Policy Governance Drove Me to…

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Psychology. Why is it difficult for many?/most? boards to move to a comprehensive, logical system of governing? What’s that old joke: “Why did the man stop hitting himself with a hammer? Because it felt so good when he stopped.” See my blog post about 30-year-old technology. Why would good, smart board members subject themselves to something klunky, old-fashioned, cumbersome, time consuming, frustrating….when it can stop? See the LinkedIn discussion.

Diary Doodles of a Distracted Blogger

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Decided that diary is the wrong word. Even though I’m chronicling my foibles and attempts at online networking, the day of the post doesn’t imply any real order. The day of posting only illustrates what oozed to the top of my brain. The Free Dictionary defines doodle as scribbling absentmindedly. Verbal doodles are more appropriate to describe my blogging.

Prior to exploring (lurking) on various discussion boards at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), I actually started posting some responses. A recent one discussed the appropriate/inappropriate use of social media for screening potential employees. Because I love taking the opposite view, I posited a different scenario and asked:

…finding the right fit in any recruiting and hiring situation is a two-way street. As the economy improves (albeit slowly there are signs), key employees who have the skills, experience, and knowledge that make the organization hum may choose to leave.

Potential applicants to your organization, too, can explore multiple job opportunities without personally speaking to anyone in your organization. What if a really good potential applicant decided to explore your organization’s website and social media before applying? How comfortable is it when the shoe is on the other foot?

Not only that, but it seems prudent for prospective employers to mind their Ps and Qs when using social media. Michael Wyland said:

My partner is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and a certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR). I asked her about this issue, and she was adamant that, based on her training (including recent training), that those involved in hiring should avoid social media searches. Her opinion is that this is one of many areas of the law where the law has not kept up with technology access and capabilities.

One reason for avoiding social media searches, as has been mentioned elsewhere in this thread, is that such searches allow prospective employers to access information legally prohibited from being considered in hiring decisions. If it can be proven that a social media search was conducted, it becomes more difficult for the prospective employer to protect themselves from a hiring discrimination suit brought by an unsuccessful applicant.

The “safety valve” some employers use is to employ third-party recruiting firms to screen applicants. Some employers use temp-to-hire arrangements to allow them to see a person not *their* employee and learn all about them before making a formal hiring decision. Most of the laws and regulations protecting employment applicants envision the employer doing the hiring directly; they rarely address the actions of third parties in the hiring process.

I went to Michael’s bio and profile on ASAE to let him know about this post and realized…aaagghhh! I don’t have any Twitter or LinkedIn widgets anywhere on my own stuff! Well, maybe tomorrow.

Lessons on Policy Governance® from The Little Red Hen

Monday, January 24th, 2011

The Little Red Hen was an industrious little hen. From a few seeds, she had a vision of a beautifully golden, richly fragrant loaf of bread.

Along the way, she tried to enlist others in the barnyard for help to plant the seeds, take the wheat to the mill, and bake the bread. All who were asked said, “Not I!”

When the bread was done, she asked who would help her eat it. Of course, everyone wanted a piece.

The course of Policy Governance can look much the same. In the beginning, planting the seeds and developing the framework for better governing practices is a lot of work. But in the end, the board has a practical and robust system for managing its work. In the end, everyone wants on board!

A client said, “We had trouble filling board seats and getting board members excited and engaged before we started governing by policy. Now that we’ve had a few years of success, everyone wants to be a part of it.”

One person had the vision of how governing by policy could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of board’s work and create a transformed, successful organization. Once the seeds were planted and the bread was baked, the sweet smell of success attracted everyone.

Does Policy Governance take a lot of work? Yes.

Will Policy Governance make a difference in your success? Yes.

Will everyone take part in the creation of a transformed organization? No. (Just ask The Little Red Hen).

Is having a board organization that everyone wants to be part of worth it?

Well, you need to answer that question for yourself.

Update to: Cooperation, collaboration, or coopetition…whatever works.

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

An update to what was written here. This group is still together but we’ve moved beyond Policy Governance to conceptualizing what it takes to create beneficial change in organizations that results in better communities and healthy societies. We are now called The Xylem Group and our new website will be live soon!! If you are a thought leader about what it takes to measure corporate accountability and sustainability, please stay tuned. I want to invite you to join the dialog and discussion with Xylem. In upcoming blogs, I’ll show you where I’m going to join dialog started by others.

Policy Governance practitioners and users are a small ecosystem in the realm of governance. To move Policy Governance consulting from a collection of individual consultants into the next generation, several individuals have banded together in a cooperation experiment called The Governance Corporation. What is behind our cooperative enterprise is developing and evolving the practice of Policy Governance. The main idea is investing in expanding core capabilities through collaborative learning and reinvesting returns into the ecosystem to provide a place for future generations of practitioners.

By pooling development of leading edge governance practices, we believe clients will receive the benefits. Our collaboration will lead to clients having a competitive edge through effective governance. We believe the rewards to the client are products, services, and practices that no one of us could bring individually; or at an affordable price to the client. Our cooperation, collaboration, or coopetition is not just for our mutual benefit but for the benefit of the clients. It’s a win-win-win situation. I win, my colleagues win, you win.

Go to the Governance Corporation website, if you’re interested in watching our experiment unfold. Check out our blog. I’ve started a rant on the current state of governance. Add your comments, join the dialog, or start a debate! All are welcome.

Governance is a new word to many

Friday, January 29th, 2010

An acquaintance asked me yesterday what I do. “I work with board and executive leaders on a system of governance that helps them get rid of time-wasters and makes the most of the talent in the organization.” My acquaintance said that governance was a new term to her.

For those who are new to the concept, Tom Friedman offered an excellent quote in his New York Times Op-Ed column of January 5, 2010. The quote is “from Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and the author of the book ‘How.’ ‘You have to enlist and inspire people in a set of values. People need to be governed both from the outside, through compliance with rules, and from the inside, inspired by shared values.’”

Sound like good governance to you?

So, what’s stopping you from practicing it? The problem I’ve encountered is that too often, bright and capable peoples’ skills and talents are wasted in board meetings discussing whether or not to purchase new office furniture or how many pieces of collateral were distributed at the last fundraiser. Discussions like these are about looking backward rather than creating a vision for the future. Discussions like these enervate, rather than inspire.

Are you tired of operating in a model of scarcity (not enough time, not enough money, not enough people…) and ready to move toward a model of abundance (stop focusing on the past, getting rid of the time-wasters and envisioning what you can achieve)?

Policy Governance® offers a system for governing boards to ensure that they are complying with outside rules and allows them to spend more time discussing what inspires the organization. Policy Governance gets the board beyond what is to what can be.

What do nonprofit governing boards do?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Defining governance is not easy. If you google “definition on governance,” you will find over 500,000 entries. Governance is a generic term with applications in information technology, Website management, research, corporations. I’ve found that how the term governance is applied in various disciplines is somewhat confusing. That’s why a simple definition for nonprofit board governance may not be enough to gain clarity and understanding.

For nonprofits, relating the process and practice of governing to a familiar or commonly shared experience helps. In my post “On board service“, I use ships. In April, I wrote an article for the Charity Channel Nonprofit Boards and Governance Review. In this one, I use the train analogy. It seems I’m attracted to transportation analogies when describing governance!

From the review in Charity Channel:

Executive Directors who dump a pile of financials in front of board members, expecting them to have the background and expertise necessary to make heads of tails of them, are not meeting their obligations to the board, according to the latest NBGR article by Sherry Jennings. Taking the point of view of a new board member, she writes, “Most of the financial information was incomprehensible to Martin. What was nagging at Martin was that he didn’t feel like he had a complete ‘picture’ of what was going on. The information he had plodded through last night seemed like a box of spare parts.”‘
In If I’m Not Running the Train, How Do I Know We’re On Track? the author uses a down-to-earth story-telling method to drive the point home and offer up the solution.

Caroline Oliver (brilliant author and consultant on governance) likens practicing good governance to riding a bicycle. You need to take the appropriate steps and practice to do it right. She said that the traditional approach to governance is okay but it’s a bit like pushing the bicycle along rather than riding it. Riding a bicycle is difficult at first. One needs to learn a new way of balancing and may fall a few times. But once one is confident and dancing on the pedals, it feels effortless and like flying (another transportation analogy!)

From Caroline’s reflections:
“Most of us want practical solutions and would prefer to skip the theory bit. However, the boards that tend to excel in the way that they practice governance are the boards that have an idea of what they are doing and why – in other words – the ones that have a good theory!”

I would add a good process and good balance.

See Caroline’s article on Creating a Board Dashboard, also at the Charity Channel and her new book Getting Started with Policy Governance

On board service

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Dear Association Executive:

Recently on the American Society of Association Executive’s (ASAE) Executive Section listserv, there have been many questions about how to get the board out of the minutiae in order to find time to work on strategic direction or Ends policy. The board’s focus on the day-to-day is not their fault (entirely.) Board members want to to a good job. But most have learned the traditional approach of board service — showing up at meetings, approving staff work and debating whether or not the office can afford a new copier.

When your board is busy with staff reports, committee reports and working on day-to-day operations, they don’t have the time to focus on strategy or governing. Board members come to your meetings with dozens of other competing priorities and thinking about their own business or family decisions. Once they get to your meeting, the agenda is full of operational (staff) reports or decisions. Is it any wonder board members default into operational mode?

Hildy Gottlieb at Help4Nonprofits.com says it’s like running a ship. You, dear Association Executive, are the captain. You manage the crew, read the charts, navigate and ensure the safety of crew, ship and cargo. You make sure the cargo is delivered. The board’s role is representing the owners of the ship. The board decides what kind of ship, what cargo it will haul, where that cargo will go, to what customers and at what cost. They monitor performance based on how well you deliver. Too often, the board thinks they’re supposed to be captains. When you have nothing but captains on a ship, you have anarchy! (Plus, you sacrifice some much needed crew.)

The board’s job isn’t to run the organization. That’s what they hired you (the captain) to do. The board actually has its own job and it’s not an “extension” of yours. Their job (and their added value) is to represent the owners of the organization (people who expect certain outcomes or results.) This can be the community at large or a specific, defined group of stakeholders such as a neighborhood or micro business owners. In other words, they represent a subset of the community and sit at the board table on behalf of those who are not there. They are representatives.

My point is that, most board members don’t know that their job is representing and governing on behalf of those they represent.

if board members don’t know what their constituents think, how can they represent them? How do stakeholders have a voice in where your organization is headed? How does the board know unless they ask? Their job is to provide that vital link to the owners or stakeholders or their constituency.

Most board members don’t have a clue that that’s what they’re supposed to do. And, that’s what makes your job more difficult.

John Carver (author of Boards that Make a Difference) describes a traditional nonprofit board of directors as a group of competent individuals who get together to do incompetent things. Nonprofit board members tend to think that a nonprofit is a different animal than a for-profit. This perception is to the detriment of the organization. A nonprofit is an artificial entity created for the purpose of some pursuit — a corporation. The law gives corporations a great deal of power. For-profit corporations recognize this.

For some reason, nonprofits seem to think they have little or no power. Nonprofits have as much power as the board believes they have.

A board\'s job is to add value to the organization -- not run it
You can unleash that power by helping your board see a vision of what they can become when they’re not busy swabbing the decks and running the crew. Good board members are hard to find and harder to keep. Let’s not drive them away with mind-numbing operational matters.

Very sincerely,

Sherry

Governance Solutions

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT GOVERNANCE?

We Need “New” Solutions

People seem to believe that the status quo still isn’t working because they are still looking for “new” solutions. I’ve been in the nonprofit world for over 17 years and the same problems keep coming up. The spectrum runs from “my board is micromanaging” to “my board members are disengaged.” CEOs continually tell me about the need for their boards to become future-focused as opposed to functionally operational boards. Why, after all these years, are CEO’s still seeking solutions these problems when a perfectly good one has been there all along? It’s called Policy Governance®.

Muddle is an Acceptable Way of Life

Most boards and CEO’s don’t have a good grasp of governance. Governance is not management although nonprofit boards have a tendency to think of themselves as “uber managers.” Among those who are aware of Policy Governance®, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about what Policy Governance is and is not.

(Download a concise description of Policy Governance — go to http://www.policygovernanceassociation.org/index.html and click on the #3 Quick Link.)

The term governance is used very broadly in the nonprofit world. CEO’s tend to become focused on tactics to manage board behavior – instead of seeking a system or process of governing. That’s why CEO’s are as frustrated with board politics, meddling, micromanagement* rubber stamping, etc. as ever. One CEO summed up this frustration by saying: “We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can set up a process [that is sustainable.] Living in chaos is normal.”

Reflections from a PG Perspective

As Policy Governance professionals it’s clear we have a lot of “undoing” to do. We need to overcome the perception that Policy Governance is a “cookie cutter” approach which causes it to be dismissed out of hand without any dialog on how it can lead to eliminating the chaos and creating an effective board of directors. In part, my fellow consultants and I think this is due to the perception that a model is a die-stamped, rigid structure.It’s unfortunate that the term governance is being used as a generic term to describe everything from organizational development to operations and web content management.

The term governance is used so generically, this is going to be a tough one for Policy Governance. It may be like trying to preserve a brand name like Kleenex and differentiate it from other tissues, but is worth some discussion. Give me your thoughts.

*(for a great article on micromanagement go to:http://www.help4nonprofits.com/NP_Bd_MicroManage_Art.htm