When I was driving home from church on a recent Sunday, I drove past a field of wildflowers. The colors and variety were stunningly beautiful, especially for this late in summer. As I contemplated the beauty, another thought crept into my mind: I bet there are a bunch of ticks in there! That struck me as odd at first, but then I realized the truth behind the two thoughts: The field had both wildflowers to enjoy and ticks to be avoided!
What does your board focus on when it meets? Does it see wildflowers or ticks? Does it see the progress (wildflowers) being made toward achieving the intended results for the intended recipients the organization serves, what we call Ends in Policy Governance®? Or does it focus on the lack of progress (ticks) made toward achieving the Ends, without celebrating what has been achieved to date? Does your board celebrate the extent to which the organization is complying with the operational boundaries related to ethics and prudence it has established in policy for the Executive Director/CEO…wildflowers? Or does your board pre-dominantly focus on those areas of non-compliance with those limitations…ticks?
Wildflowers or ticks? Does your board accurately assess the organization’s performance in a fair and accountable manner? Does it see the reality of how the organization is actually performing…both the performance areas to be celebrated and the areas of performance that are out of compliance with board policy?
If a board is functioning effectively, then it can indeed celebrate progress being made toward achieving its Ends and the areas where the organization is compliant with board-established prudence and ethics policy limitations! It also will track and follow up on incidences of Executive Director/CEO non-compliance with the ethics and prudence limitations the board has established for the well-being of the organization and seek additional progress toward achieving the Ends.
High functioning boards accomplish this task of accurately and fairly assessing organizational performance through a structured monitoring process based on pre-established policy criteria. Monitoring is not focused on finding fault. Structured monitoring, properly done, allows boards to ensure the intended results for the intended recipients are achieved by the organization while ensuring compliance with the ethics and prudence concerns that the board, as an informed voice of the organization’s owners, has established in policy.
Monitoring allows a board both to celebrate the good results being achieved within the board-established limitations and to know when progress is lacking or when the organization is not compliant with the ethics and prudence policy limitations governing how the Ends are achieved. In short, structured monitoring allows a board to effectively discharge its fiduciary duties. It allows a board to celebrate the successes and to ensure that non-compliant performance is corrected!
Wildflowers or ticks? Does your board have the tools to see accurately and fairly the reality of the situation or is it walking aimlessly through the field, blind to both the beauty and the lurking danger and threats to organizational well-being?