Drawing the line between governance and management

Board Goals and Management Goals…Where’s the Line?

Board Goals and Management Goals…Where’s the Line?


Here’s a question that often falls into the “we don’t know what we don’t know” category for charter Boards and CEOs: Who’s responsible for which goals?

Unfortunately, you might not think to ask yourself this question until you’ve gotten pretty far down the path of defining your goals and planning the work that’ll get them done.

You’re mapping out your year, translating your big vision into measurable, achievable goals for this year and perhaps even the next three-to-five years. You know at the outset that you’ll wrestle with big questions. How will we position this organization to achieve its mission, to help our kids become the leaders of tomorrow? How will we know the Board made a difference this year?

But it’ll all be even more complicated if you don’t start out with an understanding of who’s responsible for which goals, and why.

Governance and Management Are Different

In its broadest sense, the Board’s duty is to govern. The CEO’s responsibility — or the C-Suite as a whole — is to manage the organization.

To understand whether a goal belongs to your Board or your CEO, start with understanding the difference between governance and management.

Anything that sets a goal for the organization as a whole, states an expectation of the leadership, or clarifies a direction for the future, is governance. It belongs to the Board.

Anything that relates to the management and operation of the organization itself is management. It belongs to the administration.

All Boards Struggle With This Distinction at Some Point

It’s not just charter organizations. All boards—corporate, nonprofit, and charter school—struggle with developing a clear understanding of the distinctions between governance and management. But, the way trustees and school leaders experience this distinction can be unique to charters. And it’s always evolving

As a charter school grows, the governance/management line shifts.

For instance, the governance/management line for financial oversight is significantly different for a school with fifteen years of budget-to-actuals behind it — or multiple schools to manage. Yet, these shifts can be difficult, especially for founding board members. Having stepped in to help with management tasks before the school was operational, founding Board members can find it hard to shift out of that management+governance hybrid into a purely governance role.

Trustees new to the charter community, or CEOs new to board governance, are learning how to find the line.

Whether your organization is rapidly scaling or preparing to do so, you’re likely to recruit charter school board members who are new to charter governance. Even superstar CEOs can lack experience navigating the board-CEO partnership. People new to charter governance simply don’t yet understand the distinctions and interplay between governing and managing.

Who’s responsible for which goals? A few practical examples…

Remember, your goals should align with your Board committees. If you haven’t yet set up your committees, here’s some guidance about which committees to form, and what they’ll each do.

Assuming your committees are established and ready to work, here are a few common charter school scenarios that will make clear where the line can be drawn between governance goals and management goals within each functional area.

Under the finance umbrella, the board might set a goal for itself like, “Approve the annual budget.” Meanwhile, the CEO’s finance-related goal might be something like, “Deliver the annual budget to the board.” Both are measurable and time-limited, but one is clearly governance and the other management.

Similarly, under the personnel umbrella, the board might own the goal, “Establish process for annual CEO evaluation.” Meanwhile, the CEO’s goal might be, “Achieve 90% teacher retention rate this year.”

Here’s What to Do Next

  1. Take stock of how your organization is drawing the line between governance and management.

    Lead a discussion between the board and CEO to clarify expectations. Don’t leave it up to assumptions.

    Make a plan to revisit this topic on a regular basis. If you’re using BoardOnTrack’s
    goals dashboard, you can easily set and assign this task so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
  2. Review your goals to ensure they align with where you’ve drawn the line.

    With your unified and clarified understanding of governance and management in your organization, do your goals look different to you? Make sure the right goals are
    assigned to the CEO and school leadership, as well as to the Board. Consider whether changes will be needed to keep those lines bright.

    And if you haven’t yet defined and assigned your goals for this year, be sure to do so with an eye to what’s within the Board’s purview and what the CEO should own.
  3. Keep the lines of communication open

    As the lines between management and governance shift, the Board and CEO must keep the lines of communication open.

    Hold frequent discussions together about the difference between governance and management within your organization — how it’s working now, and how you expect it to evolve in the near future.

 

Get even more goal-setting guidance with our on-demand webinar.

Building on our experience helping hundreds of boards nationwide, you’ll learn how to set the right goals, how to unite the Board and CEO around your key goals, and why it’s vital that you have a simple way to keep those goals in sight and to keep your board on track. Access the webinar, Get Your Goals Going, right here.