Bog post

Bet you thought this title was a typo. It began that way. Then I realized that in the mistake was an insight. Some of the best board work is in the “mucking around”. For those readers in the desert southwest, bear with me, I grew up in northern Indiana. A bog was low wet ground. In Noble County, we called this kind of ground “muck ground”, it is rich black dirt and is wet and hard to walk through. But you can grow almost anything in it! Now what’s this got to do with board work. A little!

I chair a board that has been using policy governance for a decade. It’s helped raise the boards work, clarified expectations of the President, and cleaned up delegation of authority. However, in the last few years we have had to engage profound issues of organizational identity, marketplace position, brand, and ethos. We have discovered the need to get beyond the policies and get between the lines, into the ambiguous space between staff and board, to really explore these matters.

It’s in this boggy ground that we are having our most fertile or generative discussions. To be sure, this work then drives the re-casting of our policies. But, in order to get to this point;  we have lightened up, let go of some of the constraints, and engaged with less worry about whether such and such a comment fit the governance paradigm. We are not abandoning a policy approach to governing, but we learning to muck around on some really important matters from which new directions and effectiveness will emerge.

What’s been your discoveries in the bog?

This entry was posted in Agenda, Board Chairs, Board of Directors, Boards, Culture, Governance, Non-profit. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bog post

  1. Snyder, Lee says:

    So well said, Rick!


  2. Great insight from actual work! We are still getting used to policy governance and it really gets interesting when some gray areas emerge. The dance between traditional board and PG model continues amidst emerging realities as context changes.

    • rick stiffeny says:

      I think our board work is always a work in progress. We need immense trust in the board room between board/executive to navigate the many ambiguities of nonprofit organizational work in these turbulent days. Without trust, the best policies are just that policies without practices that build and reflect trust.

  3. says:

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it.
    I have you saved as a favorite to check out new things you

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