Friday, December 21, 2012

Governance: Unlearning to learn

What do boards need to unlearn before they can learn to govern more effectively?

The early pages of Dennis Pointer's Board Work: Governing Health Care Organizations left me pondering that question. As an adult educator, I have a few thoughts of my own. But I'm more interested in hearing your ideas about what blocks boards' ability to move toward a different approach to governing.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts via this brief, one-question survey. I'll collect responses, synthesize, and share in a future post. I'm interested in a broad pool of responses; any help sharing with your boards and with others in the sector would be most appreciated.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.


Nathan said...

Among the boards I have worked with, many, perhaps most board members have begun their involvement with nonprofit organizations through clubs and other all-volunteer organizations. Their previous responsibilities on the board have been primarily or exclusively operational. Whatever "governance" takes place happens without identifying it as anything different from the individual's operational responsibilities.

It is no wonder, then, that they bring this understanding with them when they join the board of a nonprofit organization that has a paid, professional CEO. They have never had to engage in oversight of management, policy development, or strategic leadership. So, in order to be an effective member of a governing board, they need to unlearn nearly everything they have learned from their previous experience.

Debra Beck, EdD said...

My apology, Nathan, for the delayed response. For some reason, I missed the alert that you had posted this comment.

Oh, boy, does the scenario you've described ring familiar! I've definitely found that most of the boards I've encountered have nothing in the way of systematic orientation to their responsibilities. Instead, they must rely upon exactly what you're describing: those previous experiences (that often have little resemblance to governance in that ore professionalized setting).