Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

May 6, 2021

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The Governance Coach™

No Matter How The Wind Blows

The arrival of spring is always welcome. For my wife and me, one of the best parts of spring is the return of many migrating birds to our heavily treed yard. Finches of all varieties, woodpeckers, martins, hummingbirds and, of course, the iconic bird of spring, the robin.

The past weekend, the wind was blowing quite hard and one of our 70-foot spruce trees was swaying considerably. And there, at the very top of that spruce tree, hanging on to the exact tip of the tree, sat a robin, singing his evening song. Robins have a distinct song in the evening when they are feeling confident and proud of their property. They are advertising that they would be a good match for any bird seeking a mate. In those windy conditions, I don’t think I would have been singing a contented song, let alone hanging on to the very top of the tree with my toenails.

It struck me that the robin must have had a solid sense of security in both his ability and the foundation of the tree. It didn’t matter how much he was blown back and forth, he knew that the tree would hold him as long as he hung on to it.

Recently, I had a conversation with a board on the cusp of implementing Policy Governance®. One of their major reasons for going this direction was that they have naturally occurring high turnover of board members annually. They spoke about needing a solid foundation so that no matter who was new on the board, what major events or crises were occurring in the world around them, they would know that the system they have created would weather all of those instabilities and insecurities. They want the values of their ownership to be encoded in policy so that the long-term results for their customers (those they serve) would be consistently achieved.

Boards often face challenges when winds of change blow hard. One of those major challenges can be a large (or frequent) turnover of board members. The direction the board was taking in one year can quickly be derailed and taken in a contrary direction based on the personalities and personal agendas of new board members. Boards that have a solid set of expectations encoded in policy are able to weather such large changes by referring back to what has been written – and by monitoring compliance against those same expectations. This can help any team that is buffeted by high winds remain solid in the roots of their values.

This is one of the major reasons for adopting a governance system such as Policy Governance. The system enables boards to coherently express what they (on behalf of their ownership) value. Values such as the results that should be produced for their customers, what unacceptable conditions must be avoided, and how the board itself operates, are written down in a clear way. Boards that then monitor compliance with these policy conditions can be assured that, no matter how the wind is blowing, the organization is on a safe and stable foundation.

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