Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Blunt Board Member Blesses His CEO!

A CEO confessed to me recently that several years ago a board member told him, “Now’s not the time for us to launch a strategic plan.”

Expecting just the opposite response, the ministry leader asked for the bullet points on why a planning process should be postponed.

The board member was blunt, but gentle: 
“Because you don’t have the discipline 
to implement a strategic plan.”

Whew! That’s one way to create conflict between a CEO and board member! But after reflection and prayer, the CEO agreed with his insightful board member.

Proverbs 25:11-12 (The Message) says, "The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, and a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger."

Side note: Patrick Lencioni’s brilliant book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Businessincludes a helpful pyramid of values:
Lencioni says that after you build trust, you need healthy conflict. And this dynamic duo of a visionary CEO and a pragmatic board member trusted each other enough to risk conflict by engaging conversationally in what, for some, would have been an awkward dust-up. (Interestingly, Lencioni also says that the reason some meetings—board meetings perhaps—are so boring is because they don’t have enough conflict!)

So what happened?  The CEO put the strategic planning process on hold, developed a sound and sustainable annual planning process, with metrics and dashboards—and now, he discerns, the organization just might have the discipline to not only create a strategic plan, but actually execute one.

As Eugene H. Fram and Jerry L. Talley acknowledge,

“Strategic plans are most vulnerable not in their development, but in their implementation. And implementation often hinges on some measurable indication of progress. Without those metrics, the plan is a group of intentions always on the verge of greatness. Without hard data on which to anchor organizational outcomes, the organization can wobble off course without a clear warning signal.”

And sensing that a strategic plan process will test the full capabilities and brainpower of his staff and board, the CEO told me the team will pursue a spiritual discernment process in tandem with the planning work. He loves Ruth Haley Barton’s wisdom, “Just because something is strategic does not mean it is God’s will for us right now.”

QUESTION: What’s the trust level between the board and the CEO? Is hard truth spoken frequently, sometimes, rarely or never?

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