So what if your board is hardly able to make maturité at meetings, struggles to fill its own membership, or disagrees constantly about the direction of the organization? And what if these behaviors have been going on for some time in a seemingly intractable pattern that only tends to perpetuate itself? How can an organization possibly break this cycle?
Way too many nonprofit organizations find themselves in this case. A typical evolutionary panel governance pattern is for the founding director to populate the board with friends and/or acquaintances that are interested in the mission. Although an excellent start, to be certain, this approach is not totally adequate. Numerous of these board users might not completely understand their governance role. At first of organizational life, when many board members in many cases are putting on multiple hats (board fellow member, volunteer staff person, fundraiser, community spokesperson, etc . ), this lack of understanding might not exactly surface as an issue.
As time passes, however, a particular pattern of board governance behavior commences to emerge and becomes established. In fact, sometimes the board seems to take on a life of its own that is often at odds with the needs of the organization. Major environmental changes, like the recent economic depression, create shifts in money or reinvent how work is accomplished, and yet the board appears to carry on as though nothing is promoting. Rather than unintentional oversight, it is more likely that it is lack of experience that often pushes boards to the point of crisis, when reacting is the only option left. It truly is at this point that an organization feels stuck – like it is continually playing catch up.
Changing patterns of behavior is one of the most challenging efforts individuals undertake. Changing the pattern of behavior of a group of individuals can feel insurmountable. An organization may have a long history filled up with many stories and legends that new members buy-in to, including the large A board. That popularity of current practice, while efficient, may in the end business lead to an inability to see the main issue, ensuing in undesirable long-term outcomes.
To become unstuck, a board must decide which patterns of behavior it wants to alter. Current stats, however, indicate that almost 70% of most change initiatives fail. That’s an remarkable waste of resources – resources that most charitable organizations cannot afford to waste. There are several approaches to implementing organizational change, many of that can be very effective under the right conditions. A new board that is caught in the rut of ineffective governance, however, presents unique challenges that do not really lend themselves to traditional approaches to change management.
The primary barrier in taking a traditional approach to implementing change is the fact most models require leadership commitment. If an organization is struggling just to get enough board members to attend a table meeting, trying to help them start to see the need for change in their conduct, let alone committing to that effort, will be almost impossible. Their concentrate is most likely on the present, and they may be totally unaware of how board conduct is impacting the overall organization. Given their shortage of awareness and experience, they are unlikely to see the value in most traditional methods to change management.