Monday, March 25, 2013

Board Input Versus Board Output

Last Saturday, I facilitated a half-day board retreat and asked the board members to rate the meeting on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being high). One thoughtful board member answered, “I’ll give you my rating after we see the next draft of the strategic plan.”

Bingo! That was a brilliant answer! Effective input is important, but output is critical.

“Directors should not confuse hard work, as commendable as it is, with meaningful results,” says Ram Charan in Owning Up: The 14 Questions Ever Board Member Needs to Ask.  

In his chapter, “How Can Our Board Self-Evaluation Improve Our Functioning and Our Output?” Charan quotes an influential board member. This proud-of-his-work director explained, “I personally spent 250 hours on board work last year, including my committee work. And most of my fellow directors did about the same.”

Unimpressed by input only, Charan asked him, “What would you say are the one or two things your board did that really made a difference for the company?”

He added, “The director took a long pause and looked up at the ceiling. He seemed lost in thought, like he was struggling to come up with a concrete answer. As I waited for him to respond, I realized that he probably had never thought about his board work in that way.”
“The board’s output—the quality of the decisions
it makes and actions it takes—is the 
acid test of effective corporate governance.”

Adapting the author’s counsel to Christ-centered boards, I would add, “Does the board in fact help the CEO and the ministry achieve better Kingdom results both short-term and long-term?”

“When boards fail to consider their output,” says Charan, “they can easily convince themselves and others that they’re doing well when in fact the essence of their governance is weak.”

Last Saturday, I was blessed to be in a room with board members who understood that output is critical.  Faithful board service (showing up) is not enough—Kingdom work demands meaningful results because the Great Commission stakes are so high.

QUESTION: “What would you say are the one or two things your board did in the last 12 months that really made a difference for your ministry?”

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