If you were joining a dance group then you would want to know what kind of dance the group practices. If you were joining a football team then you would need to know the type of offence and defence the team uses. When you join a Board you need to understand its governance model. Boards have different ways of broadly looking at their role in their organization. There are many different models of Board governance and it is important to know which one your Board uses so that you can understand more clearly your role as a Director. Marion Thomson Howell, President of Shaugnessy Howell Inc., Executive-in-Residence at Capacity Canada, and Vice-Chair of the Board of St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, sits down with us to review 4 general categories of Board governance models and what Board members need to know about the implications for each model.
So you’ve sorted out your organization’s purpose, mission, vision, and values. Then you wrote a magnificent strategic plan that clearly aligns these elements and considers the challenges of your external environment. Now what? Well now you get to track your progress – a step all too often missed for many organizations and Boards. Enter Valerie Sluth, CEO and founder of Praxis Consulting, Board member on multiple Boards, and management consultant extraordinaire. Val speaks with us about the balanced scorecard and how you can properly oversee and measure the progress you are making on your strategic plan and initiatives.
A key document for many Boards is the Strategic Plan for their organization. But what is strategy and how should the Board engage in setting strategy and overseeing its implementation? Merv Hillier is the founder of consulting firm Nuvision. He is an educator, CEO, and Board member and he sat down with us to talk strategy. If you are wondering how involved the Board should be in both the planning and execution stages of strategy then this is the episode for you!
Organizations use the term “values” in strategic plans, policies, annual reports, and any number of other places. But what is a “value” and how should values play a role in conversations and decision-making at the Board table? Dr. David Malloy, Principal of King’s University College, is a philosopher and an expert on values & leadership. He sat down with us to define the concept of a value and to offer some advice as to how values should be intentional, explicit, and put into action throughout the organization – starting with the Board.
A Board’s role does not change in a crisis. The dual role of the Board to protect and direct (as Jim Brown writes in The Imperfect Board Member), remains in place whether your Board is on a summer break when times are great or when you are wrestling with the chaos of a global pandemic.
That being said, the intensity of the level of change in the external environment will require a Board to increase the level of attention they are paying to how the organization is faring. Plans for reopening for the year ahead not only need some consideration from the Board but those plans will benefit from the scrutiny of the people around the table. When businesses, schools, and offices were closed back in the spring, the next step was not to simply pop open the binder marked “What to do in a global pandemic when everyone is required to stay at home for several months and no one knows what is going to happen from day to day.” There is no step by step playbook that is guiding our organizations. There is, however, the Board and a dedicated staff who will put the best interests of the organization at the forefront of their decisions and who are armed with their set of questions to keep everything on track. Board members need to be mindful that their CEO will be likely dealing with frequent stressful situations while s/he is trying to make decisions “in the weeds”. As a result of the demand for the CEO to be looking inward right now, there is a heightened need for the Board to stay focused outward , with the mission and purpose of the whole organization as the primary lens.
In 2019, the Florida State University football team stopped using a conventional playbook for their season. Typically a team will have a thick binder of plays from which they will draw during a game so getting rid of a playbook was pretty radical. Here’s what one of the players said about the strategy:
Not having a playbook means that the players have to know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing at all times.
That means a lot of repetition. It also means a lot of time in the film room.
“We have to watch so much film and you have to stay around your coaches in learning so much because we don’t have a playbook,” Terry said.
“You have to be around and we have to stay focused and embodying and what you have going on because with no playbook, I can’t say it’s harder but it’s so simple we have to just stay focused and buy in.” (https://www.tallahassee.com/story/sports/college/fsu/football/2019/07/19/florida-state-buying-kendal-briles-no-playbook-offense-willie-taggart-james-blackman/1728926001/)\
I think there are some lessons for Board members here. In this time of uncertainty and in the absence of a “playbook”, be clear about your role, spend extra time understanding the challenges facing the organization, be prepared to ask tough questions, be supportive of each other and your CEO, and stay focused on the horizon and the mission.
After reviewing listener feedback and questions, it is clear that a common concern is on the minds of lots of Board members right now. How involved should a Board be in their organization during the unpredictability of a global pandemic? Paul and Andrew invite back governance consultant Fred Galloway to answer a listener question and dive a little deeper into this important topic.
Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-governance-guys/id1506642067
Listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7aDea06cFGCXdQTiONHaTM
Paul and Andrew think about great Board members (and some not-so-great behaviours) they have seen in action and put together some tips they have found helpful.
Paul and Andrew introduce themselves and explain why they are so excited about governance and what motivated them to start this podcast. This episode tells you:
- What to expect from The Governance Guys
- What we find exciting about governance
- Why we thought a podcast was necessary
- Bonus: a great intro/outro music track!