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Featured Question - November 3, 2003

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What published or unpublished research has been done on the effectiveness of Policy Governance?


I am aware of only two research studies involving Policy Governance.  They are both unpublished.  I have read one of them which compared board effectiveness among boards that had Policy Governance training, boards that had traditional board training, and boards that had no training.  Boards with Policy Governance training were just as effective as those boards that used traditional training, but they both were more effective than boards with no training.  There was also a correlation between the extent of a board's adoption of Policy Governance concepts and practices and board perceived effectiveness as well as CEO satisfaction.

One of the difficulties in comparing Policy Governance to other governance approaches is that Policy Governance changes all the measurements of performance.  Ends rarely exist in other approaches, and limitations turn most other performance measures upside down.  For instance, instead of measuring the effect of a governance approach on improving financial performance, Policy Governance would measure the avoidance of poor financial performance. 

Given this difference in measurement, any research that used traditional performance measures would not show much difference between Policy Governance and traditional governance approaches.  Policy Governance makes no promise that an organization will perform better on traditional measures, but Policy Governance does promise that there will be fewer failures.

The underlying assumptions of the person designing the research will have an effect on the results simply by the measures that are selected.  It will be difficult to create a new way of measuring board performance that runs counter to what is used in most of the published research on boards.  It is going to take people that have a solid understanding of Policy Governance and research design.  This doesn't suggest that research can't be done, just that it needs to be carefully crafted. 

Lynn A. Walker, Ph.D.
Boundary Management Consulting

12411 McKelvey Road
St. Louis MO 63146-2929

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