Getting Unstuck: How to Move Your Board Toward More Effective Governance

A typical evolutionary board governance pattern is for the founding director to populate the board with friends and/or acquaintances that are interested in the objective. Although a good start, to be certain, this approach is not totally adequate. Numerous of these board people may well not completely understand their governance role. At first of organizational life, when many board members tend to be putting on multiple hats (board associate, volunteer staff person, fundraiser, community spokesperson, and so forth ), this lack of understanding might not surface as a challenge.Image result for large A board

As time passes, however, a particular pattern of board governance behavior commences to emerge and becomes established. In fact, sometimes the board seems to take on a life of its own that is often at odds with the needs of the organization. Major environmental changes, like the recent economic downturn, create shifts in funding or reinvent how work is accomplished, and yet the board appears to bring on as though absolutely nothing has evolved. Rather than unintended oversight, it is more likely that it is lack of foresight that often pushes boards to the point of problems, when reacting is the only option left. It really is at this point that an organization feels caught – like it is consistently playing catch up.

Transforming patterns of behavior is one of the very challenging initiatives individuals undertake. Changing the pattern of behavior of a group of individuals can feel insurmountable. An organization may have a long history full of many tales and legends that new members buy-in to, including the board. That approval of current practice, while efficient, may eventually business lead to an inability to see the real picture, resulting in undesirable long-term effects.

To become unstuck, large A board must decide which patterns of behavior it wants to improve. Current data, however, indicate that almost 70% of change initiatives fail. That’s an remarkable waste of resources – resources that most charitable organizations cannot afford to waste. There are numerous approaches to employing organizational change, many of which may be very effective under the right conditions. A new board that is stuck in the rut of ineffective governance, however, positions unique challenges that do not necessarily lend themselves to traditional approaches to change management.

The main barrier in taking a traditional approach to implementing change is the fact most models require command commitment. If an business is struggling just to get enough board members to attend a panel meeting, trying to help them view the need for change in their behavior, let alone committing to that effort, will be practically impossible. Their emphasis is most likely on the present, and they may be totally not aware of how board conduct is impacting the overall organization. Given their lack of awareness and experience, they are unlikely to find the value in most traditional approaches to change management.

Absence of resources, both time and money, also ensure it is difficult to consider traditional approaches to change management. If the organization is experiencing financial pressures, it will be particularly difficult for the board to see the value in spending valuable dollars for an outside consultant. The board is most likely focusing on the short-term, and a change effort is not likely to make any difference in the short-term. The majority of models of organizational change also require a committed team of individuals who meet on a regular foundation over a lengthy period of time. Given that many boards meet, at best, monthly, this is a substantial barrier for many nonprofit organizations.

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