June 19, 2018

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Eric Phinney

It Works in Small Organizations, Too

Several years ago I was invited to join the board of a small not-for-profit organization.  It had been sliding downhill as a going concern for a number of years and the board had just taken the drastic action of dismissing the CEO with no notice amidst allegations of fraud.  The CEO responded with a wrongful dismissal suit. The board was in complete darkness as it really had no idea of what was going on.  Needless to say it was a governance nightmare.  I was invited to help.  So I joined the board with the understanding that my “help” would be to teach them the basics of good governance and get the board to begin functioning as a proper governance board.  Many times boards are found wanting because they are acting as executive directors, but it this case the board was not even doing that.

Several new individuals were persuaded to join the board and with each one that joined I gave an overview of Policy Governance® principles.  I did a short half hour of governance education at each monthly board meeting.  The board continued to operate in “emergency” mode for over a year, where it was taking most of the executive decisions as it managed a bad situation.   Eventually it hired a new CEO and began to turn the corner. It now has a coherent set of policies, and a CEO and Chair that understand the ten principles of Policy Governance.  It has begun to blossom with creativity and efficiencies and public support that is without precedent.

I had often wondered if the principles of Policy Governance could apply to a very small operation that did not have the capacity for a robust monitoring system and complex set of policies.   I was so pleased to read in the CEO’s report to the AGM language and passion that actually addressed the moral ownership of the organization.

..The board itself has undergone changes in its governance to better serve the community, and you as moral owners of this [Organization]…

…We have come so far in the past year and we are extremely excited about where we are going. Thank you all for your continued and ongoing support. Remember, This is Our [Organization], we are in this together and we are making a difference.         (Executive Director)

As a volunteer board member I was able to make a real contribution that has brought new life to an organization that might otherwise have failed.  We were able to get roles clarified and begin a transformation toward governance excellence and operational success.

 

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