Understanding board governance with near-opposite terms
Monday, February 24, 2020
Directors should understand the terminology of governance. To increase board effectiveness, explain these concepts which are sometimes confusing to volunteer leaders.
Governance – Management
Strategy – Tactics
Policy – Procedures
Each of the pairs are near opposites. They can be attributed to the distinctive roles of the board and staff.
Governance and Management
Governance is a board responsibility. Directors are authorized by state corporate statute to govern according to the governing documents. They serve as trustees of the corporation. Generally, their roles are to advance the mission, serve the stakeholders or members, and to protect and make best use of resources.
Management is the responsibility of staff. There are problems if the board creeps into micromanagement. The management team, under supervision of an executive director, advances the priorities set by the board of directors (usually described in a strategic plan).
Strategy and Tactics
The board should think and act strategically. Directors work as a team to advance the strategic plan. Discussions and decisions should be strategic. When they fall below the strategy level, they begin to act tactically, doing the work of the committees and staff.
Tactics are the details necessary to advance strategy. For example, the board may propose a regional conference. If they begin to ask about menus and the design of the registration desk, they have dropped to tactics. Leave the tactics to committees and staff.
Policies and Procedures
Policies are the wisdom of a board recommending the best course of action. For instance, policies may address financial audits, and conflicts of interest. The board adopts policies to guide future leaders how issues should be handled. Most organizations have an average of 50 policies in a manual.
Procedures are the domain of the staff. They document the steps necessary to efficiently carry out their responsibilities. Boards should not receive a manual called, “Policies and Procedures.” Title it the “board playbook” or “leadership manual.”
Understanding the distinction of key governing terms will improve processes, and outcomes.
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