Does Your Board Expect Efforts . . . Or Results
- Posted by Richard Stringham
- On May 1, 2018
- Accountability, Ends, Policy Development
Often when I look at mission statements and strategic plans and other direction setting documents for organizations, I will find many effort words. Some boards are in the business of “seeking” a better community. Some want to “promote” their cause. Still others “endeavor” to make a difference. And then, there is my favourite, the Board that wants the organization to “foster” a better world.
Some would argue that you cannot measure these efforts. I disagree, but more importantly, I think measuring effort completely misses the point. If all our efforts do not actually create a desired result, have the resources expended in those efforts been worthwhile? If our education system was working twice as hard expending effort to foster learning in children and if there was no difference in their levels of learning, have the resources been worthwhile? If our public health system used twice the resources to promote better hygiene in the general population without a reduction in contagious diseases, have the resources been wisely spent?
In contrast, a fundamental concept in Ends policies is that the Board states its expectations of the results the CEO is to achieve for intended recipients and the worth of those results.
When I facilitate the development of Ends policies with boards, I occasionally encounter some discomfort among some of the directors. It goes something like this:” We want the CEO to focus in this area but it wouldn’t be appropriate to hold her accountable to achieve results for something she does not have control over! She can’t make people think, feel, or act a certain way.”
To be clear, it is healthy for the Board to consider whether each of its expectations is achievable or, to be more correct, whether a reasonable interpretation of each expectation is achievable. But this does not require that the CEO have control over the behaviour of the recipients.
Consider the billions of dollars that are spent on advertising with the expectation that there will be a change in some of the audience’s buying behaviours. However, these ads do not control those audience members. Nonetheless, if the ads did not have an effect and influence the audience’s buying decisions, businesses would be better off to put their money elsewhere.
In short, expecting results does not require that the organization control the audience. But it does require that an impact is made because the organization has been able to affect the audience’s behaviour.
So, if you are a board member, don’t be shy about expecting results, even for those areas beyond the organization’s control!