Sunday, February 24, 2013

Board group process: Thinking aloud

Since publicly committing to spend this year exploring board process and practice, I've been immersed in reading, reflection and rediscovery of my organizational communication roots.

So many of the frustrations I hear about - and witness - in the nonprofit boardroom boils down to plain, old interpersonal communication and group dynamics challenges: how we interact, the roles we play (functional or not), the capacity we have to address problems (or not) head-on. What really happens when boards meet deserves greater visibility and conversation, and I've committed to helping to facilitate that.

Since making that December commitment, I've read, explored, bookmarked, and reached a level of complete saturation to the point of paralysis. So many ideas, from so many sources, beg to be shared here and added to the already long list of questions I'd like to cover in my next round of board research.  Finding a manageable way to do that has been extremely challenging.

Normally, I'd create a private process for capturing all of the essential ideas, quotes, etc., from each source for future reference and later use in a literature review. I'll still do that. But I also want to add a public component to that process: a periodic series of "process" posts that summarize the highlights of the sources that are influencing my thinking.

These posts also will include the questions that call me, and an invitation to conversation about how those ideas and questions fit (or not) your nonprofit board experiences. I hope that readers will help me maintain a practice focus to my thinking and ultimately point me to those questions and issues that will most impact how boards function and the next phase of my research agenda.

In addition to several great general titles covering group dynamics, team building and communication, my initial set of posts will include books and other resources originating in corporate governance. One of the biggest shocks in my readings over the last year has been the relatively frequent and open ways in which lead writers and thinkers on the corporate governance side have addressed interpersonal and group challenges.

The rich conversation that emerged from a question I posted in the international "Boards and Advisors" LinkedIn group affirmed for me that our corporate cousins are far ahead of the nonprofit sector in talking about the phenomena that all too often erect obstacles to governance success.

The generosity with which group members shared not only insights but resources provided an additional spark to act on my "group process" impulse.  In fact, the first two resources I'll cover in this series were shared by members of that group in that discussion.

Posts won't be published consecutively; there are too many important board topics to cover along the way. But they already feel like an important step toward opening up the sector discussion. Stay tuned for the first in that series, probably published later this week. I'm anxious to get started and begin the conversation with you.

Note: in addition to the bookmarks linked earlier in this post, I'll share a new Pinterest board I've set up to support this work: Board Process Resources.

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