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Policy Governance Application

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Blog

REALBoard Buzz (aka our blog)

Products

Resources, products and tools for all levels of Policy Governance knowledge.

Policy Governance Coaching

Coaching provides regular contact, feedback following each board meeting, and just-in-time answers to your questions.  

Virtual Workshops

Policy Governance Introduction & Implementation – including 10 modules designed for your board members to complete individually, but also to learn as a group.

Webinars

Behind the Scenes of Policy Governance®, Board Chair Forum

Policy Governance FAQ’s

WHY SHOULD THE BOARD EVALUATE OR MONITOR ITS OWN PERFORMANCE?

As a board, you are entrusted with the stewardship of an organization or company on behalf of someone else – your shareholders or, if you are a not-for-profit, your “moral ownership.”  That places a moral as well as a fiduciary obligation on you to ensure that the resources of your organization are used most effectively to produce appropriate results.  Traditional activities such as “approving” financial statements do not fulfill this stewardship.  Rather, the board needs to be able to show accountability for the organization as a whole.  Is the organization or company achieving what it ought to achieve?  The board sets the direction for the organization.  If the board is not doing its job effectively, the whole organization suffers. The board is responsible for its own development, job design, self-discipline and performance.  These are not areas that can be delegated to the CEO.  The board itself is accountable for the quality of governance. Self-evaluation is a way to assure yourselves and your owners that you take accountability seriously. John Carver suggests that evaluation of board conduct is important for three reasons:

  1. because the board is a group of individuals, there is a need for clarity about group conduct;
  2. because the board is group of peers, it “must learn to govern itself before presuming to govern others”; and
  3. because other people depend on the board’s style of operating, there is a need for predictability and stability.

It is a well-known adage that “what does not get measured does not happen.”  Board self-evaluation is crucial to the ongoing improvement of your capacity to govern.  If you do not measure yourself against the bar set by your policies, you will not improve. Additional details about and tools for board self-evaluation are available in the Policy Governance Toolkit: Board Self-Evaluation.  You can also learn more about board self-evaluation in our interactive REALBoard Self-Directed Learning Modules.   Module 9 covers Board Evaluation and improvement. Templates for self-evaluation consistent with Policy Governance® principles are available from The Governance Coach™.

What should an effective board meeting agenda look like?

In Policy Governance® in order for the board to do its own job effectively, but not interfere in operational matters it has delegated to the CEO, it is important to be able to differentiate among different types of information the board receives. Therefore, a simple organizing strategy for agendas in Policy Governance is to clearly separate the three types of information: (1) information for decision-making; (2) monitoring information, and (3) nice-to-know or incidental information about internal operations. It is helpful to board effectiveness to place the decision items near the front of the agenda. Information for decisions may be of two types:

  1. Information necessary for a decision that is being made in the current meeting. This should be clearly identified as a background paper, briefing note, or by some designation that makes it clear the board must read it in preparation for the meeting.
  2. Background information not directly related to a decision at the current meeting, but that IS important to the board’s understanding and will form part of the knowledge base the board needs to develop sound policies. This includes things such as environmental scanning information, trends about the industry, articles related to Ends issues, and background information about potential risks. This information may be included as part of the “decision items” on the agenda – with a note that it is for future decisions. Or, if you prefer, add a separate category of “information necessary for future decisions.” In either case, the board members should be aware that this is information that they DO need to read in order to discharge their governance responsibilities.

Incidental information is best placed at the very end of the agenda, or even omitted entirely, and simply sent to the board members under separate cover. One reason for keeping incidental information items separate is so the board will not be tempted into making decisions about them, since these items have already been delegated to the CEO! This category of information should take up minimal board meeting time. And if board members are short of time, they should know that not reading this information in detail will not negatively impact their ability to govern, because this is not governance information. In order to provide future-oriented leadership to the organization, a board should strive to have the lion’s share of its meeting time related to discussion and activity that will inform its Ends work. This includes planning and implementing ownership linkage, and enriching the board’s understanding of the external environment in which the organization operates, and the future potential for benefits that it could produce.

Additional details about board meeting agendas are available in the Policy Governance Toolkit Future Focused Agendas. You can also learn more about monitoring in our interactive REALBoard Self-Directed Learning™.  Module 8 addresses board processes, including agendas. Additional references available on this subject are included in PGIQ™Introduction to Policy Governance® workshop and Virtual Introduction to Policy Governance.  Our Advanced Seminar provides more in-depth coverage of how to make your board agendas more future-focused.

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Policy Governance® Virtual Workshops

Stay tuned for Fall 2024 dates!

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