Boundary Management

An Extensive Policy GovernanceĀ® Resource for Boards of Directors

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Featured Question: Can a Board move to Policy Governance by starting with the Ends rather than the other three policy categories?

Answer: A Board can start anywhere it wants to start, and there is some logic to starting with Ends. The most important thing to consider is what your Board has the most energy for. There are strengths and weaknesses to either approach.

The argument for starting with the other three policy categories is that by defining them first, the Board is freed up to concentrate on the work necessary to identify Ends. This would be especially true for Boards that have large Board agendas. Unless they somehow get a handle on better managing their governance process, they will not have time for the work of Ends. Policy Governance provides a way to focus on what is critical and what is not.

The downside of starting with the other three policy categories is that the Board may quit once these are done. All of their energy went into that effort. Many Policy Governance Boards take another two or three years before they get back to looking at Ends with any real deliberation. However well-intentioned a Board is, the skill development needed to manage the new processes consumes most of the free time gained. A similar occurrence happens when a Board starts with Ends. It is not unlikely that a Board will run out of steam once it has the Ends identified, only coming back to the other policies later.

There is a case for starting with Ends. Ends hold more importance than limitations or Board processes ever will. As a Board clarifies the organization's Ends, the easier everyone can identify with the organization. Even if some Board members disagree with the Ends, this is a healthy sign of organizational identity. It is a sign that the Ends have meaning and represent a value for people.

By starting with the Ends, the Board creates accountability for itself that doesn't exist when they start with the other three policy categories. The achievement of Ends applies to the Board and the Executive. That is one of the meanings of being owner-accountable. Although possible and logical, it is rare for Boards to be accountable to owners for compliance with Limitations on means. The Executive is accountable to the Board for accomplishing the Ends. As is Board is accountable to the owners for the accomplishment of the Ends.

Ends add something that limitations and Board processes will never be able to do for an organization; they give it meaning. By their very nature, Limitations do not determine meaning for an organization. That is one of the pitfalls for Boards that enact everything but the Ends. They have yet to gain the energy and focus that Ends can provide for an organization.

This definition of meaning that Ends provide is the catalyst that helps organizations focus on identifying the causal factors of accomplishing the Ends. The Ends provide tension or stress that motivates people to move in a direction to reduce it.

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