I recently heard a thoughtful presentation by my colleague Bob DeVore, from the Risk Management Foundation, about the role of governing bodies. He borrowed the slide shown to the left from a book called Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards, by Chait, Ryan and Taylor.
The idea is that most boards engage in oversight of management, especially on financial matters. Some go the next step and become involved in strategic planning. But, the more sophisticated boards engage in what the authors call "generative work." They note that "generative thinking produces a sense of what knowledge, information, and data mean," and that this "demands a fusion of thinking, not a division of labor."
I found this to be a useful and descriptive framework. We seek an environment in which lay board members bring their extensive knowledge, experience, and judgment to share with management on the wide range of issues facing our hospitals. While maintaining the distinction between those who govern and those who manage, the partnership that emerges between the two groups is a vibrant and self-renewing source of ideas and approaches. These strengthen our ability to carry out the public service mission of these institutions.
As you read the post below on the involvement of our Boards in safety and quality, I think you can get a sense that they have indeed moved into this category of lay leadership at both BIDMC and BID~Needham.