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Featured Question - December 15, 2003

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Q:

I am a member of an organization that has implemented Policy Governance.  I believe strongly in the Ends of the organization but disagree strongly with some of the Board's Executive Limitations.  Do you have any suggestions about how to approach this issue?

A:

The issue you discuss is one that will occur more and more as Policy Governance become more widely used, not because of what Boards will do but the awareness of ownership by individuals.  This is especially true for membership organizations where members are both members and owners.

Clearly what you do is a personal one, and there no cut and dried answers, but Policy Governance changes the way you might think about this issue.  As an owner, you have as much right to consider or speak to Means as you do Ends.  This owner approach is different than a customer approach.  As a customer, you might be willing to trade increased benefits for costs or inappropriate means.  Also as a customer you are more removed from the organization, having less of a personal identification with it.  The opposites are true as an owner, unacceptable means can't be balanced by other means or increased Ends and your identify is somewhat attached to it.  These aspects are more true for membership organizations than those where the ownership is less connected. 

The impact of this is that if you wish to be an owner, the Ends and Limitations on Means do make a difference for you.  As an owner, should you belong to an organization that has established Limitations that are unacceptable to you?  The answer is no.  This doesn't mean you should quit immediately, but eventually if there is no change.  Otherwise, your dues or contributions are being used in your name to create a condition which is unacceptable to you.  The two important points are, first, the unacceptable condition and, and second, being created in your name. 

Certainly your thoughts should be shared with your board, and if you have other opportunities for input you should seek them.  However, at some point if there is no change you should resign as an owner.  There may be other ways to stay connected to the organization, such as a partnership where you have more control over the relationship or simply as a customer where Ends and Means have far less importance. 

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

12411 McKelvey Road
St. Louis MO 63146-2929

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