- The Pros and Cons of Negative Language in Policy Governance
Policy Governance® seemed to be just what the mission agency needed. The board saw the system as a way of having policies which would keep their headstrong CEO on track and in line. The CEO viewed Policy Governance as a way to prevent the board from paddling around in personnel matters, providing its overvalued opinions and generally keeping it out of meddling in minutia.
And so the CEO, along with the board hired me as a consultant. I was expected to write the applicable policies. After all I had done this for other organizations and it should be straightforward. The CEO saw the monitoring reports as a necessary requirement if the Policy Governance system was going to work. At the same time he saw this as something that someone else (me?) could do and he would just put his signature to them.
Then my lights which were previously too dim to get the picture started to become brighter, bringing this image into focus. My client was seeing the benefits of a personal trainer and a dietician. Both the board and the CEO saw the need for a healthier governance diet and a more robust exercise regimen. It would make them feel less yucky and remove a little of that excess governance flab. And later when others took a look at their governance health indicators, both their weight and their cholesterol would be lower.
Their mistake lay in believing that the diet and exercise program would increase their health. They wanted the benefits of the program without doing any of the work.
Don’t let a governance consultant sell you on your need for improved governance. Like personal trainers and dieticians, consultants live in a world where we see the need for improvement in governance. In our zeal to see organizations become healthier, we can inadvertently believe we have sold our clients on something they aren’t really buying. Like a compelling late-night ad for the latest piece of exercise equipment, demonstrated by a buffed model, the organization buys the system but with little motivation to use it. Then when their weight goes up, the equipment is blamed.
Before an organization looks to make changes, the board must be convinced that it needs to make changes. Then it needs to be confident that the planned changes will get it where it wants and needs to go. Finally it needs to be committed to the work necessary to follow through on the process of making those changes.
Once it is convinced, confident and committed, it needs to engage a personal trainer to guide it in reaching its goals.