Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

August 19, 2021


Paul Zilz

Is Policy Governance® a “Good Fit” for Your Board?

So you are looking at your board’s governance approach and wondering if Policy Governance® is right for your organization? I remember when I was newly elected as a leader of a board, and we were looking to adopt the “Carver model.”  I had no idea what that meant and had not read any of John Carver’s books. But I knew some other organizations that were similar to ours had adopted the “Carver model,” or so they said. I was in for some real surprises as we started down the road of changing our governance approach! Having gone down a meandering route that at times was ineffective and was often frustratingly inefficient, I recommend you incorporate the following three key components into your evaluation process:

Shared Learning: First, it is critical that your board engage in shared learning about the Policy Governance system and the new behaviors required by this governance system.

Policy Governance is a governance system created by John Carver that incorporates ten integrated principles. While certain governance approaches may incorporate several of these principles, if the approach does not incorporate all ten principles, then the approach simply is not Policy Governance and cannot be called the “Carver model.” It is important the board learn what these ten principles are and how they are inter-related. By doing this, the board will gain insight into the potential power and effectiveness of Policy Governance in creating owner-accountable, future-focused, results-oriented boards. Such learning also will enable your board to understand why other approaches lack the potential effectiveness of the Policy Governance system…even if they call themselves the “Carver model”!

It is essential for shared commitment and “buy-in” that a strong nucleus of board members engage in the learning process together. Ideally, all board members should be expected to participate in the discovery process. This is the start of a cultural change within the organization that promises to identify and achieve the right results for the right targeted recipients at a specified worth.

Transparent Dialogue: Secondly, transparent dialogue is essential for creating and building trust among board members and between the board and the Executive. Only when board members and the Executive openly identify and share their disappointments, their fears, and their hopes about the current and possible future governance approach can real progress take place in moving the organization forward with a foundation of trust. This is difficult work but essential for successful transformation.

Appropriate Policy Governance Consultant: When I was leading that board to adopt and implement what we thought was the “Carver model,” I made the biggest mistake I could have made: I failed to recognize the need to engage a consultant who had in depth understanding of the Policy Governance system. We spent an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to learn about and implement a system we, in hindsight, clearly failed to understand or appreciate fully. This caused a great deal of re-work and resulted in some inappropriate and ineffective board behaviors being adopted that were very difficult to eradicate and correct later.

How can an experienced consultant with a depth of knowledge and understanding of Policy Governance help you?

  • Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the evaluation and potential implementation process: The consultant will clearly and correctly explain the Policy Governance principles and facilitate focused and transparent dialogue leading to expeditious, yet informed, board decisions.
  • Expedite the learning and use of new board processes: A good consultant will have the practical resources and experience to help a board learn how to plan its new agendas, develop and refine its intended organizational results, monitor and evaluate the Executive, and handle the requirements imposed upon it by legislation or outside financial or regulatory organizations.

Make better choices than what I did in my first effort to help a board implement Policy Governance! Refer to our Services & Solutions to see how The Governance Coach™ can help your board learn about Policy Governance and evaluate whether or not to implement this owner-accountable, future-focused, results-oriented governance system.



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