April 22, 2022

Looking at Governance: Gathering Information on Governance Performance (Part 3 of 3)

The Managers’ Corner:                                                                                                                 

Among the five qualities we noted in our last blog (April 8, 2022), Mission Advancement and Client Service, for instance, are the “what” a board should be looking for.  Now it’s time to discuss the “how” (i.e. how we gather information on these five correlates).

Before discussing a more detailed review of the methods associated with the “how,” let’s look at two dimensions of any project, plan or service.  These are referred to in English’s Curriculum Auditing as the design and delivery dimensions – and they are very different.  Essentially, the design dimension refers to the intentions of the designers (i.e. this is what the board is intending to do).  The design dimension is most evident in formal documentation such as terms of reference, guiding principles, mission statements, core values and strategic and operational plans.

The delivery dimension, however, refers to the effect of the initiatives.  It is most evident in information available from interviews with staff and clients, from surveys of both latter and from board minutes and reports that have been furnished to the board.

The key here is that both dimensions must be present in any governance review – and part of that review should be not only what we think we are doing but also whether others see the effects of what we are doing in the same light.  So how do we obtain information on both?

Bendel Services recommends gathering information should be accomplished through the three P’s: People, Places and Paper.

People:  board members, staff and clients and any other individuals or groups who are involved with the organization in soke fashion.  In terms of specific sources this could be through such vehicles as surveys, formal and/or informal interviews or focus groups assembled to respond to the simple question: “As a board, how are we doing?”

Places:  actual locations where the work of the board should be in evidence.  It could be a central office or any other location where some facets of the board’s intentions are being implemented.  For example, if a board from a school district wants to examine its effectiveness, it would be unthinkable for the board not to visit schools and see what evidence there is of its work.

Paper:  hard copy and information using a technological medium – annual reports, communication vehicle such as newsletters or videos etc.  If permitted and advisable, selected e-amils are a fertile source of “information” on the ground about how the board’s business is being conducted.

The list goes on and on for all three P’s.  Once that is done, the information should be triangulated to support objectivity and to enhance the credibility of what is being reported.  Finally, that analysis should be incorporated into two parts:

  1. findings which itemized what was revealed, and
  2. recommendations that are based on those findings which themselves could be built around a “stop, start and continue” continuum.

If a governing board is serious about examining its effectiveness, start with identifying what “effectiveness” looks like.  Be assiduous in gathering information on both design and delivery dimensions, and ask, look and read as much as possible before drawing conclusions and making adjustments in the interest of the clients the board was designed to serve in the first place.

Dr. Dan