Not-for-profit governance requires that every organization utilize a board of directors. Many boards assemble intelligent and productive members. Initially, boards simplistically adopt rudimentary procedures, such as Robert’s Rules of Order and an agenda template. They consider issues and make decisions, based upon situations that present themselves or based upon what management presents to the board for consideration. Therefore, many boards operate in a reactive, rather than a proactive manner. What passes for common sense, good intentions, and individual members’ prior board experiences, serves as the guide.
Nevertheless, board process can quickly become unwieldy, ineffective and inefficient, especially as organizations grow. Tensions easily develop, frustrations grow, and patience loses its grip. Issues that dominate board attention often relate more to individual board members’ personal and professional areas of expertise. Boards and their members often meddle in the operations for which management has already been hired. Fundamental responsibilities are often ignored or not recognized. Unnecessary risks are encountered and due diligence occurs as much by accident as by deliberate intention. Relationships with the Chief Executive Officer deteriorate because appropriate rules for interaction and clearly articulated expectations are never established. In short, many boards operate by the seat of their pants, in spite of the wealth of astute individuals that comprise their membership.
There exists a multitude of governance styles that depend for their continuance upon inertia, organizational size, and personal preference. Often, style develops by accident rather than by design or effective models.
Board training, both one-time and periodic, offers a practical and cost efficient way for boards to develop patterns of organization and operation that can not only result in significantly higher effectiveness, but can also improve efficiency whereby board member frustration is minimized.
Every organization’s board would benefit from training in effective process and procedure, both initially, as well as periodically, as board member composition changes.