Ask any board member to identify the primary function of the board. Chances are good that eight of the first 10 answers you receive will be “policy.”
Now, ask those same board members to list the decisions they made at their last board meeting. How many of their actions had anything to do with policy? Our experience: virtually none.
The truth is, boards don’t operate at the broad policy level. Most boards make decisions at the operational level – the place where the CEO should exercise delegated authority, responsibility, and accountability for day-to-day operations.
This, probably more than any other factor, is what leads to confusion of roles, charges of micro-managing, wasted time, splintered vision and frustration due to boards’ inability to make a meaningful contribution to the organizations they govern.
The problem is not that boards resist functioning at the policy level. It is more due to the fact that boards simply haven’t taken the time to assess their own performance and consciously discover how board decisions can be made at the broad policy level.
It is much easier for boards to dabble in the day-to-day operations of the organization, because these are the tangible “how” functions that can be touched and played with and with which many board members are familiar.
Creating an organizational vision, identifying long-term benefits for the clients being served, and then rigorously monitoring performance takes more work—and a higher level of leadership. But it is the most important work a board can do. Unfortunately, most boards have given away the best part of their jobs!
Coherent Governance® is a model of board governance that, if faithfully followed, will compel boards to make policy decisions, not operational decisions.
If Our Board Adopts Coherent Governance, is Successful Implementation Assured?
Our experienced consultation and training offer all the practical and theoretical tools a board should need to effectively implement Coherent Governance. But implementation attempts can fail. In the final analysis, your board is responsible for its own behavior and commitment, and no third-party consultant can compensate for some of the reasons for failure.
We have seen these contributors to implementation failure:
- Lack of board commitment;
- Impatience with the challenge to do different work well;
- CEOs’ inability or refusal to assume the required authority and accountability;
- Dwelling on the model itself, rather than using it as a governing tool;
- Allowing members with a different agenda to sidetrack the board.
Doing anything new and different requires commitment, patience and willingness to abandon old habits and customs in favor of the promise of better, more fulfilling work.
The Tangible Results of Coherent Governance Implementation
Your effort to govern well using Coherent Governance will result in:
- A new set of governing policies, which collectively establish performance standards for the board, the organization, and the CEO;
- The board’s part of a strategic plan: Board definition of the Mission/Vision and Goals (Results), with Strategies and Actions delegated to the CEO and staff;
- A meaningful board self-assessment built on the board’s own self-determined standards of performance;
- An authentic CEO evaluation based entirely on the organization’s performance;
- A full year plan for board work, which will drive board meeting agendas for the next 12 months;
- A board job description;
- A CEO job description;
- A process for assessing the performance of every element of the organization’s operation;
- A process for evaluating reasonable progress toward achieving the board’s defined Results;
- A framework for building a strategic communications plan between the board and its owners and stakeholders.
All encompassed in a single, coherent system! Coherent Governance eliminates the need for boards to engage in multiple, uncoordinated projects. Planning, communicating, evaluating are all a part of the articulated, systemic and systematic whole.
It’s the only system that makes sense.