Tuesday, 01 May 2012 11:24
Council - Announcements
By Melissa Blake,
Vice Chair, Governance and Monitoring Committee and Policy Review Committee
GreenStar's Council wants to let you know where we are in the process of transitioning to Policy Governance, and what the changes mean so far. You may recall that the goals of Policy Governance include clarified roles and parameters for the Board (Council) and the executive (General Manager, or GM); ongoing evaluation and accountability of Council and the GM; and a Council focused on larger issues, visioning for the Co-op's future, and connecting to our members and community.
In the Policy Governance system, policies are organized into Ends policies and Means policies. Ends policies are organizational goals; they are labeled "A" policies. All others are Means policies. These include "B" or General Manager Limitations Policies, which give parameters within which the GM is empowered to make decisions; "C" or Council Process Policies, which describe how the Council does its job and holds itself accountable; and "D" or Council/Management Relationship Policies, which describe how the GM is supervised and how compliance with "A" and "B" Policies is monitored.
So far, Council has approved 29 new B, C, and D policies and repealed 19 now-obsolete policies. We have completed a preliminary review of the rest of our pre-Policy Governance policies to identify others needing re-writing or repeal, have received GM monitoring reports based on the new policies, and have begun writing Council's Annual Work Plan/Calendar, which includes the GM's and Council's own monitoring schedule.
Our next steps will include drafting a full set of Ends policies (with member-owner input), re-writing or repealing additional policies and reorganizing the GreenStar Policy Book to incorporate all the changes and make it more user-friendly.
So what do all these changes mean in practice? The changes we've made so far mainly affect two areas of governance: Council Supervision of the GM, and Monitoring and Evaluation. Under our old system of governance, Council used to tell the GM exactly what to do to accomplish organizational goals. Now Council will set Ends, or organizational goals, and tell the GM what he/she may not do while accomplishing those Ends. The expected outcomes are to reduce micro-management by Council, give the GM more authority over Operations, and focus Council's time and attention on the big picture, the future, and connecting to our members and community.
As for how Council monitors and evaluates the General Manager, that will change as well. Each old policy used to spell out how the GM must report on the area in question, but didn't necessarily state what success would look like. Reports went first to Council committees who then brought them to Council. The GM's annual evaluation was not tied directly to the contents of his/her reports. Now, the GM interprets policies, then informs Council of his/her interpretation to make sure Council agrees interpretations are reasonable. The GM then brings reports directly to Council on a regular schedule. Council decides then and there whether the report shows compliance with the policy. (If necessary, in between scheduled reports, the GM also informs Council of any anticipated non-compliance.) The GM's annual evaluation is a summary of these results. The outcome we expect is that the whole process will be streamlined and clarified, and the reports will show common statistics that are more reliable representations of our progress.
Policy Governance will also allow better monitoring and evaluation of Council itself. Formerly, there was no regular schedule for reviewing Council policies. Sure enough, we now find ourselves needing a comprehensive review of nearly every one, which we expect to take more than a year to complete. We did have a regularly scheduled Council self-evaluation done annually. Using Policy Governance, each time the GM submits a report, Council discusses whether the policies as written are achieving the desired result or whether changes should be made. The outcome is ongoing review of Council policies, including the systematic review of policies regarding Council's job and responsibilities.
We've accomplished a lot, and still have a ways to go to complete this transition. It is a work in progress and there is a learning curve as we learn how to use Policy Governance within GreenStar's unique governance culture. To see it in action, you are invited to attend any Council meeting. Please also consider getting involved in the development of our Ends policies late this summer and early in the fall. We want your input!