This article highlights the keys to the effectiveness of the Policy Governance Model.

Keys to the Policy Governance ® Model's Effectiveness

(The Policy Governance Model was invented by John Carver and is his registered trade mark)
The model is a complete system of governance, with principles, structures and processes integrated. As a result it creates a very effective system of governance.

Ownership Accountability

  • The board formally recognizes the source of its own authority, the ownership.
  • The board promises to govern from the perspective of owner representative.
  • The board recognizes it is accountable to that ownership and promises to connect to them.
  • The board defines, for the ownership, the organizational Ends (what good, for whom, at what comparable value).


  • Organizational decisions are made which align with the interests of the ownership.
  • The organization is focused on accomplishing that which it exists to produce.
  • The board is regularly reminded about its role and its accountability to the ownership.

Humane and Powerful Delegation

  • Expectations for performance are clearly defined, in advance, leading to humane empowerment.
  • Expectations for boundaries of operational choice are clearly defined in advance.
  • Direction and expectations are done only through written policies.
  • Recipients of delegation are allowed any reasonable interpretation of what has been placed in writing.
  • Recipients of delegation are only accountable for any reasonable interpretation of what has been said.
  • A pre-defined, formal, and routine system of checking on performance exists.


  • Protects the delegation recipient from being surprised or blind-sided, making them more confident about choosing any action within the boundaries.
  • It is clear what is to be accomplished and what level of authority to act has been granted.
  • Criteria for evaluation are clear.

Complete Delegation, Unobstructed Authority

  • CEO is given authority for ALL operational means, with the exception of the Limitations.
  • Board process is designed to avoid obstruction of this authority by individual members, officers, committees, or the board as a whole.
  • It is clear who is accountable, and for what.


  • It is clear that the CEO has been given all authority necessary to complete, and be accountable for, operational results.
  • The process protects this authority and thus the CEO's ability to use it.
  • There is no confusion or need for unstated assumptions. The job and its accountability are firmly placed.

Self-Generated Performance Data

  • The interpretation in Internal Monitoring Reports reveals the thought process behind the CEO's actual decision-making values.
  • Both parties agree about the data that would show the criteria are met (the CEO by naming the data, the board by accepting the type of data named as able to prove criteria are being met).
  • Management determines what it is appropriate to measure, which forces it to measure the right things.
  • Management can choose the data and collection methods that (a) also are going to be appropriate for management use, and (b) are most likely to fit the flow of existing work processes and systems.
  • There is no need for a dual measurement system.


  • Assumptions concerning the clarity of the language are tested and the need for increased clarity identified.
  • The board sees data driven proof that its direction is being followed and that the organization is on track.
  • Organizational resources are not wasted tracking multiple measures that may or may not provide any useful information.

Role Definition and Clarity

  • It is clear who has authority and for what.
  • The structure is designed to protect the distinction between roles.
  • The scope of authority, and any limits to it, is defined in advance.
  • A process is defined for board/CEO interaction (one voice, evaluation, monitoring, policy development, etc.)


  • A major source of friction is removed.
  • The board may rest assured that nothing has been overlooked.
  • Both the board and the CEO can focus on their own value-added roles knowing that the other is clear about and focusing on their own.

Mutual Support

  • The structure and processes are designed to create clear expectations of support to each other.
  • The board lends support by; (a) defining clearly its expectations, (b) holding the CEO accountable only for any reasonable interpretation of what it has said, and (c) observing the boundaries of the relationship.
  • The CEO lends support to the board, in fact is required to do so in policy, by; (a) providing communication and support, (b) informing the board if it is in violation of its own policy, (c) informing the board of any impending or actual violation of policy, (d) informing the board of any impending event which may impact the organization's public appearance, (e) assuring that the board has a mechanism for its own communications, and (f) providing the funds required by the board in the annual operating budget.


  • Both can count on the other holding up their end.
  • Neither is prevented from fulfilling their role due to a lack of support from the other

Group Process is Defined

  • A path for traveling from diversity to shared wisdom is outlined in policy.
  • Board policy stipulates that members will support the process, and that if it is a process they can support, they will support the decisions it arrives at.
  • The nature of the group work is pre-defined and agreed to.


  • Lofty principles can actually be brought to practice.
  • Board diversity and holism is protected.
  • If an undisciplined member tries to subvert the system, monitoring will show the board to be out of compliance and will highlight the miscreant behavior.

A Framework of Values and Perspectives for Further Decision Making is Provided

  • Values are operationalized in the Ends and Executive Limitations Policies.
  • Values and perspectives are thus defined and accessible for use.
  • All the values needed to guide operational decisions are provided (the board speaks until it can accept any reasonable interpretation of its words).
  • The Policies provide clear direction to those decisions.


  • The CEO has an actual foundation from which to make additional decisions and tough choices.
  • Any decision made, if the policies have completely captured the needed values, will result in an acceptable decision or choice.

Evaluation and Monitoring ensures that Outcomes are Measured and that the Need to Refine the Framework of Values and Perspectives (the Policies) are Regularly Considered and Deliberated

  • Monitoring provides a regular "debriefing" or "post mortem" which leads to continuous improvement.
  • Monitoring surfaces new worries and concerns, new understandings, and new issues, all of which can drive the perpetual development, adjustment, and renewal of the Policies.
  • Regularly scheduled checking on outcomes and limitations allow the organization to adjust its course with continuous small changes, instead of waiting for a crisis to reveal the need for drastic change.
  • A formal process of monitoring forces the human beings involved to ask the "tough questions" that are either often seen as hard or unpleasant to ask.
  • During CEO evaluation, the board is led to review the entire year's worth of monitoring, thus offering a chance to draw any larger conclusions and spot any patterns that individual reports would not make evident.


  • The policies are alive and are continuously updated to reflect changing values, external conditions, and understanding.
  • Deviations from expectations and policies are detected earlier and thus are more likely to be noticed and corrected before they become catastrophic.

Focus on the Most Important Issues

  • The process of developing policy from the broadest to the narrowest, stopping only when any reasonable interpretation can be accepted, results in direction that is focused at the largest level yet still includes any valued priorities among competing focuses.


  • The board may give all direction to the organization that it feels is necessary.
  • The CEO is not inundated with menial direction.
  • Both the board and CEO can focus on their appropriate and separate tasks.

The System Provides a Safe Haven for Trust

Board to CEO Trust

  • Clear and previously defined expectations.
  • Role boundaries.
  • Speaking with one voice.

CEO to Board Trust

  • Communication and support.
  • Full accountability.
  • Monitoring process.


  • Because the most frequent sources of worry and concern for the board concerning the CEO and the CEO concerning the board are addressed and resolved in policy, true trust can occur.