There are direct
applications to executive selection through Policy Governance, specifically
through the use of Ends and
Limitation policies. It does take a
rethinking about selection, but that shift is identical to the shift the
Policy Governance makes in delegation to the executive. Instead of
constructing a list of characteristics that a new executive should possess,
the board focuses on identifying what would constitute failure for an
executive and what would constitute success. In the same way that
Limitations focus on the boundary, boards need to be clear about the
boundary between what it identifies as failure, and to use an independent
criteria for success.
If your board has
implemented Policy Governance, the Limitation
policies should be pretty close to the list for failure. For example
candidates should be able to manage the financial condition well enough, as
defined by the policies. Without a lot of effort a board should be
able to put together a list that would identify candidates that have a
likelihood of failing. Using the same logic that Policy Governance
uses to identify delegated authority, all candidates that don't have a
likelihood of failing, must have a likelihood of succeeding or will at least
produce neutral results. This simple technique will dramatically
improve a board's chances of selecting a candidate that will succeed.
There is one caveat to using
only the Limitations as the basis
for this list. There may be areas for concern that are not clarified
enough. These are those concerns that are covered within the
Mega-Limitation of ethics and prudence, but
not further defined in further policies. For example it would be
unethical for the executive to lie to the board, and not necessary to
identify this behavior in the board's governance of the organization.
However, it would be better to specifically identify these types of behavior
prior to selecting a new executive.
The next question to answer
is how can a board determine whether a candidate has the ability to perform
at an acceptable level or not. One of the best ways is to use past
performance or past behavior. Obviously, what is needed to manage an
organization that has 3000 employee is significantly different than what is
needed to manage one that only has 30, so the type of past performance that
is required will be different.
Just as in Policy
Governance where the Ends differ
from the Limitations, the criteria
used to select candidates that will succeed is different from the criteria
used to remove candidates that have a strong likelihood of failing. To
help illustrate this point, the conditions that usually cause an executive
to be terminated are not that he or she didn't achieve the established goals
or Ends, but more likely that he or
she mislead the board, mistreated staff, or failed to take initiative to
correct problems early.
Boards should look for candidates that have
a commitment to the Ends.
Policy Governance will work better if executives are internally motivated to
accomplish the Ends rather than
externally motivated by compensation, benefits, or status. Boards
should look for candidates that have measured themselves and their
organizations based on Ends-type of
criteria. Policy Governance is still not widely used, and therefore
many candidates may not have had an opportunity to prove themselves under a
Ends-driven organization, but many
executives are already self-motivated to accomplish the Ends.
really a pretty simple system. From the pool of applicants, use
Limitations to eliminate those that are
likely to fail. From those that are left, select the candidate that
has the greatest proven commitment to and achievement of the organization's
Lynn A. Walker, Ph.D.
Boundary Management Consulting
12411 McKelvey Road
St. Louis MO 63146-2929
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