Operating under a traditional governance model allows the board to lead the organisation to deliver its objective, set its strategic direction and uphold its ethos or values. Special care should be taken if members of the senior management team are also members of the board, or members of the board are the only members, since in those situations the embedded checks and balances of operating with three distinct levels of governance become blurred.
Similarly, organisations without a membership, or small organisations where the board are expected to fulfill the role of staff and volunteers, should be aware of the lack of structural governance processes, and implement other controls – perhaps by seeking assistance from external advisers or an advisory committee.
As with other aspects of management, a dominant voice can provide strong leadership, but if the board does not provide an effective balance, there is a risk that it no longer audits the organisation’s activities but becomes merely advisory, which may not be strong enough.With a longer-term strategy in place, the board can monitor progress against agreed operational plans and budgets, reviewing and amending as necessary. For membership organisations, those results will be presented and discussed at the traditional annual general meeting.
These checks help an organisation to focus on its core objectives, and to build on its expertise, guarding against the temptations of embarking on new activities that may be beyond its scope or expertise (often called “mission creep”).