for the Carver Policy Governance® Model
If we can ignore the foundational documents (e.g., letters patent, articles of incorporation, bylaws), there are no governance issues that don't fit in one of the Policy Governance policy categories. First, all issues have been divided into ends and non-ends (means). Then means have been divided into governance (board) means and management (staff) means. At each stage these are exhaustive categories. Because the board's engagement with staff means is a proscriptive or limiting imposition, then one might say that the prescriptive version of staff means does not fit. However, prescription of staff means is off-limits to the board in Policy Governance, so are excluded by intent.
Policy Governance allows the board to control all aspects of organization with a relatively small number of policies. These policies can go into as much detail as the board wishes, as long as the board stops when it reaches the point at which any reasonable interpretation of what it has said would be acceptable. Just as we do not specify the exact temperature, number of cubic centimeters, and other detailed aspects in ordering a cup of coffee, the board need not go into more depth than necessary either. It needs to control all it must, to be sure, but not all it can.
In addition to policies having to be in their appropriate categories, policies must reflect the level-by-level sequence of board decision-making that enables Policy Governance boards to encompass all relevant organizational factors with but a small number of board decisions. If policy architecture does not exhibit that sequential levels discipline, it is quite likely the discipline did not exist. Policy Governance policies are not mere lists of important matters, they are a 'value map' of descending breadths of board hands-on decision-making.
Policies of the traditional sort do not. But in Policy Governance board policies embrace the organization so seamlessly that the standard board approval practice (of budgets, personnel plans, etc.) falls away as an awkward and crude way for a board to control its organization. Of course, the board would approve its own policies (the more descriptive word would be "generate" instead of approve in order to distinguish two very different kinds of "approval"), but would not weigh managerial decisions to determine whether to make them official. That is not only a waste of managerial time, but of board time as well. The board's ends policies declare what performance is expected, so there is nothing to approve. The board's executive limitations policies declare those violations of prudence and ethics that would make any executive action out of bounds, so there is nothing to approve. In a sense, the policies set up a pre-approval zone in which the CEO is free to move about, but must prove periodically according to a board monitoring schedule that the organization stayed within the zone.
A board needs as much policy as is needed to fulfill its accountability to the ownership. Because of the four categories of board policies in Policy Governance, the minimum would be four. But saying that does not establish how long those policies are and at what points they are subdivided due to subject matter into separate policy titles rather than continuing to lengthen the broader policy of which they are a part. Although there is no suitable answer to the question, it can be said that the total body of board policy is greater than that of most nonprofit and corporate boards, yet far, far less than that of the typical North American school board. In our combined over 45 years of consulting with Policy Governance, the average number of pages of board policy is about 30. These succinct and carefully ordered value statements are sufficient for governing without being augmented by budgets, personnel "policies," strategic plans, or program designs.
No. Policies in the Policy Governance model express a specific board's values, ones that can differ greatly from another board, particularly in ends policies. Moreover, the process of developing one's own policies is almost as important as the policies themselves. Difficulties encountered in a board's creating its own policies are diagnostic of flaws in its understanding of the model. Knowing where the weaknesses are compels corrective attention to these areas.
No. The point is not just to have policies, but to have a governance system that addresses all the needs of excellent governance. That will call for policies built in a certain way and addressing certain requirements. Policies created in Policy Governance bear little resemblance to policies established without Policy Governance. While it is impossible to be using Policy Governance unless the board has a full set of policies in place, just having those policies does not in itself demonstrate that Policy Governance is in effect.
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