How to Pick a Policy Governance Consultant
Once a board has decided to investigate or adopt Policy Governance, it then has to decide how it is going to move ahead with its decision. There are three options: outside consultation, a board led process or an executive lead process. Although possible, an executive led process is usually fraught with unintended consequences. When the executive leads the process, the executive becomes the expert in what should be a board expertise. When questions arise, the board will look to the executive to provide the answer. This severely reduces the executive's accountability and creates a conflict of interest. Certainly it is better when the executive is favorable to Policy Governance and has a better than cursory knowledge of its concepts and principles. However, boards should work to not have the executive be the final authority on Policy Governance.
Board led processes are significantly better than an executive led one. However, these too give more voice to those that are leading the process than the rest of the participants or they end up with a smaller voice than they would normally have as they try to facilitate discussion and understanding. Cost constraints often are the biggest consideration when deciding to lead the process internally, but sometimes it is also a lack of total board commitment. It takes more commitment by the full board to bring someone in from the outside than it does to have someone internally.
If the board decides to use an outside consultant, the board should assure itself that the consultant has enough skill in three critical areas.
What to Avoid: Policy Governance from the start has been presented as a different and contrarian approach. Often it is presented for its shock value. This probably works well for large group presentations, making for much discussion and interest but it may not work well with a single board. This type of approach is as likely to get board members to withdraw and retrench as to get them to see new possibilities and ways to function. Boards need to recognize that the consultant's approach will be a big determinant to the immediate as well as long term acceptance of Policy Governance. The resistance created at the beginning of adopting or implementing Policy Governance will eventually have to be dealt with by the board after the consultant has left. (See A kinder, gentler approach to Policy Governance training)
The Policy Governance Academy: A Policy Governance Academy graduate might by helpful but isn't required, and doesn't ensure a minimum level of skill in group processes or training and education. The Academy is one way of gaining an in-depth knowledge of Policy Governance but it is certainly not the only way. Even when the potential consultant is an Academy graduate, a board should assure that the consultant has an adequate knowledge base and experience in Policy Governance, as well as group processes, training and education.
Lynn A. Walker, Ph.D.
Boundary Management Consulting
1744 Pineberry Court