We’ve all been asked, “What’s the plan?” At home, at work, with friends and family everyone asks about the plan. Who is making the plan and who is in charge of the plan? Plans can be short or long depending upon their purpose. If I plan to make dinner tonight, I need a place to cook, the proper equipment, a recipe to follow, ingredients from the grocery store and money to pay for the groceries.
At the workplace the question is the same: what’s the plan for the organization and who’s in charge of the plan? What role does the board have in planning? What about the CEO? Well, both the Board and the CEO must have a plan for their respective jobs. A plan includes the action steps needed, resources to be used and timing involved to achieve a goal. Just like following a good recipe, a systematic approach to manage organizational planning greatly enhances the success of achieving the desired goal.
Wikipedia defines a management system: “A management system is the framework of policies, processes and procedures used by an organization to ensure that it can fulfill all the tasks required to achieve its objectives. These objectives will be a mix covering many aspects of the organization’s operations (including financial success, safe operation, product quality, client relationships, legislative and regulatory conformance, worker management, etc.).”
To function well, organizations need both a board management system and an operational management system.
The most comprehensive board management system is Policy Governance®, a comprehensive framework of principles to ensure effective governance. The Board leads through value-based policies. Values about what the organization is to produce result in “Ends” policies; values placing limits around how management does things are Executive Limitations policies; values about the process of governing, Governance Process policies; and values about passing of authority and assessing its use, Board – Management Delegation policies. The first two categories are the board’s instructions to the CEO; the last two are the board’s directions to itself.
Once the board has set the overall organizational direction in its Ends policies, the CEO must have an operational management system to achieve those Ends, and stay within the boundaries of the limitations. One example of an operational management system is a Balanced Scorecard. This is a framework that connects an organization’s purpose to strategy and uses a set of objectives and measures to align operational actions to the big picture. As a system, a Balanced Scorecard approach encompasses the whole operational organization, including areas of employee learning and growth, internal process improvement, customer-client relations, and financial sustainability. The approach includes a variety of measurements.
Thus, everyone in the organization is clear about the operational plan to achieve the organization’s purpose. Based on the results of the various measurements, the CEO can make changes as needed to ensure the plan is being followed and remains consistent with achievement of the board-stated Ends and compliance with Executive Limitations. Some of those measurements are purely for management. Others may be used by the CEO to provide monitoring information relevant to board policies so the board knows if operations are on track.
The nature of the board’s governance plan is completely different from the CEO’s plan. Since the board is accountable not only for the operational organization, but also for its own function, a governance plan is a way of ensuring continuous focus on governance excellence. A governance plan, as part of the board’s system, should guide the board’s own performance of its governing job, with an eye to continuous improvement. That job includes (a) maintaining a linkage with those on whose behalf the board governs, (b) developing policies that provide direction about organizational results and protection from unacceptable situations or conditions, and clarity about how the board will do its job, and (c) monitoring to ensure those policies are followed. What does the board need to know and learn in order to do those jobs most effectively? The answers to questions of this nature should find their way into a governance plan.
Systems such as Policy Governance for boards and Balanced Scorecards for management create a logical flow from purpose to strategy to action giving a competitive advantage in fulfilling an organization’s mission. Strategic thinking and foresight at the board level result in policies that direct and protect the organization. A systematic approach at the management level leads to strategy execution in operations.
Are your plans at the board and operational levels grounded in a systematic approach?