Creating Excellence in Board Leadership

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monitoring Progress – The Duty of Good Governance

In spite of best efforts, it’s unrealistic for boards to “know everything” about an organization. Instead of wading through agendas packed with a minutia of detail (making decisions, crafting programs, resolving problems, critiquing projects, directing staff, supervising money, tweaking and approving the ideas of others), the board needs to operate at the macro level, specifying what it needs to know about mission execution, vision achievement, financial and legal compliance (fiduciary health), and limitations compliance. Within that information spectrum the board rigorously executes its governance duties.

Who and what should be monitored? Pertinent question! Here’s the answer – chief staff officer, financial and legal matters and the organization’s progress toward achievement of a vision crafted and articulated by the board. Monitoring executive performance is synonymous with monitoring organizational performance. The purpose of this monitoring is to determine the degree to which the chief staff officer is achieving the Board’s vision for the organization and remaining compliant to board policy.

That said; systematic monitoring of executive job performance must be solely on the basis of the achievement of board vision, fulfilled job products and compliance with executive imitations. Further, it is incumbent on the chief staff officer to objectively demonstrate to the board that achievement of board policy is occurring.

Good monitoring requires three specifics.

One: a stated gauge of predetermined key result areas. The data requested by the board is specific, never general. This information is judgmental in that it rigorously and intentionally measures achievement of predetermined criteria – criteria set by the board.

Two: type and method of reporting. Relative to type, reporting is either internal or external. If the information is supplied by someone outside the organization (independent financial auditor) the reporting is external. Data supplied by staff is internal. Method refers to format. Facts can be written, oral, graphed, charted, tabled, or diagramed. Data supplied by the chief staff officer is always historical or retrospective.

Three: timing. When and how often key result areas are measured must be defined. Determined frequencies for reporting helps communicate what the board thinks is most important. More specifically, if the board meets quarterly it must decide what data is most important to monitor or measure in each quarter. Should the board meet monthly it must determine the information critical to each month.

Once the monitoring process is determined, the board is in a strong position to celebrate and award achievement or effect timely corrective action.

Logicboard offers an innovative and highly successful model for board leadership and governance. It brings detail and coaching to the items listed above. Contact us today for more information.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Establish Vision: A Word Picture of Success

Vision is a buzz word in the vocabulary of every leader of every organization these days. That’s important. Unless an organization has a well defined preferred future toward which all strategic endeavors are aimed, it merely continues to execute the same thing over and over expecting different results – some call that insanity.

Don’t confuse mission with vision. Mission defines why an organization exists and what it does. Mission is described with verbs and objects. Mission statements reflect hard work, sacrifice and investment. Conversely, vision defines where the organization is going, what it intends to become and how it characterizes success. Vision is described with nouns and adjectives. Vision statements reflect creative thinking, innovative yet realistic descriptions of what the organization could look like in ten years. A true vision statement provides direction, destination and the stretch necessary to get there.

Some “do not’s” when writing vision:

1. Do not use verbs or objects
2. Do not include actions or means-related activities
3. Do not include people, programs, buildings or forms of education
4. Do not use interim-type words like “try,” “examine,” “seek,” or “strive”
5. Do not use pretentious, cosmetic words or terms that exaggerate
6. Do not be vague – precise, realistic and achievable yet challenging is a must

“Layers” versus objectives. A very important concept in crafting a powerful vision. The word “objectives” has been applied in management settings since the 1950s or earlier; and when used they prescribe means-related activities or the “how to” for achievement. In the context of good governance boards refrain from engaging objectives. They leave such strategic planning work to staff or management.

A vision statement without definitive “layers” or “ENDs” (special terms in the context of board governance for defining vision) is open to anyone’s interpretation. Boards cannot afford to be vague when crafting vision. Layers provide necessary definition.

Here’s an example of a good vision statement (using nouns and adjectives) with defining “layers” from Starbucks. “The premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world.” Check out the “layers.”

1. Work environment with respect & dignity
2. Diversity in the way we do business
3. Excellence in purchasing & roasting
4. Satisfied customers all the time
5. Profitability is essential to success

Starbucks believes that if they achieve the layers (which may have additional layers under each of the five above) they become, by their own definition, “The premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world.”

When crafting vision the insights above can be very helpful.

Logicboard offers an innovative and highly successful model for board leadership and governance. It brings detail and coaching to the items listed above. Contact us today for more information.

PO Box 5010 Bloomington, IL 61702
Phone:309-275-9734 or 309-287-0834