad policy level;

CLARIFY board, member and CEO roles; delegating authority for operations and organizational outcomes within established controls;

DETERMINE AND MONITOR organizational performance and CEO accountability for it;

ADVOCATE for the efforts of the board and organization with stakeholder groups.

Some boards and members may resist the idea of adopting anything that has to do with a “model” or any organized governance system that they perceive may limit their individual freedoms or their ability to provide off-the-cuff direction to the organization.

For a board to attempt to govern effectively with no defined operating system is akin to playing a team sport without a game plan or a set of rules. On occasion, it may work. But more often than not, confusion, disappointment and frustration are the results, rather than organizational progress.

Sustainable good governance doesn’t exist unless it is deliberately created by the board. A coherent governing model, based upon fundamental principles and values, can allow the board to build something bigger than itself, enabling members to leave a legacy of visionary leadership for those boards and staff leaders who follow.