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Featured Question - August 25, 2003

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What should we expect as a board as we adopt and implement Policy Governance?


It is important to recognize that adopting and implementing Policy Governance is a learning process.  Learning processes for the most part have a defined pattern.  That pattern is one of rising performance and then a plateauing, which is then followed by more improved performance.  It is simply difficult for individuals or groups to maintain continuous performance improvement.  The plateau may happen for a number of reasons.  Other factors may need time to catch up, such as in Policy Governance, often the executive needs time to catch up with the board.  The plateau may happen because the board simply needs to catch it breath and enculturate what it has learned and developed.  The plateau may happen simply because the objective has been reached. 

This final point of why plateaus happen is worth noting.  What ever the board has set as their objective in adopting or implementing policy governance is very important.  Part of the problem with this is that boards and board members are so unaware of the elements that make up adopting and implementing Policy Governance that it is unlikely that they have any objective in mind other than to be doing it.  Once they have achieved the point of doing it, the motivation to move ahead is quickly diminished. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a knowledge and a skill element that has to be learned.  The knowledge element is often more challenging than expected because the words and their definitions used in Policy Governance are similar but different from traditional management definitions.  For examples, review the Policy Governance Annotated Glossary.  What this means for the board is that it will have to relearn some of the principles of Policy Governance as it progresses, because it simply didn't know that it didn't know. 

The skill element is even more of a challenge, because it is a group skill that needs to be learned and not a set of individual skills.  Most boards are individuals in a grouping rather than a real workgroup.  This means that the practice necessary to achieve the group skill needs to be done as a group.  The approach and even mindset has to be about the group.  Many consultants that provide Policy Governance training are more about transmitting the knowledge and writing the policies than about the group development.  Even much of the professional training in Policy Governance appears to lean with a heavy emphasis on authoritative knowledge and individual skill rather than group skill development. Unfortunately, this leaves boards to learn this on their own.

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