Policy Governance gives you many options for assessing whether or not the behaviors and results measure up to expectations in policy.
Over the last few years, monitoring teaching and practice have evolved significantly. In our work with, and on, boards, we have found that monitoring as it is being taught today can be both powerful and enlightening but that it requires a new way of thinking about assessment.
Here are a few of the monitoring elements that you may want to know more about:
- The monitoring process as a system
The monitoring process is best thought of as a system rather than a static act. It is not just about the board delegating a policy, the CEO interpreting and providing a report, and the board finding the CEO in compliance or not. It is an opportunity for strategic thought and exchange. Development of the policy is the Board's strongest strategic act, defining values and then determining just how much to say about them to maximize CEO empowerment. Interpretation as an operational definition is where the CEO takes broad board policy and makes it actionable by making further decisions and definitions within it. The board does have to do its job of providing written direction in policy and assessing compliance based on the -interpretation but after the formal assessment is complete it is possible to have an exchange of thoughts about differences of perspective. AFTER the assessment is done, not in it or before it.
For even more information click to go to our article The Monitoring Process 2013
- Developing operational definitions
Operational Definitions are the new gold standard for the CEO's interpretation. The concept implies that the interpretation must provide enough detail and definition that it makes the policy actionable and measurable to the extent that it could be tested. That is, if it desired to, the board, using the same definition and variables and measurement method, could actually replicate the test and find the same results. In developing it, the CEO not only makes further decisions and definitions but also sets up a system of measurement and a standard of performance would show successful compliance with the interpretation (and provides rationale for why this is all a reasonable interpretation). This means that any major component of the policy or interpretation must be defined to the extent that it is discreet (that is, able to be identified as isolated).
For even more information click to go to our article Developing Operational Definitions
- Using interpretations to drive strategic planning
Creating the Operational Definition of the board's policy is best seen as the framework for the creation of a strategic vision and plan. The board has offered its strategic vision in the Ends Policies and has also stated what operational means, methods or situations would not be acceptable. By applying his/her own understanding and thought on how to maximize the Ends without violating the constraints of the Limitations, the CEO can create an interpretation as Operational Definition which will not only meet the board's reporting requirements but also lead into a strategic planning session with staff.
To learn more about the board's role in strategic planning click here for our article on "Strategic Planning with Policy Governance®"
To see how board policies and the monitoring process conceptually fit within a traditional strategic planning process, click here.
- Strategic use of your monitoring schedule
The monitoring schedule is an instrument of the board, defined in policy, which it can use to increase confidence and comfort that its policies are actually being followed. When the board experiences a lower level of confidence that it is getting an accurate picture, or is concerned that things are not quite right, the monitoring schedule can be used strategically. Since the schedule is part of a policy authored by the board, the schedule can be changed anytime the board wishes (taking into account the potential burden it may place on management in developing the reports).
After checking to make sure that its true underlying concern is covered in policy then all the board needs to do is check to see that the CEO’s interpretation is being followed. If there is an area of volatility that calls for closer watching, the board can increase the frequency of the required report. If the board has developed a lack of confidence, not in the report passing muster but in whether or not the information in the report is accurate, it can consider adding an external inspection or direct inspection to the schedule (always using the reasonable interpretation of the CEO as the starting point). If the board has a new CEO in whom it has not yet built confidence, the board can adjust either the frequency or the method of reporting. And if it has areas of concern but is also worried that the increased monitoring might paralyze the organization by consuming all its time in reporting, the board can be surgically precise about a specific policy level rather than the whole policy (though that level must take into account all levels above it).
For even more information on the Monitoring Process click here for our article The Monitoring Process 2013
For a guide to thinking through what to do with a concern that you, as a board member, might have but don't know how to address appropriately, click here for our article What if You Have a Concern? What do You do with It?
Board evaluation of monitoring reports
The monitoring process might be thought of as requiring three distinct stages of action. First, the board must ensure that it has accurately captured its values concerning Ends and Executive Limitations in written policy. Second, the CEO must develop and report an operational definition of the board's policies, providing interpretation, rationale and data. And, often overlooked, the board must do its job of critically assessing the report to assure performance. Assessing monitoring reports is not a passive act, a board should not merely accept them as being received. The report itself is less important than the information in it and the board must actively judge three things; is this a reasonable interpretation, would the proposed system of measurement and standard of compliance be appropriate evidence that the interpretation was being fulfilled and does the data provided actually show that it is being fulfilled. If any of these three is not agreed to by the majority of the board, it is not acceptable. Any time a report is found not acceptable, the board should demand that it be made right by some certain time (which may be as long as the next report due) BUT it should take action.
To see how options for potential board findings on compliance and to see how assessment fits in the monitoring process click here for our article The Monitoring Process 2013