A board is composed of a number of different people for a reason. The organization benefits from getting differing opinions about the issues that need to be decided. A board member should be speaking their own mind, not parroting the opinions of others. If a board member simply goes along with what the majority thinks, then they are not using their own thinking skills.
Critical thinking skills are becoming more important as the information we receive from some sources is becoming more and more polarized. When you hear the same story reported on right wing media and compare it to the news on left wing media, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is two different stories.
Organizations have to collect the information they need from different sources and apply critical thinking skills to determine the course of action. Board members who can think for themselves are becoming more valuable.
When an organization sets a goal, they also should consider the strategies that will lead to achieving the goal. A goal without a plan is simply a wish. However, there can be confusion about the difference between strategies and tactics. A strategy is the plan and the tactics represent the implementation.
An organization might set a goal of increasing their number of members. One of the strategies to achieve the goal could be social media advertising. The tactic could be placing an advertisement on LinkedIn twice a week. Considering the difference between strategy and tactics helps us to understand the role of the board and the role of management.
The board sets the strategic direction and management implements the strategies. The board says “Do social media advertising” and management is responsible for designing, placing the advertisements, monitoring what works/doesn’t work and then reporting back to the board about the success of the strategy. The board thinks strategically and management acts tactically.
A policy and a procedure are not the same thing, but they are connected. A good policy explains what will be achieved by its implementation. The procedure is how we do it.
An example is, “our policy is that every expenditure that our organization makes must be approved by two people.” The procedure would vary depending on whether the expenditure is being paid by a cheque or by an online transfer. A cheque would require two signatures and the procedure would be that one cheque signer reviews the documents and signs the cheque, then forwards the entire package to the second cheque signer. If the expenditure is being made by an online transfer, then the first person would initiate the transaction and the second person would approve it, only then would the transaction takes place.
You can see how the policy might not be implemented properly if people thought the policy was that you have two cheque signers. That is not the policy, that is the procedure. The policy is that two people have to approve an expenditure, so if you change your method of payment you have to change the procedure in order to implement the policy.
A new board member fulfills a very important role in an organization. This is the person who asks the important questions. The ones like “Why we do this?” Once someone has been on the board for a long time they no longer ask these type of questions.
An important part of turning over the board (getting new members) is having a fresh look at the way an organization works. It is also crucial for the board to react in a positive way to all of the questions that a new board member would have. It is not acceptable to answer their questions with “Because that is the way that we do things here.” That is not an answer, and if it’s the best answer that you can think of, odds are that you should be changing whatever it is that you are doing. You need a better explanation than “because,” to continue doing things the same way!
The benefit of having a new person is the re-examination. So, use these questions to really examine why the organization does things the way that they do.