Policy Governance®

The role of the board is leadership and the role of the staff is management. Each has its separate and distinct function in an organizational structure. It is important to clearly define and delineate the roles of board and staff. Boards should avoid becoming mired in detail and spend its valuable time concentrating on the ultimate outcomes desired, values, and future of the organization. Sound Governance provides one-on-one, customized service to the board members and the CEO. We help the board and staff become and effective team.

Sound Governance can help your board focus on its vision of the future by adopting sound principles of governance.

Why Does Your Organization Exist?

  • How involved is the board in Leadership?
  • In Management?
  • In Implementation?
  • What are your priority result areas?
  • What are the metrics for measuring performance?
  • How will you know if you’ve made a difference?
  Is Your Board Proactive Or Reactive?

  • Do you take risks?
  • Do you anticipate change?
  • Are Board members change agents?
  • or

  • Do you see change as real when it happens?
  • Act in the present?
  • Spend your time at board meetings managing crises instead of planning the future?
Is your board –

  • Preoccupied with survival?
  • Vulnerable?
  • Spending most of your board time on planning and coordination?
  • Going over and over the same issues that never seem to get resolved?
  • Constantly worrying about what’s going on?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your board is spending more time on things you have little or no control over and not enough time addressing ways to control your own destiny.

Empowerment versus Control

  • Is your staff motivated to excel and become creative?
  • Is the board motivated to control its own destiny?
  • Is staff given responsibility and authority?
  • Does the board system of governance maximize efficiency? Is the Board spending its time wisely?
  • Are there management controls?
  • Is there accountability to the governance system?

Two Key Objectives:

  1. To assist directors to draw conclusions about their individual and collective roles and responsibilities
  2. To identify criteria for evaluating board and staff performance

Policy Governance® was developed through practical application over 30 years by Dr. John Carver. It has been found to be applicable to governmental boards as well as corporate boards. Although there are many published materials on board governance, none addresses the need for a coherent approach as does Policy Governance®.

Policy Governance starts from certain principles about governing boards, which can be said to be true across all cases. These “universal principles” were not invented by John Carver, but a very clearly distinguished by him and are the basis for Policy Governance:

Principles of Governance

Ownership: The source of board legitimacy – to which the board must morally and/or legally connect its authority and accountability for the organization. Other “stakeholders” such as staff, customers and suppliers are not “owners” unless they independently qualify as such.

Governance: The job of the group granted full accountability and full authority for value produced on behalf of those who morally if not legally own the organization. The servant-leadership work of the highest and initial authority within the organization.

Board Holism: Board authority lies in the group’s one voice honed from the diversity of the whole group.

Accountable, Effective, Delegation: In being accountable for an entire organization’s conduct, achievement, values and destiny, a board has no choice but to exercise unambiguous control. However, the imposition of controls on delegates can be as destructive to owner interests as it is favorable to them. Consequently, a board needs to exercise a type of control that safeguards owner values, optimally empowers human beings in the enterprise, and never delegates the same responsibility or authority to more than one point.

Since the board is accountable that the organization works, and since the actual running of the organization is substantially in the hands of management, then it is important to the board that management be successful. The board must therefore increase the likelihood that management will be successful, while making it possible to recognize whether or not it really is successful. This calls upon the board to be very clear about its expectations, to personalize the assignment of those expectations, and then to check whether the expectations have been met. Only in this way is everyone concerned clear about what constitutes success and who has what role in achieving it.

What Policy Governance® is NOT!

Policy Governance is not a specific board structure. It does not dictate board size, specific officers or require a CEO. While it has principles for committees, it does not prohibit committees nor require specific committees.

Policy Governance is not a “checklist” of individual “best practices.”

Policy Governance does not dictate what a board should do or say about group dynamics, methods of needs assessment, basic problem solving, fund raising, managing change or anything else.

Policy Governance does not limit human interaction or stifle collective or individual thinking.

Policy Governance is not a “3-binder set of single-spaced” policies that dictate to the staff how to do the job.

Caroline Oliver, General Editor of Governing Excellence (www.policygovernanceassociation.org) says that Policy Governance enables boards to secure the present so that they can create the future. With a concise set of clearly written policies, boards can govern what they have today so they can focus on where the organization is headed in the future.

Is your board ready to make a difference by creating the future? For more information on Policy Governance as a leadership and governance approach, email sherry@soundgovernance.us.