Take your board to a higher level of performance

Re-introducing the Components of Extraordinary Governance with more detailed information to come on individual components.

We’ve all heard stories of dysfunctional nonprofit and government boards, and we could fill several pages with a list of the various problems they exhibit and subsequent organizational failures that result.

So, what makes a board’s governance extraordinary, and how can other boards apply those lessons to improve their performance and the performance of their organization? I’ve worked with boards and committees for over 30 years, 20 with Michigan State University Extension. My colleagues and I have taught a number of techniques to improve boards, so I was intrigued a few years ago when I began to study a particular governance “model”, designed to be implemented by a board to help it be more successful.

That’s how I introduced the “Components of Extraordinary Governance” three years ago in the first of a four article series. This article summarizes those four. If you are interested in the entire series, you can find the first one here. Each of the four articles has a link to the next.

Since then, the MSU Extension Government and Public Policy team has incorporated the ten components into several educational programs, and I have also created and facilitated a program where participating board members discuss the components individually in small groups and apply it to their board experience.

A governance model, or framework, is a set of characteristics, practices, or principles designed to help a board improve its level of performance. Some are more prescriptive about how you apply them, while others give the board a high level of flexibility to design their own process within the guidance of the framework.

The “Components of Extraordinary Governance” are a combination of functions the board must carry out, principles that undergird the board’s operations, and methods of operation that have been proven successful by many boards over time. The components are a compilation and reorganization of ideas contained in the eight models and lists that I have studied, measured against my experiences working with boards, serving as a member of a board, as a staff person working for a board, and my role as an educator/facilitator/consultant.

The ten components are:

  • Mission focused actions and impacts
  • Resources to accomplish the mission
  • Constructive partnership between board and staff with clearly defined roles
  • Performance benchmarking and monitoring for both impacts and finances
  • The board as a body – a thoughtful, intentional plan to govern together
  • Informed policy guides actions that achieve goals
  • Culture of accountability, transparency and integrity
  • Great meetings
  • Culture of forward thinking excellence
  • Responsive and accountable partnership with stakeholders

I wrote nine articles in 2014 focusing on five of the components. You can find them here. Page through the article list to find them, written in November and December 2014. In future weeks, we’ll complete the series with additional articles covering the remaining five components in more detail.

MSU Extension provides, through the Government and Public Policy Team and the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy, educational programs for local government officials and citizens regarding many aspects of local and tribal governments in Michigan. Please contact John Amrhein for more information.

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