Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

March 4, 2020


Eric Phinney

Writing Ends is more like distilling spirits than brewing beer!

Last winter my wife and I cruised the coast of Florida in our sailboat. We happened upon the city of St. Augustine and were thrilled by the number of attractions.  We ended up staying an extra day as we had seen an advert for free winery, distillery and brewery tours. There had to be a day’s activity in that.  We spent a wonderful day first seeing some sites on the tourist trolley and finally being dropped off at the distillery.  We planned to walk to the winery and then the brewery.  I had never been to a distillery before and was most impressed by how refined and clear the final product was.  A great quantity of high-quality ingredients went into the beginning of the process, but the volume of the product at the end was very small.  I found this in stark contrast to the process for beer or wine where the volume of what goes in is very close to the volume of what comes out.  

When we make decisions around the depth of policies, we all know we should stop when we are comfortable with “any reasonable interpretation.” This, of course, applies to all policies.  Human nature being what it is, my experience has been that many boards don’t know how to STOP and continue to write more detail rather than identify the essence of their values in the broader policy.  It could be that a refinement in an upper level policy will give a better result that is more focused and refined. I would therefore suggest that policy writing is more like distilling than brewing! 

The advantage of this kind of thinking will be that the upper level policies will be more focused and possibly not require lower levels.   A benefit of having fewer lower-level policies is that  monitoring reports should also be far more focused and shorter! 

This should be to everyone’s advantage, board members, executive directors and staff. 

Happy distilling!!!



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