Two board members walk out of the association’s planning session. One of them says, “Great session, but who’s going to do the work?” The other board member offers, “I don’t really know, but those cookies were amazing!”
Too often, there is no good understanding and closure around the roles of governance and management after a strategic planning session. Governance and management have distinct roles.
All corporations (including associations and chambers) have a board of directors responsible for setting a direction for the organization. Their primary purposes include:
- Governance of the organization (not management)
- Set a strategic direction (strategic plan)
- Set policies and positions
- Protect assets
- Represent stakeholder/member interests
- Fiduciary responsibilities
The professional staff team is responsible for implementing the decisions of the governing body:
- Execute the decisions of the Board
- Support volunteer efforts
- Administer daily details
- Monitor and report on progress
- Manage organizational affairs, personnel and property
- Official filings as necessary
The roles are often confused. Directors who think their job is to manage or micromanage. And staff who don’t trust the board and begin to do the work for them.
Role Definitions after the Retreat
Here’s what should happen at the close of the strategic planning retreat and thereafter:
Board Sets Direction Via a Strategic Plan: The board sets the direction through a strategic plan that has a clear mission, vision, values, goals, strategies, and performance measures. This is clearly a governance role given the board’s fiduciary responsibility.
Builds Commitment: Both the board and professional staff teams take on this dual role in order to build commitment around the strategic plan.
Board Creates the Budget Aligned Plan: The board, as a fiduciary of the organization in its governance role, is responsible for allocating resources in the budget for the strategic plan.
Communicates & Engages: The job of governance is to communicate the plan to the rest of the key stakeholders in the organization and build enthusiasm and engagement. The role of the executive director is to communicate the importance of the plan and develop a business plan (annual plan of work) for execution to engage the entire professional staff team. This dual role is essential in strategic organizational alignment.
Professional Staff Team Aligns People, Tools and Technology: The professional staff team, through its management role, aligns people, tools, and technology to effectively execute the strategic plan given the resources allocated by the board. Avoiding micromanagement by the board or other volunteers is critical to enable the team to follow the plan and budget set by the board.
Determines Accountabilities & Collaborations: It is important to set accountabilities on both the board and professional staff team. For example, the board should be accountable to adhering to the strategic plan while the team is accountable for providing dashboards to show plan progress and key achievements.
Plan is Deployed to the Members: Now that the plan is built, budget has been defined, and key resources allocated in a business plan, it is important to deploy the full plan to the membership. This is an excellent opportunity to place a call for volunteers on key task forces and committees that will contribute to moving it forward. Both the board and professional staff team take on a critical role in deployment.
Motivates, Rewards & Recognizes to Deliver Results: It is very important to establish a system to motivate, recognize, and reward those who are achieving results in the plan that includes volunteers and the professional staff team. Celebrate key milestones in the plan publicly and recognize those who have contributed in events, newsletters, and in social media.
The staff team should also celebrate key wins through incentives (cash), recognition (social media, newsletters, events), and in performance reviews. The more an organization recognizes someone’s efforts, the more other members will recognize that they should be involved. On the staff side, recognizing results and rewarding them is a big step towards retention.
Board and Professional Staff Team Evaluates and Improves the Plan: The board and staff team evaluates and improves the plan on a regular basis. Best practice is to set the agenda by the strategic plan goals, monitor performance at every board meeting, refresh the plan annually, and set a new direction every three – five years.
Inspires & Raises the Bar: If we move through this governance and management cycle, the result is an inspired staff and board that continuously raises the bar on itself. It leads to greater engagement at all levels and the ability to retain top leadership.
“Every organization needs to be mission-driven, and member focused. If we lose sight of the respective governance and management roles, we lose sight of serving the members and the mission of the organization,” professes Bob Harris, CAE.
The best way to ensure alignment on roles is to convene a board and staff development session annually to understand the board’s fiduciary role while also recognizing the important part that management plays in realizing the vision that is set by the governing body.