- Never Have a Policy that Includes "Unless the Board Approves"
I was 16 years old when I took on a summer job that taught me what I didn’t want to be when I finished high school. I was selling Fuller Brush door-to-door. Fuller Brush was a company that provided household cleaning products and supplies. While the condition of my bedroom screamed the need for some attention, I was trying to sell goods I didn’t use myself – and didn’t even want. With my opening line being “I don’t suppose you would be interested in any Fuller Brush products today…” one can understand my limited success. Not much has changed in the last 45 years. I certainly have no interest in selling what I don’t believe in and not much more interest in selling what I do believe in. So, although I am a Policy Governance consultant, I am not interested inselling the idea of Policy Governance. I am more comfortable laying out what it is and letting the buyer decide.
This is the first of three FYI articles addressing Policy Governance. First we’re going to look at what the Policy Governance model is – and isn’t. Then we will look at its features or principles and specifically why a board may not want some of its features. Finally we will look at some of the most common concerns raised regarding Policy Governance. So by the time we are done, this will be less of a sell job and more of an evaluation.
Once upon a time you could order your car from the factory with the features you wanted and leave off the features you didn’t want. You could have power steering but not power brakes. You could have an automatic or standard transmission. Your factory ordered car could come with power windows but not power door locks.
Policy Governance -, sometimes referred to as the Carver model, is a governance model. However unlike our factory-ordered car, Policy Governance is more like today’s car; coming from the factory with built in, non-optional features. The “consumer” isn’t able order this model with some of the features while leaving others off. Policy Governance is an is. John Carver has registered the name and as such that Policy Governance is something – and it is not something else. Boards don’t get to decide what it is nor do they have the option to order this governance model with some features but not others.
Policy Governance comes with ten embedded features[i]. These include:
In our next FYI we are going to examine some of the reasons why a board may not want some of the features. But let me give you a heads up about this model: all the features are integrated. Once you decide to disable one of the features, it impacts the functionality of other features. When John Carver developed the Policy Governance model, he didn’t start by taking the governance car and arbitrarily adding some mandatory features because he thought they were the ones most appealing to potential customers. He added each feature, considering the implications that each feature would have on every other feature. His primary concern was that the governance vehicle operates with optimal effectiveness with those features in place.
I have potential clients who have driven other makes and models but want to check out the Policy Governance model. I make every effort to inform them that this vehicle is like nothing they have ever driven before. This is usually dismissed by them telling me they have been driving for years and they are just looking for a change. They think they are trading in their road bike for a mountain bike or replacing their motor home with a truck and a fifth wheel trailer. They are in for a shock. The full size car I have in stock will be much more expensive to operate than their bicycle and not have nearly the room they are used to in their motor home. They will have to buy gas for this vehicle and they won’t have the flexibility to cook or shower in it. When those realties leave them unfazed, I know I will have more work to do.
For those not used to the Policy Governance model, it will be radically different than any governance model they have been used to. It will change the way they look at governance, the way they see themselves as board members and how they view their involvement – or lack of involvement in the day to day details of management. Many will resist embracing some of the features. Others will initially sign on with enthusiasm but not follow through with the discipline that Policy Governance requires.
As a consultant I must avoid selling them something of which they are not convinced they need. I must then resist minimizing the need to implement all the principles. This will lead to frustration, disappointment and discouragement.
Policy Governance is not a governance model that should be sold door-to-door or hyped in the governance showroom or discounted to entice reluctant buyers. Policy Governance is only effective when all members of a board are obsessed with the need for superior governance, passionate about embracing all the principles and committed to the discipline that Policy Governance demands.
Leave the selling to the showroom floor or a kid looking for a summer job.
[i] Policy Governance® is an internationally registered service mark of John Carver. Registration is only to ensure accurate description of the model rather than for financial gain. The model is available free to all with no royalties or licence fees for its use. The authoritative website for Policy Governance is www.carvergovernance.com.