To do so requires a board having the ability to visualize a much better future and the foresight to make it happen. So what if your board is barely able to make quorum at meetings, struggles to fill its own regular membership, or disagrees constantly about the direction of the corporation? And what if these behaviors have been proceeding on for a long period in a seemingly intractable pattern that only tends to perpetuate itself? How can an organization possibly break this cycle?
Too many nonprofit organizations find themselves in this example. A typical evolutionary panel governance pattern is for the founding director to populate the board with friends and/or acquaintances that are excited about the quest. Although an excellent start, to be certain, this approach is not totally adequate. Many of these board members might not exactly totally understand their governance role. At first of organizational life, when many large A board members in many cases are using multiple hats (board associate, volunteer staff person, fundraiser, community spokesperson, and so forth ), this lack of understanding may well not surface as a problem.
As time passes, however, a particular pattern of board governance behavior commences to emerge and becomes established. In fact, sometimes the board seems to carry out a life of its own that is often at odds with the needs of the organization. Major environmental changes, like the recent economic downturn, create shifts in money or reinvent how work is accomplished, and yet the board generally seems to have on as though nothing has changed. Rather than unintended oversight, more advanced that it is lack of experience that often pushes boards to the point of turmoil, when reacting is the only option left. It truly is at this point that an organization feels caught – like it is continually playing catch up.
Changing patterns of behavior is one of the very most challenging efforts individuals undertake. Changing the pattern of behavior of a group of individuals can feel insurmountable. A company may have a long history filled up with many reports and legends that new members buy-in to, including the board. That popularity of current practice, while efficient, may eventually guide to an inability to see the real picture, producing in undesirable long-term outcomes.
To become unstuck, a board must decide which patterns of behavior it wants to change. Current statistics, however, indicate that almost 70% of all change efforts fail. That’s an remarkable waste of resources – resources that most nonprofits cannot afford to waste materials. There are several approaches to implementing organizational change, many of which is often very effective under the right conditions. A new board that is caught in the rut of ineffective governance, however, poses unique challenges that do not necessarily lend themselves to traditional approaches to change management.
The primary barrier in taking a traditional method to implementing change is the fact that most models require leadership commitment. If an organization is struggling just to get enough board users to attend a table meeting, trying to help them see the need for change in their conduct, let alone committing to that effort, will be practically impossible. Their emphasis is most likely on the present, and they may be completely unaware of how board habits is impacting the overall organization. Given their shortage of awareness and foresight, they are unlikely to see the value in most traditional approaches to change management.