What is Board Work?

Governance and program operations are not the same thing. Governance is board work; operations are staff work.
Boards make policy; they delegate implementation. Boards define the outcomes (the ‘ends') to be achieved by the organization and then they delegate responsibility for the activities (the ‘means') required to achieve those defined outcomes.
Boards decide what is to be accomplished leaving staff to decide how to get that done and to get on with it.
It is easy for boards to drift from their governance responsibilities into program operations. First of all operations is easier, they are more concrete and they are closer to members immediate needs and interests. That seduction leads to responsibility overlap and duplication of function with staff. If everyone is amorphously responsible, then no one is responsible.
Furthermore, board time is very valuable. There is no ‘spare' time for board members to indulge themselves, or worse the whole board, in anything approaching operations. Boards must resist any tendency to ‘approval syndrome": the felt need to ‘approve' short-term operations.
The use of any time units board members make available to the organization must be justified as a significant contribution to at least one of the following board roles. If that justification is not clear, the board member is wasting time, energy and effort that should have been invested more productively for the organization.
Board roles:
1. Define the organization's purpose
2. Define the direction the organization will take to achieve that purpose
3. Delegate operational responsibility appropriately
4. Monitor and evaluate achievement of that direction and purpose
5. Safeguard assets: staff, volunteers, money, capital assets
6. Connect with organization stakeholders: members, supporters, opponents, those affected by or affecting the organization in any way.

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Comments

Louise Sweatman at Apr 23, 2012 12:58 pm
One of a Board's primary functions is the performance evaluation of the CEO (not sure if this is included under point 4). Should point 6 be limited to not-for-profit boards?

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