Sunday, July 7, 2013

When is a Board decision a Board decision?

After several years with a large international association, our staff realized that a new program or major decision might take three board meetings before we got a decision.

At the first meeting with the board of a national association that had hired us as its AMC, I told its board that until they voted three times, I wasn’t really sure what they wanted to do. And, I’ll be darned! At that very same meeting, the board voted to increase the dues; then to lower the dues; and finally not to change the dues!

Another time, in reviewing a board’s minutes and policies, I discovered that the organization had adopted two conflicting policies: one to operate on an accrual financial basis and the other to be a cash basis. And, that wasn’t the only conflicting or out-of-date policies.

I shared this the other day with an association executive who was complaining that the board would act, she would get the details done and then at the next meeting, the board would change its minds!

Why is this?

  • Sometimes, it is because a couple of important board members were absent at the initial meeting. 
  • Sometimes, it is because board members – after some time to think about it – changed their minds.
  • Sometimes, it is simply the board’s culture to continually revisit past decisions.
Regardless, constantly revisiting the same topics is a waste of the board’s most precious resource: its time and the time of its staff.

Here are five thoughts for you to consider:
  1. Don’t take action if key board members are not present.
  2. Work with the board’s leadership to develop the board’s decision-making culture.
  3. Develop board champions who speak up when the board starts to revisit a decision already made.
  4. Create a board policy document that lists policies and actions the board has adapted ... be sure to look at them if/when the board starts. Remind them that they’ve already acted on this topic.
  5. Hold board orientation sessions to brief current and new directors on actions, policies and culture.

What do you do when your board revisits programs, policies or other actions?

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