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July 3, 2018


Ted Hull

Considerations before Implementing Policy Governance®

You may have landed on this blog because you are one of the quiet –or not so quiet –advocates for Policy Governance®to be introduced to your board. Perhaps your board would like to implement the model, but doesn’t know where to start. It’s possible it has all the pieces in place, but now wonders where to go. If any of these apply, let me offer some suggestions.

  1. Don’t do it yourself –It takes a whole village

As enthusiastic as you might be about Policy Governance and as convinced as you are that it’s the only way to go, at this point you may well be in the minority. If so, pushing this governance model could be viewed as your thing. Some of your colleagues may even become resistant just because they see you as obsessed with the idea and thus create a you-them perspective. Allow yourself to just be one of the board members and suggest that an outside trained and experienced consultant make a presentationso you can all evaluate the model.

  1. Try before you buy –no buyer’s regret

The time, energy and cost in Policy Governance training and implementation is a significant investment. Before you make that investment, have someone trained in Policy Governance give you an overview of the Policy Governance model including the implications for your organization. This typically takes one day. If this is as far as you go, all you will be out is the time and cost of one day and you will know why you don’t want to implement Policy Governance. You will also gain a perspective about the current governance model you are using, and regardless, you will have learned some things that can improve your governance.

  1. Don’t be surprised – so let me tell you now

It sure would have helped if I’d known…..

John Carver has said that Policy Governance is simplebut it is not easy. I have found the greatest advantage that boards experience is role clarity. They know exactly what the role of the board is as well as that of the CEO. No more wondering if something needs approval or if this should go to the board or who this belongs to. However, the greatest challenge your board will face in the implementation and utilization of Policy Governance is discipline.  Kindadoing Policy Governance is ultimately notto do it.

  1. Don’t fill your kids’ teeth

Reading the books about Policy Governance will help you understand the model. However, it is not sufficient to equip you to effectively implement it for the unique features of your own organization.  There is a reason why the average parent doesn’t fill their kids’ teeth, even if they’ve seen it done on YouTube. Even dentists don’t fill their own teeth. Have someone from the outside who is qualified and experienced to facilitate the process of implementing the model.

Many organizations claim to use a hybrid version of Policy Governance. What they are really saying is that they have taken some of the principles of the model and set others aside, either because they don’t understand those principles, or the implementation of them would interfere with what they want to do as a board. Have someone show how this model of governance is a system of internally consistent principles, rather than a list of best practices.

  1. Implement it as quickly as possible

If a country decides it is going to change the laws so that vehicles drive on the left hand side of the road, it is best that everyone starts at the same time. Phasing it in over a period of months or years starting with bicycles and ending with semi-trailers won’t work. In somewhat the same way, once your organization has committed to Policy Governance, it should be implemented as soon as possible rather than be phased in.

  1. Make sure you have a coach

There is a reason why major league baseball teams have a batting coach and professional golfers work with an instructor to regularly correct their swing. Without one, the player will never improve. By the time the player is batting .050 or the golfer is 15 over par, they have lost games, tournaments and money that they can never recover. While practice makes perfect, practicing wrong only makes you perfectly wrong. I am saddened when I see an organization that has set aside a significant amount of time and invested a substantial amount of money to learn about Policy Governance and develop policies and then carry on without an outside coach. Those who don’t have a coach often end up compromising their efforts with the model or abandoning Policy Governance all together, when all they needed was a coach to help them adjust their swing.

In summary, your board must get started on the right foot the first time. If not, it is quite likely that the model will be abandoned with the echo of we tried it and it didn’t work. Then you will be facing the same frustrations you had when you were looking for a new governance model in the first place.  The only regret you want to hear is we should have done this sooner.




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