Improving Board Governance: Part 1

Adrianne Geiger Dumond


Three Important Precepts – or ‘mind sets’

How many of us as Board members go to meetings, approve the minutes, the budget, listen to program staff or a video on a success story (that matches our mission), exchange pleasantries, and go home feeling quite satisfied that we have fulfilled our volunteer commitment? Is that good governance of our organization? Should we be thinking deeper?

I recently ran across some excellent concepts on that I would like to share with you. Boardsource calls it ‘generative governance’, and although I don’t favor the esoteric title, there are some precepts that compel me to write several blogs. The concepts are very practical. Boardsource calls the precepts ‘mind sets’. There are three of them, and two are quite traditional and recognized. They are:

  • Fiduciary oversight – review budgets, oversee financial policies, ensure reserves, avoiding unnecessary risk.
  • Strategic oversight – the chief executive, board and staff work together to develop and determine strategic goals and initiatives. They must also work together as strategic partners to determine the organization’s direction.
  • Mindset 3 – ‘Generative insight’ – is the use of critical thinking (challenging suppositions) and problem analysis, tackling ambiguous situations, so that both board and staff partner to establish mission and goals.

The generative mindset tends to take everyone out of their comfort zone – the chief executive (who plays a major role in the transition), staff and board. But there are steps to be taken that ensure board members learn to be part of the decisions and feel comfortable with the process.

In Part 2 of this series we will define those steps, and provide tips for restructuring the board meetings to facilitate the mindset.

In Part 3 we will consider the importance of the chief executive’s role in leading this change, and the barriers and risks involved.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,