Initial Conditions for Pursuit of Governance Model
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  1. Overview
    1. The shift to a policy governance model should flow from a deeply felt and broadly supported belief that the focus of the Board should be on visioning and strategy rather than operations and tactics.
    2. Boards that make the shift to a policy governance model will probably experience 10-30% turnover, and sometimes the most established members will be the ones who need to move on or adopt a new role in the organization.
    3. The first step is walking the Board through a sampling of their potential future as a governance board, and give people a chance to taste what it would be like, how it would be different. Any resistance or reluctance needs to be aired and considered carefully.
  2. Key questions
    1. Is the operational complexity of the organization such that it is becoming harder for the Board to make valuable contributions to tactical issues?
    2. Are the professional skills of the staff substantial?
    3. Is the operational leadership of the organization seasoned and respected?
      1. If the Executive Director is new to their position a policy governance Board may not be available enough for consultation and guidance. For example, an ED may be fluent in the technology or the professional practice at the core of the organization's mission, but still lack experience in leadership.
      2. The potential developmental needs of the ED need to be carefully considered. There are ways a Board can support a novice other than making every Board meeting into a coaching session or problem solving meeting.
    4. Are there are significant strategic issues facing the organization over the next 2-6 years?
    5. If the organization were wildly successful, would you be facing a new set of choices?
      It is an annoying irony of corporate activity that the reward for success is crisis. Growth and acceptance create not comfort and ease, but new and more complex challenges.
      1. What level of growth could be sustained without damaging the essential vision and mission of the organization?
      2. As a more powerful player, are there new alliances or competitions to address?
      3. Would growth best be accommodated through expansion? franchising? cloning? satellite operations?
      4. Could the organization be a template for similar endeavors eslewhere? Should the organization's model be published? Should it be offered through consultation? Is there a responsibility to teach?
    6. Are Board members willing -- if not eager -- to give up their authority in operational matters? Are they willing to substitute structured oversight?
      1. Sometimes Board members have a major portion of their self-esteem vested in their expert contribution to the organization. For example, someone may be deeply wedded to monitoring finances intimately, acting as the staff accounting department. Or perhaps a Board member has retired and become the de facto HR manager.
      2. More structured oversight will separate the Board from the rich and moving stories that are the heart of the organization. How will the Board keep a sense of intimacy without reverting to operational meddling?
      3. If there has been a history of deceit or mismanagement, Board members may be reluctant to pull back from thorough review of all operational decisions.
    7. Is the Board willing to police its own membership to avoid the most likely abuses of a governance model?
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