Board of Directors’ Duties: Tip 9 – Policy Blitz

Board of Directors Duties PoliciesBoard of Directors’ Duties: Tip 9 – Policy Blitz                                

A policy blitz is when a board takes time to get a full set of governing policies in place. Many boards develop a policy when a need urgently presents itself but do not have a coordinated set of policies. Without the existence of comprehensive policies, the staff  has no guidance on how to handle new issues as they arise. They have to wait for a decision to be made at the next board meeting before they can take action. Many boards have found they can govern more effectively by proactively taking the time to develop a complete set of foundational governing policies. This releases the staff to get the work of the organization done between board meetings, even when they are presented with a new challenge or opportunity.

Comprehensive police development often involves a small group reviewing an example set of governing policies as well as the policies the board has set during its board meetings over the last 5 to 10 years, and merging the two documents into a draft set of governing policies. Then the whole board comes together for a special full day meeting. They go through the draft policy set saying “Yes, this policy belongs in our set of policies; this one doesn’t; and this one needs changed, etc.”  “Perhaps the wording needs to be changed.”  Or “This topic is important but the policy isn’t appropriate. We need to start from scratch.” And, “These next three draft policies are irrelevant for us.  Let’s just take them off the table.”

The conversation might continue with, “Here’s a policy that must have come from the sample policies and one we approved two years ago that address the same topic but say very different things. Let’s consider which is  going to serve our organization better.” As the board walks through the draft policy set having conversations on all of the items on which there are varying views, it determines a set of policies that the board members can live with, at least for now.

We encourage boards to go fairly quickly through the policies during a policy blitz, making sure that the board members are generally on the same page, but not taking the time to dot the  I’s and cross the T’s. If all of the details have to be considered along the way, it could take two or three days to develop the foundational set of policies. Since most board members don’t have the mental energy for several days of this challenging work, when groups try to make the policies perfect from the outset they tend to abandon the task, often leaving it incomplete for a number of years. The more effective approach is generally to develop a basic set of governing policies that conceptually makes sense to all board members, and then review and strengthen , a few policies at every meeting, or on a quarterly basis. Also, necessary changes are made as glitches, errors, or operational impracticalities come to light

I encourage you to follow the policy blitz process so that you have a very extensive set of foundational governing policies that can guide your staff to be fully effective on behalf of the organization between board meetings. And it can guide the board to make consistent decisions, meeting after meeting, and year after year. Taking the time for a policy blitz will move your organization along the pathway to governance excellence.

 

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