Saturday, October 25, 2008

What, Why and How- Governance/ Admin

The last week the Board has done some very important and time-consuming work, wrestling with the sometimes blurry line between what is Board work and what is the work of administration. I think this should be part of any new trustee's first order of business because having a clear understanding of this concept will, in my opinion, alleviate a lot of stress and misunderstanding down the line.

So- here's my understanding of the distinction:

The Board of trustees deal with the WHAT and the WHY. Administration deals with the HOW.
The Board of Trustees set the policy which defines the WHAT and the WHY. The Administration develops the regulation which details HOW the policy will be executed.

The temptation is, of course, for trustees to jump into the HOW, because the details are what most of us have some experience in. We hear about the details from our constituents. We experience or have experienced the details ourselves if we have children. People talk about the details, rarely about the concepts (WHAT) or the underlying philosophy/rationale of public education (WHY).

But, with practice and a clear understanding of this key difference, I think effective leadership (governance) happens. I have been guilty of finding or looking for the solution, rather than clearly identifying the problem and the underlying reason why it is a problem and allowing the administration to find the solution (the HOW). This comes from my background as a freelance creator.... you don't, in that role, complain about the problem without offering a solution. It's not productive. However, in this new role, I need to understand why the division of labour is there, respect the expertise of the people we employ, and allow them to do their work (finding the how). This doesn't mean that I will abdicate my responsibility to monitor and evaluate their solution and ultimately, require accountability if the HOW is not successful. Delegation is not abdication.

This is the new lens through which I will be evaluating recommendations, motions and decisions. What part of this problem is ours to tackle; what part of it is the administration's ?

A few links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governance
http://www.iog.ca
http://www.iog.ca/boardgovernance/html/gov_the.html

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