- Posted by Rose Mercier
- On June 3, 2020
- Board Structure
You’re adopting Policy Governance – why would you consider downsizing? What are the possible benefits of a “smaller board”?
One possible benefit is that with fewer members, you are more likely to hear everyone’s voice when talking about the values that should be the basis of your policies. As a result, your board can benefit from members’ range of expertise. And with fewer voices, your board might have more time to explore issues in fuller detail. As a consequence, your policies will be well thought out.
Another possible benefit is that your board’s members will come to know each other better and develop productive working relationships. Members are comfortable speaking directly to one another, so there is less chance of a dominant member swaying the group. Groupthink is less likely to be a problem because the board values making the ‘right’ decision over false group harmony. As a result, it is easier to reach consensus, even when faced with tough decisions.
A third benefit is not having to deal with situations that often arise in larger boards. You have probably seen the negative impact on a group of a ‘clique’. I know I have, and it wasn’t just back in high school when the popular kids made everyone else’s life less comfortable. Once your board numbers move into double digits it is more likely ‘sub-groups’ or cliques will develop, or that your board will experience the depressing effects of internal politics. It is hard enough when there is a productive working relationship for your board to speak with one voice, never mind having to deal with sub-groups having fixed positions.
Finally, on a practical level, it can be easier to schedule meetings with fewer people. Meetings may run more efficiently because there are fewer things to manage, coordinate and facilitate.
You need to remember that the benefits of a smaller board do not come about automatically. You will need to pay attention to the development of relationships and board dynamics. Policy Governance will enable you to intentionally ensure your values about these important elements of board effectiveness are recorded in your policies.
So…the benefits available to your board through implementation of Policy Governance can be multiplied by the benefits of an optimally sized board for your organization. It is not just a matter of picking a number out of the air. You will need to consider board size that fits the context in which your organization exists as well as the degree and types of diversity valued by your owners.
However, if by regulation or some other reason, your board is still “large,” you can take heart.
One benefit of Policy Governance is that can be tailored to fit a board of any size. In its policies, your board can define its job results, practices, delegation style and discipline. These policies give a larger board tools to mitigate some of the problems that larger boards can experience.
No matter the size of your board today – small, medium, or large – or whether you are already using Policy Governance or just starting to explore ways to become more effective, our consultants have a wealth of experience. Get in touch.