Clearly Defining the Roles

Boards are gatherings of effective people who become ineffective when gathered as a board. I was recently participating in a board meeting that had gone far too long, when in frustration I began to wonder how it was possible that ten relatively successful, intelligent people could spend so much time talking about nothing. Not that the issue we were discussing was nonsense, but those around the table had very little knowledge of the issue and even less understanding of how to resolve the problem. That’s when it hit me. The reason effective people become ineffective when they serve on a board is that they don’t understand what their role as a board member really is.  No one ever explained to them what they were supposed to do when they became a board member so they default to the hat they wear or, in the case of retired individuals, wore in the workplace. For the small business owner it means making decisions on everything from the purchase of paper clips to the purchasing of property.  For the university researcher it means knowing every detail before a decision can be made.  For the school principle it often means endless philosophical discussions, and for the company executive it can mean having the final say. None of these hats are wrong, per say, nor are the individuals who wear them bad people, it’s just that when we wear them to the board room it creates confusion and frustration. The job gets further complicated when, in the church, we add the dimension of elder to the role of board member. So how do we...

Good Governance is NOT an Option

“All nonprofit boards have one thing in common. They do not work.” ~ Peter Drucker I’m not sure I would be quite so pessimistic as Drucker when it comes to assessing the  effectiveness of nonprofit boards; however, I have observed enough ineffective boards to agree at the very least there is some major work to be done.  Sadly, Christian organizations and churches are not exempt and in fact are often the worst offenders. It is out of a deep concern for those Christian organizations and especially the Church that I embark on this series of blogs.  My hope is to that by doing so I might stir some board member or potential board member to examining their role and how the board they serve on might fulfill their responsibilities more effectively. John Carver, often considered the father of the “Good Governance Movement” said this of the state of governance: “Because governance has rarely been the subject of rational design, boards persistently fall into trivia, short-term myopia, meddling in the staff work and other failings. They do so even when composed of intelligent, experienced, caring members. In North America, we have far beyond 5 million governing boards, each relying on the inadequate job design we have all inherited.” My own personal experience of board dysfunction came when I was invited to serve on the Board of a local Christian Bible School and Seminary.  While I had in the past been part of a board, first as a pastor of a church and then on the board of a National Christian Organization, neither of those experiences prepared me for the journey...

The Mission Is Clear Or Is It?

I was watching the news the other evening and they were running a story featuring the new supreme commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan. In the course of his challenge to the troops he said, “We are in this to win, that is our clear objective.” In other words, our mission is clear, we are here to win. However it has been my experience that when it comes to mission, things are often not so clear. What one organization calls mission another calls vision and still another uses terms like purpose and objectives. Is it any wonder then, that our carefully crafted mission and vision statements have little impact on those who are charged with the responsibility of carrying it out? What the general calls “objective” is really the Mission of the NATO forces. One might word it this way, “The mission of the NATO forces in Afghanistan is to win the war against the Taliban”, or “we are in this to win”. If one accepts this as the mission, the next logical question is what will victory look like? Or, how will we know when we have achieved victory? At one time the simple answer would have been when the enemy surrenders and has signed a peace treaty. Unfortunately, today things are much more complicated. Both the nature of the enemy and the context of the war make such a neat conclusion impossible. Consequently we have to take the time to clearly articulate what that victory will look like for both the combatants and those whose land we are defending. We have to, as it were, paint...