“Policy” is not the sexiest word in the English language, but most people grudgingly agree that boards should have at least some policies written down for legal reasons, if nothing else. However, boards that simply have a few policies on the books miss out on the benefits of using a logical framework of principles like Policy Governance.
For example, let’s take an organization that has created a Conflict of Interest policy, a Harassment policy, a Procurement policy, and that also has a strategic plan outlining vision, mission, values and objectives. While having some direction and policy seems better than having none at all, an organization like this is missing the opportunity and benefits of having a clear, simple system inside which everyone knows what is expected in every situation.
Policy Governance, which is comprised of ten principles, provides boards and organizations with this tremendous advantage. Rather than establishing policies on a few scattered subjects, boards using Policy Governance principles have a complete set of policies that express the board’s values underlying every decision made within the company or organization, at least on some level. This comprehensive set of policies ensures that everyone can operate using the same playbook that guides decisions and behavior, even when entirely unforeseen events occur, as they do.
But being comprehensive is not enough; indeed, many well-intentioned boards make too much policy. For it to be useful, the board’s policy manual must also be concise; that is, it must say all that it needs to say, and no more. Policy Governance principles pay very high dividends here, because they enable policy manuals to be meaningful and practical in everyday organizational life. Having policies is one thing; following them is another. What good is a policy manual if it cannot practically be understood, followed, and monitored?
Keeping Policies Concise
One Policy Governance principle that enables boards to develop concise policy manuals is the Policy Sizes principle, which states, in part: “The board decides its policies in each category first at the broadest, most inclusive level. It further defines each policy in descending levels of detail until reaching the level of detail at which it is willing to accept any reasonable interpretation by the applicable delegatee of its words thus far.” (See: Policy Governance Source Document, International Policy Governance® Association). When policies are written in order from broad to specific, a great deal of unnecessary verbiage can be excluded.
Another Policy Governance principle that enables brevity is the Any Reasonable Interpretation principle, which allows boards to stop writing policy at the point at which they feel comfortable with “any reasonable interpretation” of the policy. This principle helps boards and CEOs to save a great deal of time that other boards spend delving into operational detail, do-it-this-way vs. do-it-that way conversations, micro-management, misunderstandings, outright conflict, or worse.
If your board has or needs policies and wants the benefits of using Policy Governance principles, set up a brief free consultation with us or check out the links below for more information.