In Policy Governance® as invented by John Carver, committees and task forces of the board play a much different role than they do in traditional board operation. There are two important principles that cause this. The first is that the board needs to arrive at a single point of direction to the Operational side of the organization through the CEO and therefore can not have committees acting in its place or even being in a position to accidentally direct the operation by themselves or by directing the CEO. The second is that the board respects and needs diversity of opinion and perspective in order to come to its best and most informed decision on any issue and therefore should not put its deliberation, learning, or decision making in the hands of a smaller subset of itself.

These two principles, and the requirements they place on the function of committees and task forces, cause a different function and purpose for those committees and task forces. To begin with, they do not do the work of the board, but will do work that can help the board become prepared to do its own. They always focus on board work, and never on operations. Committees and task forces do not make policy or direct operations but they may gather information to help the board do just that. Committees and Task Forces do not make “recommended policy or decision” as this often becomes the de facto decision for the board who will not want to disappoint the hard work of the group in arriving at it.

In addition to helping the board prepare for decision making and policy development, they may also be authorized by the board to help it in its own internal process and to carry out administrative duties for the board. This may include recruitment and orientation, board education, and possibly even monitoring of the board’s own Governance Process.

So how does a committee do the work preparatory for the board’s decisions? First, the board should follow its own written policy development process. This will ask it to determine if it is a board issue at all, and then direct it to seek out what it may have already said about the issue before. Once an issue is identified as a proper issue for the board, the board will need to decide if it needs additional information. If so, it is appropriate to form a task force or committee to gather the needed information.

The first place the committee or task force should start should be to illicit all of the instruction and direction from the board which it will need to do its work. As it is the board who needs the information, it is the board who should as well as possible define what information it needs and any preferences it holds in the method of gathering it.

Armed with a set of objectives and constraints, the committee or task force may proceed to gather the information required. It is often useful to have a framework to guide the process. Below is a worksheet which others have found useful in fulfilling a committee’s or task force’s charge while staying within the committee precepts found in the Policy Governance® model.

The following form may assist the committee, task force, or individual asked to prepare information preparatory to a board deliberation or decision.

What is the Issue?
(Frame the underlying issue that lies at the core of this consideration or analysis)



History and Background
(Provide a brief explanation of the events or thinking that have led to the presence of the issue)



(A short list of pertinent facts)



(An analysis of the issue in light of the facts)



Alternative Courses of Action
(Alternatives for addressing the issue, with pros and cons and potential criteria for choosing)




Implicated Policy Changes
(An analysis of the policies or policy areas that may be effected in resolving the issue)