Does Board Size Really Matter?!
Recently, a client mused, “a friend with a lot of board experience told me that anything beyond eight members isn’t beneficial” Seeing the quizzical look on my face, she inquired, “so, what do you think about that?”
My response: Don’t listen to them. Here’s the truth: you need what you need and you get to decide. There’s no magic formula.
However, here are a few guideposts that will help your organization define the right size board for today. Finding the right size is essentially a balance between being large enough to get the job done and small enough to work together well. Achieving the right balance gets you a board the uses the talents, skills and time well of both the directors and the senior leadership. All boats rise rather than being beleaguered by one another.
First and foremost: Strive for ownership. The board of directors is comprised of people who collectively possess a shared sense of accountability for your organization’s success; not simply people who show up on schedule once per month, nor a group of people who are actively engaged. Nope, we want OWNERSHIP! This should be your mantra. Now, to help make that ownership real, utilize the following four elements to define the scope and make-up of the board for maximum effectiveness.
- Know Where You Are: Assess your place in the organizational life cycle.
- Define the Board’s Scope of Work: Once lifecycle is understood, the board can conduct a self-assessment of its performance in light of your life-cycle stage. This framework is really helpful in guiding boards to determine practical “fixes” or priorities rather than theoretical ideas that may or may not make sense for your organization.
- Active Board Composition: Now that you know where you are and what you need from a functional standpoint, it is time to define the qualities that will make your board sing (and hum, and jam, and most important, work together in service of your mission).
- Establish Effective Processes: Finally, when all is said and done, it really makes a difference for your board to function well when you have a system that supports high performance.
Next week, we will delve into KNOW WHERE YOU ARE IN DETAIL. Thanks for reading and leading!
Your friends at Third Sector Group