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Featured Question - December 29, 2003

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Policy Governance seems to be more confrontational than the traditional approach to board governance with its clear boundaries for unacceptable performance.  Is this true?


Obviously Policy Governance doesn’t eliminate confrontation and a board may be confrontational simply because of its style or makeup of personalities.  However, in general Policy Governance is less confrontational than traditional board governance.  There are several reasons for this.  The most important one is that Policy Governance creates less avoidance behavior because issues are raised earlier and they are raised by the executive rather than the board.  Monitoring increases the flow of critical information in a timely fashion, reducing confrontational situations.  Even when there is a disagreement, such as a whether something is a reasonable interpretation or not, Policy Governance is more likely to create a dialogue than a confrontational exchange. 

 A second factor that reduces the chance of confrontation is that the dialogue is between the executive and the whole board rather than between the executive and individual board members.  Certainly this doesn’t eliminate all confrontation but it is much more difficult for a group to be confrontational than an individual.  The executive doesn’t have to please ever individual which is sometimes an impossible task.  The executive only has to please the group, which in Policy Governance has a real voice through the written policies. 

 Policy Governance reduces confrontation not by making people be nice to each other but by providing a system that reduces the situations that give rise to confrontation.

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

12411 McKelvey Road
St. Louis MO 63146-2929

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