Board Self Assessment (Evaluation)

What is it?

Simply put, it is any system of self monitoring that helps the board stay on track with its policies and get better over time. There are a number of different methods, all of which can work, ranging from very formal to very informal. Basically the board defines a process that will let it regularly check to make sure that it is following its own policies (Governance Process and Board/President Linkage).

  • It is a group process; the board assessment is done on the board as a body.
  • It is a tool for continuous improvement.
  • It should be uplifting and elevating. As the board gets even better, it should feel a sense of growth and accomplishment.
  • It is process of self-renewal that lets the board review its own policies over the course of a year.

What is it not?

There are many things that it is not;

  • It is not a "report card" or measurement of "good or bad", "successful or unsuccessful". 
  • It is not something that needs to be public.
  • It is not about laying blame or pointing fingers.
  • It is not about individual performance.

What is its value?

I think Policy Governance® was designed, among other things, to help a board elevate itself to a new level of functioning so that its organization can excel. The policies themselves define the system to deliver on that promise. The problem is that some of the ways the model asks boards to behave are contrary to natural human tendencies and previous experience and, because they are so different, it is easy to forget to actually follow those behaviors. Board Monitoring (whatever name you use for it) is about helping the board follow through. 

Part of what makes Policy Governance work is that there are clear roles and relationships between the board and the President. The policies define these roles and the relationship so that both sides know how the process works and can go about their individual business confident that the other will carry out their part. The Policies are designed to insure that the relationship and roles can be maintained.
In my experience board self assessment works best when it is done using a regular schedule for looking at each of the board's policies, reviewing what they say, checking to see how closely the board's work actually reflects the policies, and then developing a self improvement plan or policy change if one is needed.

A number of good things can happen as a result;

  • The Board/CEO relationship is protected.
  • The Board reviews and then reconsiders each of its own policies over the course of the year which keeps them fresh and up to date.
  • The Board is gently reminded how it has said that it wants to work.
  • Any areas for improvement are identified and acted on.
  • The Board continues to grow and evolve over time.

One Possible Process for the Board

  1. A schedule is set so that a monitoring (assessment) date is defined for each policy in the Governance Process and Board-Executive Linkage Policies
  1. For each policy in the Governance Process and Board-Executive Linkage Policies, the Chair assigns the individual policy to individual Board members.
  1. Each Board member promises to really understand the Policies they have been assigned and to become the "internal expert" on those Policies.
  1. Before the board session at which a given policy or policies will be assessed, staff support will send out a reminder to everyone asking them to review the appropriate policies. They will be asked to make their own judgment as to how well the board as a whole has been following this policy, if they see any areas where the Board could do a better job of following this particular Policy, and what they think might help the Board follow it even better. It would also ask them to comment if they felt that there was a change in the policy that they thought the Board should consider.

    Questions in the email would include:
    1. Based on what you have observed, is the Board in strict compliance with all parts of this Policy?
    2. If not, where is it not in compliance?
    3. What, if anything, do you think we might do to improve our ability to follow this Policy?
    4. Do you see the need for any possible changes in this Policy and, if so, what changes?
  1. The email responses are forwarded back to staff support to be compiled and then sent to the person assigned to that policy who will look over the comments.
  1. There is an item placed on meeting agenda for Board self assessment of the appropriate policies.
  1. When the agenda reaches that item, the person assigned to that policy gives a short summary of what they saw in the responses. The Chair can then ask the Board if it wishes to consider any action (for example; policy changes, plan to learn more about it, or an improvement plan) based on what it has learned.
  1. If the Board does have something it would like to take action on the Chair helps the Board determine how and when.
  1. Each year the assigned Policies are rotated so that no one person becomes attached to the same Policy year after year.

Section 3

Governance Process/Ownership Linkage



"Internal Consultant"


Global Governance Commitment





Governing Style





Board Job Description





Board Member's Code of Conduct





Agenda Planning





President of the Board's Role





Board Committee Principles





Board Committee Structure





Cost of Governance









Section  4

Board-CEO Linkage





Global Governance-Management Linkage





Unity of Control





Accountability of the CEO





Delegation to the CEO





Monitoring CEO Performance





CEO Compensation & Benefits