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We did all see it coming. We did. Some however have been faster to react than others. By ‘some’ I mean the boards of charities and social enterprises. In times of crises good governance is crucial. But not all organisations are getting the right kind of support from their governance structures. It isn’t a question of size either. There are some heroic tales of smaller organisations pivoting to respond for their beneficiaries and communities.  

It really comes down to how effective your board is. There are 4 things that effective boards are doing right now to help their organisations whether the storm:

  1. Meeting regularly: sticking rigidly to your board meeting cycle isn’t going to help your organisation pivot effectively. Meet as often as needed. I have seen boards meeting weekly, bi-weekly – whatever it takes.
  2. This isn’t a sub-Committee thing: a pandemic like this, affecting the whole world isn’t something that a board should be delegating to a sub-committee or working group. This is core board business and is exactly the situation in which your board needs to be fully engaged.
  3. Let the executive deal with the operational stuff: While the board have to be engaged and taking big strategic decisions that affect the future of the organisation, good boards are letting the executive get on with implementing those decisions. The worst thing board members can do right now is get in the way of the functioning of the organisation – no matter how well intentioned.
  4. Focusing on the future: boards need to keep a focus on where the organisation is going. What will happen after lockdown? What successful changes to our services or interventions should we keep going? What have we learned from this experience that we can use in the future (other than putting a pandemic onto the risk register – this particular horse has bolted, recording it on a register isn’t going to help now).

Boards and board culture often indicate the success or failure of an organisation. The challenge of Covid-19 are exactly the kind of situation that exposes strong and weak boards for what they are. Which one is yours?


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