Distributed Governance – creating your own Governance Jigsaw©

Could distributing your governance load be the answer to improving board effectiveness and outcomes for pupils? Absolutely!

Nationally, there are over 250,000 Governors in state-funded schools whose volunteering is potentially worth millions, if not billions, to the school community. Whilst many governors give a lot of their time, which according to the National Governance Association* can be up to 17 hours per month, the distribution of work across the board can be unequal, with only a handful of 'active' governors taking a proactive role in supporting and monitoring the school, outside of the regular board meetings.

This I found out very early on in my governing journey, where a lot of the work tended to fall to me as Chair, and as any Chair will tell you, you can't do it all yourself, and indeed you shouldn't. Whilst the governors on the board I chaired were reliable at attending meetings, it became clear that some did not appear to prepare, understand the school, or monitor the school outside of the three full governing board meetings and attendance at the odd committee. In the first few weeks as Chair, I concluded that we were not a team, we were a group of individuals, and despite being there for the children and education, we were not effective or making a difference.

So I set about reshaping the board's work, and the impact was to create a more pluralistic board.  One of my favourite quotes is by Aristotle - 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And when a board shares the tasks out (equally), more can be achieved, especially at full board meetings, when there is more space for strategic discussions.  I call it a Governance Jigsaw© - agree on what you want to achieve, and divide it up into manageable jigsaw pieces.

I work with many schools where they have a challenge with apathetic Governors. My advice is to involve all of the Governors in designing the monitoring framework - co-production can provide the buy-in you need for a pluralistic board.

Using my experience and insight, here are my top five tips for developing your own Governance Jigsaw© for monitoring?

  • Gain commitment from all governors to a more proactive way of working, developing a code of conduct, contribution and expectations;
  • Agree what your board's Governance Jigsaw© looks like to enable more effective monitoring and assign a piece of the jigsaw to each Governor;
  • Ensure that Governors invest time in becoming confident champions in their given Jigsaw piece and that they get the proper support and training to challenge supportively and constructively;
  • Ensure that you communicate all of your work back to the core; so that colleagues can learn and understand
  • Ensure collaboration is at the heart of your link role system - with staff and collectively as a board - remembering that your Jigsaw' picture' will change over time, and together you can create the right picture.

Get in touch if you need any help or support.

©Insight to Impact Consulting Ltd 2017-2021

*National Governance Association - Annual Survey of its members

Posted in Shaping Governance.