for the Carver Policy Governance® Model
Early in the spread of Policy Governance it became clear that translating abstract, generic concepts into documents tailored for a specific board should occur with minimal delay. After understanding the model and making a tentative decision to use it, the board needs to develop all or nearly all the policies that express the board's own values but in the Policy Governance framework. The longer this process takes, the greater is the loss of momentum. So a method was developed whereby the big hurdle could be jumped in just a few days by a rapid but carefully metered policy-writing process. This became known as "blitz" policy development. This method is not recommended except when conducted by a fully trained Policy Governance consultant.
The time varies widely. It is possible to go from initial exposure to Policy Governance to operating totally on the model within three months. But it is more likely that up to a year will be required. It is important to move expeditiously in order not to lose momentum, but not so quickly as to be impulsive and unthoughtful.
Certainly. No system continues without maintenance and few human skills can be maintained without retraining and practice. The greater the turnover of board members, the higher the costs. The larger the board, the higher the costs. Costs, however, may or may not dictate paying for an outside consultant, though a periodic refresher from someone properly qualified is always a good idea. The cost might be setting aside regular time for board practice or rehearsals in using the model to deal with hypothetical but possible disturbances, mishaps, and disasters, so that the board can be skilled in using the model when it is needed the most. The cost might be a regular practice of self-evaluation, ideally no less than once per meeting. But the cost might also involve cash outlays, such as sending board members to training or sharing a qualified consultant on a regular basis with other boards. Good governance costs in one way or another, but poor governance costs even more.
In Policy Governance the board's policies are much more personal to the board's values than in typical practice. Therefore, if persons other than the board as a total body develop board policies, a precious characteristic of the model can be lost. If a board committee drafts policies and the board considers them in detail, changing whatever it needs to change, the damage may be minimized. Doing it this thoroughly, however, probably means sacrificing the time savings that led to committee drafting to begin with. As to staff drafting of board policies, we strongly recommend against it. More bluntly put, if the board cannot develop its own policies (as they are conceived in Policy Governance), it has no business pretending to govern.
Using a consultant who has not been given advanced training in the Policy Governance AcademySM is risky. As in all human endeavors, not everyone who's completed a course of study will be right in personality, skill, or rigor for every board, so variations still exist. But someone without Academy experience is highly unlikely to know Policy Governance theory and application sufficiently, regardless how expert he or she is otherwise. The Academy is intensive and only open to persons who can demonstrate an advanced understanding already. We do not publish lists of persons trained in the Academy, but our office if asked will confirm whether a given consultant has received the training.
No. Within any paradigm, one can improve practices. We do that driving our cars or using PowerPoint. But changing to a new paradigm differs from improving practices in an old paradigm. Getting better with a typewriter only partially helps improve use of a word processor. An athlete can spend years developing best practices in football, only to find that in switching to basketball he or she must begin all over. Policy Governance is a different paradigm from pre-existing concepts, principles, and formats of board leadership. It does not consist in doing the old practices better. However, having made the switch to Policy Governance, there can then be a steady advance of best practices. (The most recent has been greater rigor in monitoring reports with the inclusion of operational definitions.) But you cannot, as it were, "best practice" your way from football to basketball!
Yes, just as you want your car to be a source of getting you somewhere safely, rather than a continual adventure in auto maintenance. But that calls for having a well-designed and well-maintained machine to begin with. Governance as it has been known for so long is a poorly designed mechanism. Therefore, they don't fulfill their promise, waste time and talent, and fail to demand accountability. Correcting the machinery comes first; that requires studied attention to the unfamiliarity of a new paradigm. But though continual practice is needed (as in any team sport), the intense learning period need not continue indefinitely. Most boards suffering with navel-gazing governance fatigue are ones that continue to debate the system itself, rather than learning it precisely and then consistently using it. Continuing to haggle over, for example, whether some issue is ends or means or whether some questions can be settled outside policies is indicative of never having come to terms with the system to begin with, much like buying a PC and then arguing whether to buy PC or Apple programs.
Complying with the law (or other applicable requirements) is always important. But corporate governance codes around the world help very little toward governance excellence. In large part, they are designed to protect investors from boards rather than to show boards the way to advanced leadership. So comply with whatever requirements apply, just as you would observe traffic laws. But don't infer that precision in following the law makes you a good driver. Policy Governance is about how to be an excellent driver.
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