Even the largest organizations have limited resources for the difference that they want to make in the world. The board needs to make what are often difficult choices among all the Ends that an organization could achieve.
For example, school boards may have to prioritize the importance among meeting the needs of the regular curriculum, academically gifted children, special needs children, or those with athletic, musical, or fine arts inclinations. The board should make these difficult decisions unless they are directed by a higher authority (e.g., legislation). If not the board, then by default, it is management’s decision and management does not represent the ownership!
Since the board is standing in on behalf of the ownership, it might be helpful to understand the owners’ priorities. Here are 3 ways to engage your ownership regarding Ends priorities.
1. Survey a representative proportion of owners by asking them to select and rank their top three priorities. Invite them to comment as to why they made their choices.
Remember that achieving an Ends policy, even the least important one, still requires some resources. So consider asking the owners for their three least important Ends with the consideration of potentially dropping some of those items (i.e., which Ends statements get voted off the island)!
2. Caroline Oliver, consultant and CEO of the International Policy Governance Association shares the story of a board that met with its owners in an Annual General Meeting and used a debate to explore the reasons why the owners at the AGM would prioritize each of the Ends. One board member portrayed the virtues of one Ends policy, while another promoted a different Ends policy, and so on. The playful and yet informative format gave the owners in attendance a better understanding of the Ends and reasons that they might rank some higher than others prior to casting their votes. Brilliant!
But what if you can’t get to your owners in a physical meeting space? Get creative. Consider YouTube as a format to present the debate with a link to the debate in the email directing owners to the online survey. Either way, you have an opportunity to educate the owners prior to receiving their input.
3. As noted earlier, the reason for prioritizing among Ends is that the organization has limited resources. Often this notion escapes many of the owners, at least until they have to allocate limited resources themselves. With that in mind, ask owners to allocate a finite amount of financial resources among Ends choices. For example, you can ask them to allocate $100 total among the Ends or pick a dollar amount with greater significance (e.g., the annual membership fee for an association).
Of course, you can combine some of the above (e.g., a YouTube debate followed by the request to allocate $100 among different Ends statements).
Have you engaged your ownership in feedback regarding Ends priorities? We’d love to hear about your experience.