Monday, May 14, 2007

Using the Board Building Cycle

Last time, we wrapped up our exploration of the nine components of the Board Building Cycle. The obvious question might emerge: now what?

I shared my approach to applying the BBC with students in my “Topics in Nonprofit Management and Leadership” course (offered through Online UW) earlier this semester, and similar questions arose. Some of their questions and concerns may resonate with readers who have read the BBC series on this blog.

The BBC model, presented as a never-ending cycle, is impressive but potentially daunting. Where do we start? Do we solve our issues at one point before moving on to the next step in the cycle? Does attention to the work described in the BBC take over our board?

I certainly advocate the BBC’s holistic approach to board development. In each phase of the cycle, I see potential to not only increase effectiveness but also enrich the experience for the board and individual members. But I also see how the big picture can feel overwhelming. If you’re intrigued but a bit intimidated by the scope of the Board Building Cycle, I have two suggestions.

First, acknowledge that your board probably is engaged in most (if not all) of these areas. You recruit new members. You orient those new recruits and provide at least basic continuing education opportunities once they are on board. You’re not starting from scratch.

Second, select one or two areas in the cycle where you believe focus will have the best chance to improve your board’s effectiveness. Could you do a better job of identifying the skills, knowledge and connections you need at the table to govern? Are there ways to more strategically engage board members in meaningful work? Do you know what motivates your members, and do you tailor recognition to fit them? Begin where you think your efforts can have success, and can make a difference to your board and its work.

As you begin to see results, explore opportunities to enhance your efforts in other areas in the cycle.

(NOTE: BoardSource recently released a new edition of its Board Building Cycle publication. Information is available here.)

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