How Much Should Your Board Be Involved in Management?

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    Experts often have very strong beliefs and feelings about what should be the extent of involvement of Board members in making top-level policies versus in implementing those policies in the day-to-day affairs of the organization. Those experts usually assert that Board members should attend primarily to the top-level policies.

    However, various factors influence how involved Board members are in policy-making versus in “management,” that is, in implementing the policies.

    • New and small organizations might have rather hands-on Board members because those organizations usually have very little in resources, particularly in expertise and funding.
    • Larger, established organizations usually have members who attend primarily to top-level planning and policies because those organizations have adequate resources to effectively implement the plans and policies.
    • If Board members have little confidence in the CEO, there have been frequent operational problems, or the CEO is leaving the organization, then Board members often are more involved in management affairs — at least temporarily.
    • Very autocratic cultures usually place strong value on respecting the role of top-level leaders, in which case Board members (perceived as being very top-level leaders) would probably not be involved in the more subordinate management affairs.
    • Very egalitarian cultures that highly value equal treatment and participation of all people might perceive Board members and employees as having somewhat equal influence in the affairs of the organization, in which case the members might be more involved in management than typically expected.
    • If an organization has been struggling to work toward its mission and top-level priorities, then Board members should probably focus much more on policy making. That helps to ensure that the priorities are indeed relevant and realistic, and are effectively being addressed.

    Regardless of the level of involvement of Board members in the affairs of management, the members have to attend to top-level policy at various times — members can’t delegate those top-level responsibilities to anyone else in the organization.

    What do you think?

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    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
    Read my weekly blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, Nonprofits and Strategic Planning.