Measuring the IMPACT of Governance

Impact is something that I know quite a bit about, so much so that I named my company after it - Insight to Impact!  Impact is why I set up my company; I need to see that what I do makes a positive difference, so I wanted to do things my way.  All of our work has a 100% positive impact, so I wanted to share my thoughts on the impact of governance.

Over the years, I have worked tirelessly to appreciate and quantify governance and scrutiny's impact.  In 2011, I created a model for assessing the Return on Investment of scrutiny reviews conducted by Overview and Scrutiny Committees (Councils).  In my publication, Tipping the Scales, I led a team of experts, including a member of the Marmot Team (Leading study into Health Inequalities,) to consider how concepts of "rate of return" on investment might usefully be transferred to the world of health and wellbeing.  The approach helped articulate the value to scrutiny, saving an estimated £5m in public sector spending.  Now I am not saying that this directly translates to schools, but what I m saying is that when scrutiny and oversight that is done well, it can reap the benefits.

The impact of governance has long been a question that senior leaders and governors have asked me, but especially by senior leaders - what is the value of governance?  One Headteacher, in particular, asks this every time I chat to her; I think it's a test!

Governance, as we know, is not an operational role; it's one step removed from providing education to pupils. Therefore, this means it's hard to quantify and measure the impact of governance - but not impossible.

When we talk about governance having an impact, we mean that the challenge and support they provide and their monitoring should lead to better outcomes for the children in our schools.  As a Governor, I like to think that the questions that I ask, and the different perspectives that I bring, help to make better decisions for the benefit of pupils.

And I think that this is one of the apparent benefits of governance; using the Stakeholder Model means that there are different views, perspectives, and the opportunity to learn from how other sectors work.

It is easy to see the benefits of an active, interested, and challenging board.  However, I know from some colleagues that where a board is reactive, non-vocal and accepting - they find it very hard to see the value of governance.

There is also the fact that the impact of governance and any decisions are not always seen or felt straight away; improvements can take time to embed and realise.  Taking a layered approach to understanding impact is, in my view, a practical approach:

  • Individually: all governors consider their impact. Have I been proactive, been into school to carry out my role, and challenged and asked questions? Asking governors to review their impact can have a significant impact on governance effectiveness;
  • As a Board: how meetings are structured and what's on the agenda can improve impact. Is there enough time on the agenda to debate key priorities, provide a balance of challenge and support, and has our meeting brought us closer to realising our priorities?
  • Annual Review: look back and review the decisions you've taken and the impact of these, learn where governance makes the most impact, and build this into your framework;

These are not mutually exclusive; as a Board, you are accountable for pupils' education, and therefore you should work hard to ensure your governing makes a positive difference.  Chunking the task of impact assessment makes it easy to tell parents and the community what impact governance has had this year.  Also, by taking this approach, you create a ripple effect, improving individual and board impact.

With over 250,000 Governors in state-funded schools whose volunteering is potentially worth millions, if not billions, what will it be worth if you improve the impact?

SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results) would be a great tool to identify your impact. We have adapted the approach just for governance - Shaping governance helps governors learn, share, and improve their confidence and impact.

But I thought that the following steps would provide a great aide-memoire to help you to embed impact assessment an ongoing part of your governance - not just once a year.

I =  Identify: Look back at decisions or your actions as a governor - identify where you have made a difference;

M = Measure: discuss and agree on how you can measure the impact that you have in these areas;

P = Plan: look at the opportunities for making a positive difference, understand what these are and build them in;

A = Address: ensure that you implement your ideas for improvements in the assessment of impact;

C = Challenge: challenge yourself on the difference you make, and ask if we can do better?

T = Tell people: create annual reports to school stakeholders, using the above process to provide an account externally.

Measuring impact isn't rocket science; breaking it down will help you understand where you make an impact and how you can increase the difference you bring to the school.

Here are some examples of how some of the boards we work with measure their impact:

  • Reviewing the impact of meetings, either of impact in the meeting or their previous meeting in Matters Arising.  Doing it systematically builds a picture over time.
  • Asking "Has our meeting brought us closer to our vision?' If not - review the agenda to ensure that you are making an impact;
  • Annually, using an accountability framework, such as Shaping Governance to challenge their performance and learn from best practice;
  • 360 Degree reviews of the Chair or governors; and the use of a Skills Audit;
  • Networking sounds strange, but you can learn from talking to other governors about their governance and impact. Governors that attend our Governance Insight Forums benefit from discussing challenges with others and our Share and Repair approach.



Posted in Shaping Governance.