There are many effective models of Board governance and a large body of literature on the subject.
Current thinking recognizes a continuum of board types, the two extremes being a stakeholder model (very hands-on) and a management model (too hands-off).
In our view the target for the boards of most small to medium sized organizations is somewhere in the middle: enough information and understanding for board to effectively manage risk, steer the organization to the future and ensure management activities are effectively monitored. This results based agency model fits well with small and mid-size organizations and balances resources with agency needs.
We design board planning retreats collaboratively with our clients. Every retreat is different, but there are some common discussion topics that we have found help boards focus the discussion.
Values: Our facilitator guides the group in articulating and assessing the values that define your organization. This helps boards align policies to the agency's mission and vision develop communication plans and codes of conduct.
Strategy: A strategic review and planning session can include looking at the external environment (best practice in the sector, legislative and regulatory changes, political influences, funding challenges) and the internal capacity of the organization to deliver on its mission. Strategic options are generated, and can include evaluating opportunities for mergers or integration, making program changes or extensions, or investing in systems. In every case, the results are meaningful and affordable strategic plans that participants can all support.
Stories: The stories we tell about our organization say a lot about our priorities and the values we live every day. We have helped some client organizations with story-telling sessions work with front-line employees and clients to help distil the organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and from there establish tangible objectives.
People of Influence: We like this term better than 'stakeholders'. Understanding who the people of influence really are and ensuring they are heard and their needs are met is an important role for Directors. Most importantly, ensuring agency strategy finds the right balance among the needs of clients, members, the community at large and funders is a key objective for successful board planning sessions.
Managing Risk: Our planning sessions help boards ensure risks to the ongoing health of the organization are mitigated and its relevance and sustainability are protected. We help boards build risk management policy and effective oversight of management.