Tip #62 What Are Your Board's Expectations of Itself?

November 1, 2020  |  tips for effective boards

In our previous Tips for Effective Boards, we discussed the first four of the Ten Principles of the Policy Governance® model of board operations.  We now turn to the fifth Policy Governance® principle, Board Means Policies.


To provide context, in Policy Governance®, there are four types of board policies.  In our last Tips for Effective Boards, we described Ends policies, one of the four types of policies.  The other three types of policies are considered Means policies. (All policies that are not Ends policies are considered Means policies.) Two of these types of Means policies are referred to as Board Means policies and express the board’s expectations of itself.  (The remaining Means policy type is referred to as Staff Means policies or Executive Limitations policies and will be discussed in our next Tips for Effective Boards.)


Board Means policies are of two types, Governance Process policies which relate to the board’s inner workings or internal process, and Board-Management Delegation policies which relate to the relationship between board and management.


John Carver and Miriam Carver have articulated the Board Means Policy principle as follows:


Board Means:  The board defines in writing the job results, practices, delegation style, and discipline that make up its own job.  These are board means decisions, categorized as Governance Process policies and Board-Management Delegation policies.  (“Policy Governance® Source Document” produced by the International Policy Governance Association in consultation with John Carver and Miriam Carver, 2011:  https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/policy-governance.)  


Examples of policies that may be included within a board’s Governance Process policies include the following:

1.       General Policy on Governance Commitment

2.       Governance Style

3.       Board Job Description

4.       Agenda Planning

5.       Board Chair’s Role

6.       Board Secretary’s Role

7.       Board Members’ Code of Conduct

8.       Board Committees

9.       Ownership Linkage   


Examples of policies that may be included within a board’s Board-Management Delegation policies include the following:

1.       General Policy on the Governance-Management Connection

2.       Delegation to the CEO

3.       Accountability of the CEO

4.       Monitoring CEO Performance


Boards don’t have to start from scratch in developing these policies.  Template board policies have been developed by John Carver and Miriam Carver.  (See their book Reinventing Your Board:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing Policy Governance.  Revised Edition.  San Francisco, California:  Jossey-Bass.  2006, pages 233-268.)  In addition, the most recent versions of these template policies are available from consultants who have completed the Policy Governance® Academysm.  I have completed this training and have the Carvers’ permission to use these template policies in my consulting.  Other Policy Governance® consultants with this training can be identified through Govern for Impact’s “Find a Consultant” service.  (http://www.governforimpact.org)  


If you are interested in sample board policies not following the Policy Governance® model, these are available from BoardSource publications such as The Handbook of Non-Profit Governance.  Jossey-Bass. 2010, Pages 331-358.  (http://www.boardsource.org)  Whether you choose to follow the Policy Governance® model or not, there is great value in having perhaps 25 board-level policies separate from perhaps 100s of operational-level policies.   Such board-level policies express the board’s expectations for itself and provide direction to the CEO for all operational-level policies.  (Note: Sample board policies that do not follow the Policy Governance® model may not make the same distinction between board-level policies and operational-level policies that Policy Governance® makes.)


For additional information about this principle, please check out Tips for Effective Boards #6:  Develop and Maintain a Board of Directors Policy Manual:  https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/blog.    


To see all ten principles of the Policy Governance® model, please click https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/policy-governance and then click The Principles of Policy Governance® on the left-side menu.