I remember several road trips when my children were young. About every ten minutes, one of them would ask, “Are we there yet?” Children ask this question because they have not developed a sense of time or distance, or they don’t have a clear picture of what the final destination is – what “there” will look like?
Unfortunately, many governing boards seem to have the same problem. It is usually because they have not taken the time to clearly define “there.” Commonly, by default, boards instead spend time trying to assess organizational performance by examining activities. But being busy doesn’t necessarily mean anything – or the right things – have been accomplished. The organization may be driving around in circles, but never arrives at the desired destination. If a board does not know what organizational outcomes it is expecting, it will be difficult to know when the organization has “arrived” at achievement of the desired result.
This is where applying the Policy Governance® principles related to Ends policies, “any reasonable interpretation,” and monitoring can be very helpful.
First, the board takes the time to clearly define expected outcomes for the organization: what benefits are to be produced, who are they for, and what is it worth to produce them? In Policy Governance shorthand, these are called “Ends”. The board then delegates achievement of these Ends to the CEO, allowing the CEO to select the most appropriate means to get there, within some parameters pre-established by the board.
The CEO in turn takes those Ends and “interprets” them into specific, measurable indicators that, when achieved, would show acceptable progress on the journey. These “milestones” are not activities, but organizational outcomes.
At any point, the board can ask, “Are we there yet?” and receive a response, in the form of a monitoring report, that says, for example, “We are at the 500 mile marker on a 1000 mile journey.” Now the board knows exactly where the organization is in relation to the desired outcomes.