November 8, 2016

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Ted Hull

Fishtailing is for Losers

It was just prior to the energy crisis of the 1970’s when cars were cars. I was waiting at the bus stop which was located about 100 yards past the intersection where three cars waited for the light to turn green. One was a Dodge Six Pack, the second was a Shelby Mustang and the third a Corvette Stingray. I could tell by the revving engines that I was shortly to be entertained.

The light turned green and on cue the Dodge and the Mustang screamed across the intersection; smoking tires testifying to the power under the hoods. The Corvette didn’t move until the other two cars had pretty much cleared the intersection, at which time it launched into the race. It did so without much of the tire smoke or engine noise that characterized the first two cars. But it took only about 100 yards for the Corvette to chase down and pass the competition. What was the difference? Traction.

It doesn’t matter how much horsepower any race car has; if it can’t transfer the power from the tires to the track it won’t win.

I get to spend time with a variety of charitable organizations. In some cases the programs are powerful, the infrastructure is spectacular and there is no shortage of activity. Even watching them in action is inspiring. But here’s the burning question –  are they winning the race they’ve entered? Are they making the difference they are designed to make,  or is something lost between the engine of administration and the track where the real difference counts?

Is your organization generating lots of speed or has it become enamoured with the noise of activity? Is success being measured by the horsepower it produces instead of the speed at which it is travelling? Sadly, too many charities have convinced themselves and their supporters that administrative horsepower under the hood or in the various program departments equates to real success.

The Policy Governance® system is based on the significance of measuring success to see if your organization is winning. Torque, horsepower and cubic inch displacement may be interesting details, but they aren’t used to measure winning on the track. Compelling mission statements, strategic plans and sophisticated programs can stimulate involvement –and even donations, but they don’t guarantee that any lives have been changed. And even if some people are better off, are the results commensurate with the effort being put in? Using our traction analogy, are we going fast enough to justify the horsepower we are producing?

A Policy Governance board is concerned about the checkered flag. You can’t win if you don’t know where the finish line is. Policy Governance will challenge your board to identify what organizational success would look like. Winning begins with a clear finish line. The finish line is identified by which people will be better off because your charity exists and what the desired results are. Having identified that, you want to determine how much it is worth to see those results produced.

Of course winning isn’t the only thing. Any board should care that their driver doesn’t cheat. Rules shouldn’t be broken and fellow competitors shouldn’t be wrecked. Racing fast but fair should be the motif of a board that wants to govern with excellence.

Is your organization getting the traction it needs to make the difference it wants to make? If your answer is no or you don’t know, we would love to assist you in finding the answer.  We can help you change your no to yes!

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