Governance concepts worth emulating.


Borrowed from the nonprofit sphere, these practices can heighten for-profit board performance as well.

IF YOU ARE a director of a trade or professional association, urge that your organization's governance emulates those enterprises that continue to meet their objectives year after year. Directors of such organizations would urge you to embrace these concepts (which apply also to governing a for-profit company):

  1. Focus your energies on strategic issues and outcomes (as extensions of your vision and mission). Two director roles are (1) to craft a vision and rational, achievable, strategies and goals, the "what" your organization is intended to be and do, and (2) provide the leadership and assets to fulfill those intentions. Without such agreement and the necessary critical support, the value-added programs on which you may devote resources could, on examination, be dismissed as "running in place" activities taking you nowhere. Once confident your board policies and directives are being adhered to and implemented, concentrate on reaching out, charting new ground. Your clear, written annual plans and budgets, the "how" goals are to be achieved, leave the means to achievement to the CEO.

  2. Expect timely, quality information; consider issues only when ready -- not too soon, not too late. Urge your board to seek equilibrium, that decisionmaking protocol which restrains you and your directors from deciding until an issue is ready for consideration. Nothing of consequence should come before you for action unless it has been determined to be in harmony with your strategic and operating plans, needs, affordability, timeliness and other important criteria.

    If your fellow directors do bless an initiative that has not been clearly considered and perfected, you and they are nonetheless potentially liable for the consequences. Likewise, if you are presented with a fait accompli, you will have thereby been denied your authority to decide; yet, you and your colleagues could be liable, as in the other extreme. The CEO should be your gatekeeper, your scheduler on issues to come before you. Resist discussing anything that has not been fully prepared.

  3. Determine wants, needs, expectations; resist trying to be "all things." In this day of higher demands, focus on value and allocation of limited resources; concentrate on fulfilling member and customer needs. Success here means ROI.

  4. Honor the bright line between policy development and implementation. Resist...

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