Policy Governance

Over the past four decades I have served on the boards of directors of several organizations. One of my earliest board experiences was the board of the local Boy Scout Council in Pasadena, California. That experience was important for three reasons. First, it was a close-up look and encounter with many of the community leaders in my neighborhood. Second, it was a close-up look at how poorly most community service organizations function. Finally, it started me on a quest to find a better way.

On the other end of the spectrum of experiences is Guided Discoveries, a non-profit I helped found four decades ago and where I continue to serve on the board of directors. Guided Discoveries has succeeded far beyond our initial expectations and I suspect the way the board did its job has a lot to do with that success.

Approximately twenty years ago several members of the board of directors of Guided Discoveries participated in a board training seminar put on by John Carver, the guru of policy governance. We discovered that by pure instinct we were generally doing things right all along. I now understand how the idea of policy governance can help all organizations, for profit and not for profit, achieve more with less chaos and drama.

The board of directors is more than just another level of management for the organization, more than a committee of committee chairs; the job of the board of directors is to govern the organization. Too many people are reluctant to join a board of directors because they have watched past directors try to fulfill their responsibility by taking on tasks that would be better accomplished if delegated to others. They make an ever-increasing string of decisions that are often contradictory from board meeting to meeting and year to year. They allow themselves to be bogged down in details and discussions over ‘how things get done rather than thinking about the big picture of what things the club should be doing.

Members of the board of directors sometimes feel they are doing everything with little help or assistance from others in the organization. If you take on this opportunity you can avoid that problem by making the board responsible for the success of the club. You should make your board accountable for leadership in keeping the club’s values at the center of what the club does. As a member of the board concentrate on defining what needs to be done, empowering the members to do it and institute leadership in making your Rotary club as successful as it can be.

You can be the club member that accepts this opportunity to be a director and governs on behalf of the people who are not seated at the table. Over the next few months I plan on introducing the key ingredients of policy governance and how it can help your Rotary Club boards of directors with focusing on doing their job and allow their members the privilege of achieving the wondrous things they are capable of accomplishing.

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