Monday, February 23, 2009

What Are We Here For?

As I work with different organizations, it has become clear that leaders more often than not, have not clarified their vision and mission. The old saying then, "if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there" becomes the way the organization practically operates. I'm not saying leaders do not have any articulated targets, just that they are so broad, it does not create the focus neccessary for acheivement. Another problem is that targets are assumed and not written down.

I believe that if you can't write down what you mean, it is because you don't know specifically enough what you mean.

If the targets are not clear, the organization will always poorly spend its precious resources by pursuing too many activities that do not help the organization produce the good that it is called to produce. The staff and volunteers in an organization generally do not ask questions about where is my work headed. They are activators of what is before them. The leaders --i.e., the board must do its job and make sure the organizaiton is pointed in the direction it should, and that it has communicated in writting what a win is.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What A Week

Just got back from Atlanta after attending the Policy Governance Academy with Dr John and Miriam Carver. It was a dream come true for someone like me who has been so passionate about the model. Now I am ready to really make sure our organization is model cosistent. I also feel qualified to begin helping other boards who also struggle with the many governance issues common to non profits.

The fourteen of us who took the training constituted the 20th year of the Academy. I also enjoyed getting to know the others attended. The class was comprised of people from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Anyone who is serious about Policy Governance should make it their goal to attend.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Policy Governanc Academy

I have not posted anything on this site for a long time. It seems like the interested parties in my world on the subject of governance are very few. However, it seems fitting to post something today since I am here now in Atlanta all week to receive training from the founder/inventor of the model Dr. John Carver.

I hope to be challenged and inspired this week to make our organization even better. Good leadership begins with the board. The better the board does its work, the better the staff and volunteers can do theirs.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rigorous Debate

When a board sets out to begin its job of writing the organizations values and perspectives (policies) it must be willing to engage in rigorous debate. The people on the board must not be so polite that they hold back in articulating passionately the values that they think the organization must stand for. The more the board members feel their ownership in the organization the better. But even with a deep sense of personal ownership, individual board members can feel intimidated. Perhaps the other board members are close personal friends and they don't want to upset their relationship. The relational dynamic between board members is just an example of any number of reasons why a board member will not speak up, but if they don't, then they are not doing their job and should resign the board. The process of rigorous debate must be seen as normal and even vital to the organizations success in the long run. The power of the boards voice is that it is unified - the board speaks as one voice or not at all. If the lead executive and the staff do not have a clear mandate from the board, then their work will be hindered. The debate process is what brings the divergent views into a single powerful and united voice-- i.e., a clearly articulated policy.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Strong Leader Still Required

When some hear about a governing concept concept such as: "the board speaks as one voice or not at all," they can start to think that the organization is being led by a committee from top to bottom. That is a real misconception. What allows a single leader, the CEO, the president, Senior Pastor, Executive Director, (or what ever title is given to the top executive) to have great decision making power is that the realm of his or her authority is clearly defined. The very highest decisions of the organization are made as a group by the governing board. These decisions are so important, so high level and affect the very nature of the organization, that they cannot be entrusted to just one person. For example, you would not delegate to one person the power to change the purpose of the organization. However, a vision of what the organization can be under the board defined overarching purpose and how we can get there are fully delegated to the leader. The leader then is free to assemble the staff and take whatever steps are required to bring the organization to the fulfillment of that vision. And it certainly takes a strong and gifted leader to make that vision a reality.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Policy Governance makes a big deal about separating ENDS and MEANS. While this at first seems to be a lot of effort by the board, even feeling sometimes like wasting time splitting hairs, in the long run it is critical to creating an empowered and creative organization. When the lead executive and his or her staff understand what decisions are theirs to make, it creates a great sense of empowerment. It creates within the staff an attitude of "go until I say stop" (a limitation), rather than an attitude of "stop until I say go." In the past, I've seen extremely talented individuals reduced to nothing more than glorified secretaries always waiting around for their next instruction from above. Many times, those instructions were augmented by long periods of silence which resulted in staff doing nothing, thus wasting huge potential. The main reason why they did nothing was because of fear of overstepping their boundaries. It was safer to do nothing than to do something that might not be in their realm to decide. Clarifying these boundaries is what a true governing board needs to spend their time doing. It may seem tedious, but it pays great dividends by releasing the great potential of the staff.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What's a Board to Do?

Being involved with many boards over the years, I've realised that one of the most important things that is often overlooked is the job of the board. Usually, they just jump right in and start doing something. The problem is that while board members have good intentions, they are often not doing the most important things. A governing board must be sure that they are spending their time doing what others in the organization cannot do. My experience has been that most non profit boards that I have been a part of in the past were more of an accountability group to the staff and/or a fund-raising group for the staff. While these are noble efforts, it is not the essence of what a board should do. A governing board should define the most important issues of both purpose and ethics. Purpose has to do with defining what the organization is for. Ethics has to do with keeping the organization out of any activities that would jeopardize the good name of the organization. When we break it down, these two functions are what a board must be focused on at all times. Where are we going, and are we getting there without losing our integrity.