Monitoring and Managing Board
Question: The Board of Directors for which I work is making a transition from a managing board to a governing board, but I think they are just managing in a different way. Could you tell me the difference between monitoring my management and managing over my shoulder? The line between the two seems a little vague right now.
Answer: The answer to your question lies in the limitations of your authority that the board has delegated to you. A governing board must monitor your use of the authority they have delegated to you to satisfy themselves that you are fulfilling their expectations of your responsibility without violating the limits of your authority.
In order for their governance process to work they must make it clear to you what the limits of your authority are. In addition, they must negotiate with you the expectations that you both agree are reasonable given the limits of your authority and resources. If this step in the governance process has not been completed or if it has been completed poorly, then it will not be possible to hold you accountable by monitoring your progress. The lack of clarity of your limitations or expectations will result in their managing instead of monitoring. That is simply because it is impossible to monitor meaningfully without specific parameters. Monitoring involves comparing actual progress to planned progress.
On the other hand, if the parameters of your authority are clearly set out in limitations policies and the expectations have been negotiated in the form of strategic and tactical goals, then you may yourself be confused about the nature of monitoring.
Their monitoring of your performance and progress consists of reporting to them your compliance with the limitations that they set when they delegated authority to you. In the case of financial limitations, I suggest that you provide copies of the basic reports from which you yourself determined that you were in compliance or in violation of your limitations. That way they can see for themselves that you are in compliance. Reviewing the income/expense statements, the balance sheet, the cash flow document and other relevant reports is not managing, provided they are using them to verify your compliance.
If they go into more detail than they require of you in the limitations policies, then monitoring has moved into the area of managing. For example, if they ask why you chose one long distance carrier instead of another but don’t have any limitation dealing that that aspect of managing, they have gone beyond monitoring.
The key is in having clear limitations and clear expectations. Accountability is impossible without it. Monitoring is simply the form of accountability that measures progress along the way. Measuring is the form of accountability that deals with final results.
Incidentally, if you are in violation of your limitations, they are still monitoring when they ask you what your plans are for getting the finances (or other issue) back into compliance. It’s when they tell you how to come back into compliance that they are managing.
I suggest that you have an open discussion with your board at your next meeting. You might begin by discussing your question or concerns with the board chair, since the chair is responsible for leading this process properly.
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