A non-profit behavioral health organization I work with has an awareness campaign entitled “Everything is Not Fine.” Their clientele are children, youth and families. We all know this story. A loved one walks in the front door and you ask, “How was school? How was your day?” The typical answer: “Fine.” In spite of what he or she is going to say, EVERYTHING may NOT be fine. Troubled kids and families don’t look a certain way and they probably won’t tell you they are struggling. As a parent, spouse or caregiver, you begin to notice unsafe behaviors: aggression, violence, drugs, alcohol, hurting themselves, breaking the law, or talk of suicide. Substance use and suicide is at its highest recorded rate. You know there is a system in place, a hotline to call and a place to find help, hope. You call, there is help, hope and restoration begins.
What does this have to do with governance? How does the Board of Directors know everything is “not fine” when the CEO says, “Everything is fine”? Is your system in place? Do you have a place to call to find help?
First of all, what is the system? The Policy Governance® system is an integrated board leadership paradigm. When properly implemented in your organization, it encompasses 10 principles. These principles hold the organization (thus, the CEO or delegate) accountable. The principles include the Board of Directors’ 3 job responsibilities:
- Accountability to Ownership: The Board is the voice of the owners, accountable to the owners that the organization is successful and speaks with one voice in expressed instructions to the CEO or delegate.
- Written Policies: including Ends (effects to be produced), Board Means (writing of the board’s own job description and processes) and Executive Limitations on means used in the operational organization. Policies start at the broadest level then descend to further levels of detail. Policy is delegated to the CEO or delegate.
- Monitoring of Organizational Performance: The CEO or delegate has the right to use any reasonable interpretation of policies. The Board must then monitor the CEO to discover if the organization achieved a reasonable interpretation of Board policies.
This is the way the Policy Governance system ensures that the Board is fully informed; thus, the statement “everything is fine” is monitored closely. If the CEO says, “Everything is fine,” he or she is required to provide verifiable evidence to back up that statement.
Second, where do you call for help? A Policy Governance coach can help you get on track and stay on track. Understanding your role as a Board member in Policy Governance helps your organization be truly “fine.”