Board members strive to be strategic. That’s where boards make the biggest difference in their performance and the performance of the organization. But the biggest impediment to helping an organization with strategy comes from not being able to take on the weighty topics, which most likely means that the stage hasn’t been set for more strategic work.
No board goes from zero to being highly strategic. You must cut a path to strategic impact, and you need to move before you can run. That’s what the Governance Curve™ is all about. You first must build a foundation for good governance. Only then can you work with intention, which paves the way to more strategic performance and true impact.
Laying the Foundation
The Foundational Level of the Governance Curve is about table stakes. Your board’s most important task is to provide oversight. Keeping a watchful eye on what’s going on and ensuring that policies are set and adhered to is essential. Success at this level requires a commitment of accountability. It doesn’t matter who is on point from the management team, what decisions were made, or the reasoning behind them. The board must be the ultimate accountable party, accepting responsibility for actions as well as outcomes.
When establishing your foundation, there are four questions you should answer.
Question 1: What are the board’s responsibilities?
Most board members understand why they’re at the table. But different organizations have different expectations of the board. Are you expected to be hands-on, “nose-in, hands-off,” or everything off? What is your relationship with the CEO, their perception of the board, and your division of responsibilities? Be crystal clear about the board’s role and what’s expected.
Question 2: Do we have the right board?
Once you establish responsibilities, you need to ask whether you have the right people around the table to fulfill those responsibilities. What is your optimal board composition? Be deliberate in your assessment:
- Who sits around the table?
- What skills, experiences, and perspectives does each person bring?
- How do their backgrounds contribute to the skills of the organization?
If the mix needs some adjustment, understand how you will achieve that with the board you have or what you will need when it’s time to refresh. This is also a good time to think about board tenure and transitions.
Question 3: Do we have the right information?
To gain and provide insight, you need to empower yourselves with information.
- What data should be available to the board? If it’s not there, who can get you what you need?
- What additional insights will help members do a better job for the organization?
- What other resources will make you better board members?
Question 4: Do we have a plan?
One of the foundational elements of board governance is the right plan.
You need to know:
- How you will fulfill the annual requirements for the board
- What your governance priorities are for the year
- When these high-priority governance activities should take place throughout the year
- Who will help you project manage and accomplish everything on the list
Thoughtful governance planning will help you prioritize short-, medium-, and long-term demands, create a governance calendar that fits with your board and organization, and establish a project plan for checking off the milestones. Once you establish a foundational plan, you can build on it with intention and begin your journey up the Curve.
Beyond the Foundation: Learn more about the Governance Curve
What happens once you’ve established your foundation? Download our ebook,
The Governance Curve: A New Way to Think About Board Success to see how you can move beyond the basics to become a strategic, high-performing board.
[Photo by Patrick Tomasso at Unsplash]