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Featured Question - October 6, 2003

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What should we do for new board members that weren't here when our board adopted Policy Governance?


One of chief reasons for boards to revert back to traditional governance is the lack of new member orientation.  New members don't have the opportunity that the original board members did to learn about Policy Governance as the first set of board policies were developed.  If boards aren't careful, a gradual loss of expertise and knowledge occurs until the board no longer fully understands the conceptual foundation of Policy Governance, allowing them to revert to old practices.

An orientation for new members will do much to help keep Policy Governance alive.  What is maybe less evident is that there needs to be both a knowledge and a skill component.  The knowledge element is pretty straight forward, sharing and explaining the basic elements of Policy Governance.  This can be done in multiple ways, such as giving them a copy of "Boards that Make a Difference" or the CarverGuides.  A more personalized approach can be carried out by almost any board member that has a good understanding of the concepts, and a presentation format might be helpful to assure that all the concepts are covered.  For those that are familiar with PowerPoint, this sight has a downloadable file that can be used as a place from which to start.  What are the basics that new board members should understand?  A good list can be found on the Policy Governance Simplified page.

However, the other component is a set of Policy Governance skills.  Sometimes the issue is that even the board is still functioning at a neophyte level in terms of skill.  This makes it doubly hard for new board members as they don't have board examples from which to model their behavior.  Which skills should new board members look to acquire?

  • The ability to create one group voice as represented by written policy
  • The habit of reviewing new issues or concerns in light of what has already been said in the Policies.
  • The ability to translate the Owner's wishes into Ends policies
  • The ability to drafting Limitation polices without being more restrictive than necessary
  • The ability to monitor and use the rule of any reasonable interpretation

Another approach that has been effective is to ask new board members to be process observers, once they have the basic concepts under their belt.  It gives them as well as the board an opportunity to see things from a fresh perspective. 



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