January 15, 2019


Rose Mercier


A new year. Time for resolutions. Energy for self-improvement. What better time for your board to ask itself – are we governing as effectively as we could?

Why is self-evaluation important? As a board, you are entrusted with the stewardship of resources on behalf of someone else – the legal and moral owners of the organization. If your board is not setting direction effectively or assuring that the organization is achieving what it ought to achieve, then the whole organization suffers. Self-evaluation is the process through which your board demonstrates accountability for fulfilling your commitment to govern effectively. Self-evaluation is an integral part of a commitment to govern the whole of the organization, not by chance and random application of ‘best practices’, but in a defensible systematic way.

One of the brilliant outcomes of Policy Governance®, is that your board can have all of the tools it needs to get an honest reflection when it holds up a mirror to its performance. 

Policy Governance delivers a decided advantage when it comes to evaluating your board’s performance as a result of the following:

  • You have a ready-made self-evaluation tool with explicitly stated standards of group and individual behaviour to which your board has agreed to hold itself.
  • These standards for effective performance are set as a result of intentional decisions your board makes – about its governance processes and the ways in which it will delegate authority and hold others accountable for its use.
  • Your board records its decisions about these standards for its performance in its policies.

Consequently, your board does not need to find a self-assessment form that will “fit the occasion” and which may or may not include criteria which the board as a whole agrees are important.  It also lessens the likelihood that your board will think of self-evaluation as “special” or simply a necessary but not necessarily enjoyable task that it needs to do from time to time.

Having agreed upon pre-determined criteria means your board can integrate self-evaluation into its annual planning cycle. For example, your board’s annual plan might include:

  • A meeting evaluation that checks if during the meeting your board has encouraged diversity of  viewpoints, made decisions on sound information and considered impact on owners and risk to the organization; or checks if there were any times when your board was led by a few vocal members  or simply rubber-stamped committee or individual recommendations.
  • A schedule for the year that identifies the policies your board will monitor to see if it is acting consistently with the criteria stated in your policies. Monitoring is not just a yes-no checklist but a disciplined search for examples of consistencies and inconsistencies in behaviour, and summarily, identifying areas for improvement.
  • A year-end evaluation where your board aggregates its meeting evaluations and policy monitoring reports, identifies common themes and determines any areas in which it needs to improve. 
  • A plan that includes actions, policy changes or education to support your board’s continuous governance improvement. 

As importantly, if your board aspires to governance excellence, it needs to commit to more than just “going through the motions” of self-evaluation, it needs to do so in a thoughtful and honest fashion. You want self-evaluation to be a real reflection of how your board is performing – warts and all. After all, the point of making resolutions is to continue to develop in a positive and productive way.

Happy New Year – even if a bit belatedly.



Virtual Workshops for Individuals

Assessing Monitoring Reports

Course Orientation February 28 with live sessions March 13 and March 27

Introduction to Policy Governance®

Course Orientation March 6 with live sessions March 20 and April 10

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