End time: 11:33 pm
Last night was a very constructive meeting of the Board Operations Committee. There was a lot to cover, but amongst a rather packed agenda, we reviewed the current Board Committee Structure and whether it was being properly implemented. It was my understanding that this was a concern of multiple Board members; however, once the subject was brought to the floor, and multiple Board members turned their heads in my direction, it was clear that I had been the squeaky wheel. And proudly so.
It is hard to be the new guy pushing for change. The presumption is that you don't know where the organization has been or how much "better" things are now. As such, I heard a lot of "For your information" and "you should know." That's fine, so long as we are not interminably wed to a system that may not be the best we can do. I should also say up front that the CA Board has been without most of the horrors that were predicted for me back when I was considering an uncontested run back in April. In fact, my frustrations have been primarily directed toward what has appeared to me to be the inefficient use of an intelligent, dedicated, and passionate Board.
From my perspective, meaningful Board reform can be broken down into two objectives: one functional, the other systemic. First, using the system that is already in place, we need to empower our committees. This was best explained by Andy Stack, who noted that the Board is not delegating any action items to our committees and, instead, retains items for Board approval that can justifiably be disposed of at the committee level. Cindy Coyle further noted that when the committee meetings were first consolidated at the Board level (i.e., when we first started having committee meetings within Board meetings), the committee members would be given the floor and other Board members would be present in a "fish-bowl" capacity. This is a critical point. Committees are intended to serve as deliberative bodies for the Board from which those items were delegated. As such, committees serve no relevant purpose if the entire Board is deliberating. None. Zip. Zilch.
I came to this Board reform item with the idea that committees need to either meet independently or be dissolved (the latter being a recognition of what already exists in terms of Board function). I still think there is a vast amount of room for committee delegation and independence, but I am comfortable with a middle ground of maintaining the facially redundant function of having committees of three meet in front of the remainder of the Board, so long as there are some additional restrictions on non-committee deliberation and objective goal-setting by the Board and/or Staff for what those committees are to accomplish.
That leads to the second, and most transformative, objective: staff originated agendas. At present, Board members are able to pull agenda items from the ether, without reference point in terms of staff operations or the facts on the ground. The clearest example of this is Symphony Woods. We have repeatedly had agenda items to discuss Symphony Woods without staff having anything to tell us or suggest anything for Board approval. This shows a clear failure in collaboration and is a frank waste of Board time. There are multiple ways in which staff oriented agendas may work, but here is a model that I've compiled from various resources on the High Impact Governing structure that already exists:
- The Board, via the Planning and Strategy Committee, creates President/Organizational Goals;
- The President and Staff calendar bench-marks for meeting those Goals and, in pursuit of those benchmarks, create Agenda items for approval by the Board;
- Agenda items are submitted to the Board Operations Committee, which serves a vetting function, contrasting agenda proposals against the Goals set by the Board and assuring correct placement within the committee structure;
- Agenda items make it through committees, as action items (not brain-storming deliberations), are reviewed and digested by the committee, and then recommended to the Board for vote.
This all may be a little wonky for those of you who do not care about the Columbia Association, but it is very important to me. I was genuinely happy with the disposition of things after our Board meeting last night. Phil Nelson has been asked to draft proposals for a suggestion that committee meetings meet separately, although under the cognizance of the entire Board, and a proposal for how staff oriented agenda items may work. These two proposals have the capability of actualizing a great deal of potential with this Board. With structure, goal-setting, and disciplined deliberation, we could establish the platform for doing great things in Columbia. But, as I keep saying, we're going to have to give up things like what trees are coming down and whether we know how many loads of towels are cleaned in our gyms on a monthly basis. We can't have both macro and micro. It is a choice.
That's all for today. Have a great Tuesday doing what you love.