The Threefold Social Organism and Collaborative Leadership

Threefold Social Organism in Organizations: The Responsibilities of Collaborative Leadership

Jessica Heffernan Ziegler

2017 AWSNA Conference

June 27, 2017

What I would like to do this morning is offer a framework for understanding and working collaboratively within our organizations. I will not be proposing any specific leadership model or structure per se

– each school has its own particular set of circumstances, and more importantly, its group of people that bring their talents, interests and skill sets to the school. Taken together, these create the context within which each school will be able to address their own questions around the theme of collaboration and leadership. I hope that the framework I will be introducing here, along with some leading thoughts and principles on the subject, will help in this endeavor.

The questions that are raised as the core theme of this conference – how do we share responsibility for guiding and leading our schools in a collaborative and effective manner, which I think have at their core the theme of finding the balance between power and trust, are ones that keep not only the schools but also other anthroposophical organizations up at night, a lot. They are questions that I have been working with for over 20 years in the different roles I have held in the Waldorf movement, as a cofounder and administrator of a Waldorf school in Germany, traveling and working with other schools and organizations in Germany and the US, and in my role at Sunbridge Institute.

I use an archetypal structure that my colleagues and I have been working with for many years as a blueprint when working with these questions, which has proven very useful in both understanding and navigating our organizations – our schools – and as a tool for diagnosing and correcting the imbalances that can lead to unsustainable situations or crises.

This archetypal structure, a set of three of realities as we call them, is what our organizations are based on.

It is a picture of the Threefold Social Organism, originally developed by Bernhard Lievegoed, specifically in relation to organizations, and is made up of three main realms.

The three overarching realities are: the ideal reality, the social reality, and the material reality. We use the term realities here because that is what they are – they prevail in every organization, whether a family, a school or a multi-million $ international. The archetype lives behind each and every one. They are just as real as the make-up of a human being – spirit, soul and body. The health of an organization, as with the health of a child, depends on the recognition of these realities, as well as on their balance with each other. Too much of one, or too little of another, causes discordance and can eventually lead to a breakdown of the organization.

The ideal reality is made up of our vision and mission, our principles and values, and our strategies and goals. This is where we determine our direction. As an individual, we choose to connect with the spiritual world (or not) –when we do this work.

This realm is where each of us as individuals enjoy our purest form of freedom. The freedom of thought – our ideals – the freedom to create our own value system, our own principles that we choose to live by, and to set our own goals. This is where individualism reigns – no one can determine for us what to think – or what intentions to formulate – here, we are free.

This is where I am I.

Now I will go to its polarity - The material reality – or the economic reality – which is where our vision, mission, values and goals are put into action. We connect with the material world when we work in this realm. It is about our commitment to bring our ideals into the material world.

This is where the rubber hits the road – where our goals meet form, our values meet process, and vision meets resources. In this realm, individual freedoms take a subordinate role to the collective will, to the purpose of fulfilling the mission of the school.

This is where you and I become We.

The social reality – in the middle – is the realm of relationships – is where individuals meet – the open space where individuals recognize each other, or You - where an I and an I agree to come together to form a We. Where we discover our common visions, our common values and our common goals – in the ideal realm - and align with each other in the social realm, to create form and process in the material realm – in order to bring the ideal into reality. We connect with each other in the social world when we do this work.

This is where You and I meet.

We do this all the time. Years ago, in Germany, a woman I had recently met through the biography work network and I became inspired while lamenting how little biography work was being offered in the city we lived in. We began to share what was important to each of us about the work, and our own visions on how we could be the ones to bring it. As we got to know each other better, and each other’s pictures of why, how and what we wanted to do, it became clear that we were closely enough aligned, that with some compromises on each side – I wanted to hold courses that ran once per week for a couple of hours, and she wanted to run weekend courses (we settled on the weekend version) - that we wanted to commit to giving our little initiative a shot. We only ran 2 of them in the end, but it was an incredibly fulfilling experience of meeting another individual, collaborating on an idea, and forming it enough that we together could bring it into a reality.

Now, leadership is responsible for assuring that these three areas are attended to in a school. Leadership is tasked with assuring that we have shared direction in the ideal realm, alignment in the social realm and commitment in the material realm.

In order to do this, leadership must do two things: Bring awareness, and provide guidance. Creating healthy processes in order to fulfill our mission is at the core of this work. Processes based on, imbued by and reflective of the principles our school community has articulated.

Bringing awareness around the current state of the school, broken down by the archetypal structure - how strong are we in our ideal reality, our social reality and our material reality? Where do we do well? Where are we experiencing challenges? – asking these questions is crucial for understanding what areas are in a healthy state and what areas need further development and attention.

For instance, if we feel rudderless in our allocation of resources – if we can’t agree on how many hours the second foreign language teacher should be teaching, or, if we can’t agree on whether or not we should expand, and found a high school, we would need to go back to the ideal reality that we have committed to.

Is the direction of our programming clear? Have we determined that a focus on two foreign languages throughout the grades is part of what makes us unique? Is it a core aspect of our identity? And if we have, are we able to fulfill that promise – the one we made to each other when we made these commitments? Or are there new circumstances that require us to review and perhaps revise our vision and mission? Has there been a major shift in our focus, in our purpose? Are our vision and our mission still relevant? Guiding us back, and asking these questions, is a leadership task.

Using the model of the three realities of an organization gives us a tool we can use to navigate our way through the complexities of figuring out which area our questions lie in, which in turn helps guide us in how best to approach them.

We saw in the example of the foreign language teaching hours that the question behind it was one of identity – of our ideal reality. We can then return to what it was we originally committed to, and evaluate if that is still relevant. By doing this – by returning to the agreements we made -we shift the discussion and take pressure off the immediate situation, and importantly, off the players in that situation. We bring objectivity to whatever decision will need to be made. It is not me, the teacher, hoping to be able to truly bring the language and culture in a meaningful way to the children, or the college chair or administrator, or whoever is responsible for teaching hours and tasked with sticking to the budget. Rather, the decision must be based on the direction we gave ourselves when we determined our vision and mission, when we determined our principles, and when we determined our strategies and goals. This is the realm that gives direction to all we do.

Therefore, it is imperative that when we make these promises, we have sought wide counsel and wide agreement within the community on our ideals, as they are what inform our practices.

In the foreign language example, it would be in the leadership’s hands, if others have not seen it themselves, to shine the light on where we are in this situation, what questions to ask, and what action will help us move forward. To guide us back to our original vision and mission, back to the identity realm, to check in and be sure we are still on course. Now, we may not always find a clear answer – a definitive decision – when we go up the ladder, so to speak, for direction. But the work we did in that realm should inform us as to where to focus our resources going forward.

We all have examples of where we failed to get critical input to inform a major decision, and the resulting inability to implement it.

The other major role of leadership is to be sure we recognize where we are – what the current situation is – that we take the steps necessary to do the work of picture building. In any given situation where a problem solving or decision-making process is called for, the first and crucial step is to be sure we agree on what is.

This does not mean we have to agree on the reasons on how we got here, nor how we each feel, or what it means for the future – we do not need to agree on anything at this point other than the fact that we have arrived at this place in time – that we agree that this is the current state, that we recognize and acknowledge the facts and the feelings involved. Once we agree, once we are all on the same page as to what is, then we can move on to determine the urgency of the matter, and further steps. We can have a situation where some think we are in a crisis, and others don’t. This is where we have to listen to each other. Arriving at this place is harder than it sounds, as most of us know. It takes resolve and courage and time and good will to listen to each other – to accept there are differing versions of the past and of what brought us to where we are. To accept that some of us are perhaps hurt, even though no offense was intended and others are perhaps impervious.

It is all part of our shared history, and belongs in the picture. We don’t need to hash it out – we don’t need to get mired in debate. We need to recognize that it is. If conflicts or other disputes emerge, then managing them must be the very first thing we tend to. Resolving conflicts comes first – always. No sustainable progress can otherwise be made.

The ability to competently build pictures as a group is an essential part of collaborative leadership – to recognize our current state of being; to face it. Without this step, any further actions or decisions will surely falter, as they will be based on only partial realities.

This is work we did at Sunbridge when I came on almost 9 years ago. Our resources were depleted, and we had to make very tough decisions. Our vision and mission no longer represented the reality of the college. The most painful decisions had already been made, and it was up to those of us remaining, or newly coming on as I was, to determine the future direction of Sunbridge. We had to, we chose to, go back and revisit our ideal reality – our vision, mission, principles, strategies and goals - we held meetings all summer long with as many of our constituents as were interested in our future, to determine what that future would look like. We spent time aligning each of our pictures of what Sunbridge was to be – what our promise, a newly formed group of colleagues, to each other, and to the world, would be. That promise was our commitment to devote ourselves and our resources to strengthening our core programming – that is, Waldorf Teacher Education. Running bookstores and dorms was not what we did well, but teacher education was, we felt.

That commitment has guided us these past 8 years, and given us direction at the different junctures in our path. This work in the ideal realm has also provided a bond in the social realm that helps carry us when we are faced with more difficult decisions in the material realm.

As I said earlier, the core of leadership’s responsibility is to assure that healthy processes are created and followed in order to provide direction, alignment and commitment. Schools that have the ability to scrutinize themselves, create healthy processes, and work together out of an attitude of compassion, build confidence and trust in their communities, which of course form the basis for collaborative leadership.

I would like now to give some more depth on the three realities of an organization, and their underpinnings.

Direction is what the work in the ideal reality, or realm, gives us – our vision, mission, principles and values and strategies and goals are what give our work direction, meaning and purpose. These are promises that we make. This is what we connect with when we join, or help form an organization. And it is our main reason for staying -- because we personally identify with these areas – they represent to a certain degree our own vision, values and goals. If we don’t feel connected here, money or status will not move us to remain, or to do our utmost to be our best selves.

And this is the area that all other areas should flow from and be connected to. A strong understanding of who we are – of what inspires our work, what our values are and what it is we want to achieve, directs our will. This strong sense of identity also and just as importantly allows us to communicate to the world who we are and what we stand for – what our purpose and goals are. We are thus able to interact with the world in an honest and authentic manner – we show ourselves – we can be seen and known for who we are.

Commitment –the polarity - refers to the realm where we fulfill those promises we made in the ideal realm – the material or economic reality – where our action, our performance, counts. This is the realm that we are judged by – we are not judged by what we think, or what we proclaim we will do, we are judged by what we actually do, and how well we do it. This realm is made up of structures and roles, processes and policies, and resources.

Our structures and roles are there to serve our goals and strategies – our processes and policies must be reflective of our principles, and our material resources should be allocated in fulfillment of our vision and mission.

I want to talk now for a minute about policies and processes, and their use. Unfortunately, I think, they often receive a bad rap in our communities. There is fear that structures, policies and processes hollow out, stifle and ignore the ideal and social realities of our communities. I would like to argue that they are in support of, and balance out the other two realms.

Processes and policies that are imbued by, enlivened by and reflective of our ideal realm create predictability, congruence and reliability in managing our work together. We are free in the creation of these, our individual creativity and pursuit of higher ideals should be activated and employed when we come together to determine what processes and policies we create to systematically manage our work. Once these have been agreed upon, they provide the framework within which we maneuver. The principle here being that we remove any sense of arbitrary behavior, or personal or individually-motivated actions that are unfairly or unjustly carried out.

Let’s use a simple example of a teacher who, despite multiple conversations and pleas, has made a habit of coming to class late every day. Hopefully we have a policy in our faculty handbook that we can turn to which states that all teachers must be in class on time. And if we don’t, then this might prompt us to create one.

We don’t have to worry that bringing this policy to their attention will be taken as a personal slight; that the person who brings it to their attention is doing so for any negative, personal reasons.

Rather, presumably it is clear that this policy has been agreed to by the appropriate bodies, and there is nothing personal about calling for accountability. For upholding the agreements that we have made with each other. This is a non-negotiable – we all have agreed that in order to fulfill our mission, based on our mutual values, we must all show up to class on time. Now, I know that the real work is in defining what “on time” is – my “on time” and your “on time” could very well be different things.

And this is where the work of the larger, consulting body comes in. This is where those who are tasked with ensuring these policies are created, and adhered to, must first be sure the group that is being asked to carry them out – namely the teachers - is in agreement on the definition of “on time”.

Like laws, we don’t need policies and processes, until we do. We need them to govern the areas of our working together that lie outside of the realm of ideals, to fall back on. The need to create a policy usually arises when an everyday matter that affects a part of or the whole the school is handled in such an arbitrary manner that the lack of reliability and predictability in carrying it out causes concern or impedes the work of others. Of course, there must be room for discernment and compassion, when circumstances justify an exception.

Processes are the manner   in which we come to decisions   or conclusions. They are made up of interdependent and linked tasks, set in a sequence, that lead to an end. The ability to create processes that are reflective of our values, and further adhere to what most organizations agree solid processes are namely – effective; efficient; obvious – not hard to decipher or understand; and transparent. Transparency of process of course does not mean transparency of content.

Being able to create healthy processes, both for standing needs such as hiring, budgeting, or curriculum development, and for ad hoc purposes as situations arise that need problem solving, or decisions that fall out of the ordinary day-to-day affairs, engenders trust, and creates confidence. Leadership that can nimbly, reliably and ethically guide organizations by creating healthy processes towards finding solutions - and not towards foregone conclusions – time and again is one of the critical elements of a healthy and sustainable organization.

If we know how we are going to approach a problem, if we know how the hiring process is designed and carried out, if we know that the tenets that that last decision was based on are the same that guide all our processes, we can have faith and trust, and feel confidence in the integrity of the process and in those carrying it out. Leadership can build trust and confidence by employing, time and again, such healthy structures for creating processes. This is where predictability in the material realm plays a key role.

Think of the needs of the parents here – how often are we confronted with the complaint that they don’t know who to turn to, or what the process is for addressing their concerns (let’s just work with the legitimate complaints here). And it’s not just the parents we owe it to to create reliable and predictable processes. We owe it our colleagues as well.

I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize here the importance clarity of roles play. In my work with schools and other organizations, most of the conflicts that arise do so out of a lack of clarity around roles. Job descriptions are vague, decision-making processes are unclear or unreliable, people are not given the time or support to grow into their roles, or there is a culture of feeling that by defining roles, we are somehow stultifying creativity or individual freedoms. A lack of clarity as to who actually has the authority to act and to call for accountability arises out of role confusion.

The crises that this lack of clarity and agreement around roles engender are ones that we are all-too familiar with.

So, we have our direction-giving identity – our “I” - in the ideal realm, and our commitment, and the actions we take – where we come together as “we” – in the economic realm.

The piece missing here is the social realm – where “I” meet “you”, and together we go into the beautiful, messy business of aligning ourselves. This is the area where we attempt to connect the inherent tensions between our vision and our resources. It is in the social realm that we bring alignment between what it is we say we want to do, and what we are actually able bring to earth – what is possible.

And this is real, hard work – aligning our ideal reality with our material reality. We do this through negotiation and dialogue - we come to the agreements on the vision we aspire to – on which set of values and principles we will adopt as a community to guide us - and on the goals and strategies we set in order to carry out our mission. We define our Rights relationship with one another in a collaborative process in this realm. And when I talk about negotiation, I don’t mean a battle of the wills – sitting across the table from each other, or bullying as we are now seeing played out on the national stage. I mean a meeting of interests, partnering, sitting side by side. This is where we create the criteria upon which our decisions are made. Everything that we do must go through this realm, at some point. Like a lemniscate, weaving in and out. We awaken to each other here. And this is where our potential lies – in collaborating in the open middle – dialogue.

Dialogue is the tool we use to reflect upon ourselves – the key to being a learning organization – by which I mean one that is able to, through following processes that incorporate reflection and review, see itself. The ability to reflect in order to see what is.

The people we entrust with guiding the activities of our schools have the responsibilities I just described, mostly in assuring that these activities occur in a healthy, collaborative manner.

They are not necessarily entrusted with making all the decisions themselves, although certainly there will be specific decision-making authority delegated to them. They are entrusted with assuring that the decisions that need to be made are made. That processes are developed and adhered to that embody the values and fulfill the mission of the school. And that the school strives to be a learning organization – that it self reflects, has the courage to acknowledge where it is, and the resolve to commit to activities that bring it forward.

Dialogue assumes we know how to listen to each other, but it also assumes we know how to contribute. It is not just talking, or debating. It needs honest, non-violent engagement, appreciation and respect for differences, the ability to reflect, and commitment to each other an d to fulfilling the purpose and goals of the school.

Leadership leads and guides organizations –not people. We are responsible for leading ourselves.

One expression of this is what Steiner referred to in “Awakening to Community”, which is a series of lectures given in Stuttgart and Dornach in 1923 after the burning of the first Goetheanum, and a crisis of identity ensued, where he talks about what is needed to rebuild the work of the anthroposophical society.

“We must make anthroposophy real by learning to be aware in anthroposophical community life that where people in anthroposophical tasks are together, there they experience their first awakening in the encounter with the soul-spiritual element in their fellows. Human beings wake up in their mutual encounter with other human beings. As each one has new experiences between his encounters … and has grown a little …these awakenings take place in an ever new way as people go on meeting.”

He is speaking here about meetings that engage in spiritual study in the anthroposophical society.

He then goes on to say that “When you have discovered the possibility that human souls wake up in the encounter with other human souls, and human spirits wake up in the encounter with other human spirits, and go to anthroposophical groups with a living awareness that only now have you come awake and only now can you begin to grow together…, then the true spirit of community descends upon the place where you are working…”.

He goes on, in the fourth lecture, to speak of the ‘in-turned will’ – which, when applied, “becomes a striving to make one’s ethical-moral and religious being a full inner reality.”.

This becomes the basis for the soul attitude we must adopt when we come together to join in human endeavors. We all know the work involved in shedding our antipathies and sympathies in order to build and strengthen our ethical-moral, higher selves. Compassion, or objective compassion, is at the center of this soul attitude. It is what helps us see the other, accept the other, and extend trust, with the faith that they too are striving to make their ethical-moral and religious being a full, inner reality. Love is of course, what we are talking about here.

For me, an integral part of this soul-attitude, which we strive to adopt when encountering each other, is forgiveness, charity. There is a tragedy that Steiner talks about when a soul is caught between the “…longing for full humanness and soul’s feeling of alienation from the conditions existing in the world today…”, and the pain and suffering that entails. He talks about taking refuge from life’s disappointments in the world of thought – “…thoughts that fly easily to every part of the world and are thus very satisfying. They make up for one’s external life, which is always causing one such justifiable dissatisfaction.”

Yet it is true that “…real human strength can only be developed by

rising above suffering- by making it a real living force – the source of one’s power to overcome.”. The power to overcome one’s suffering, the power to overcome our deep disappointments with our own and each other’s inadequacies and failings, fortifies our ability to come together in the social realm to, as Steiner says, “…apply our intelligence and genius to stiffen and strengthen our will forces.”, in order to create commitment in the material world.

So, it’s all about balance in the three realms – a budget-driven process has no inspiration – holding on too tightly to your principles leads to intolerance – these imbalances lead to unhealthy and unsustainable organizational life.

What do our principles and values mean for our lives – how are they actually manifested?

They are there to guide us, to give meaning to our actions. Alone they serve no purpose. All the elements in the ideal realm must be in

support of our mission. If there are principles that stand in the way of fulfilling our mission – that is, of providing an excellent school experience, then they are no longer serving us. They are hindering us.

We devote ourselves to greater and deeper understanding of the wisdom given to us by Rudolf Steiner and others, let us devote as much of ourselves towards not only creating governance structures that we agree on, but more importantly to living into them – empowering those we mandate with responsibilities with the authority to act.

The verse that contains the line: “Matter is never without spirit and spirit is never without matter” is often cited as an argument that Steiner meant for us to see that all three realms are essential elements to our social order, and one is not inherently more important or essential than the other. In fact, they are only to be seen as an interdependent trio - they are a package deal.

I was asked specifically to talk about administrators and their role in relationship to the principle of collaborative leadership, which I am happy to do.

The questions of leadership, governance structures and the rights relationships between the realms has been the topic and theme for many books and conferences in Waldorf schools around the world for decades. As our world has become more complex, so has the organizational life of our schools. We have had to contend with more and more external pressure as well as changing attitudes of new generations of teachers and parents. These complexities created a great challenge to the health and sustainability of our schools.

Over the last 20-30 years, in response, our schools have recognized that we need to strengthen our ability to manage the material realm, and bring balance to the ideal and social realms, which precipitated the advent of administrators as having a major role in the makeup of the school’s structure. At that time, it seemed they were brought in to be “fixers” – they were turned to just as things were blowing up – the family was on their way out the door or the colleague was failing miserably – with no chance of rectifying the situation. This has changed over the years, as the role they fulfill and its centrality to the healthy functioning of school life has become more accepted. Nevertheless, I would say the role of the administrator is still seen as suspicious – as something to fear…as though they are out to steal the family jewels. We understand that this suspicion and fear has a whole host of roots, and not all of them rising out of misinterpretations of Steiner’s writings on the matter.

We are talking here, of course, about a lack of trust, that somehow the administrators are exercising too much power – even making a grab for it. Or that they are just a proxy of a frustrated board. I would though like to say here that when I have encountered an imbalance or misuse of power, it has usually not been the administrator who has been the culprit. Honestly, more likely than not, they are cowed by a forceful group of faculty members, and thus so cautious in their dealings that in the end they are not able to be effective.

That being said, I have also met some very effective, brave and compassionate administrators who have been integral members of school leadership teams.

I will add here that I feel we owe thanks to that first generation of administrators and the groundbreaking work they did – we know the life of an administrator is short, and by all accounts, that is due to the stress of being held responsible for the performance of the school’s employees – from faculty to administration to grounds and maintenance - yet without being given the requisite authority to actually have an impact.

It’s not a job most of us would want. So, again, thank you very much to those who have braved the waters and jumped in. You have paved the way and brought attention and focus to the imbalances that can afflict our schools.

A vertical definition of the three main pillars of the life of a Waldorf school, namely faculty, administration, and parents / board, has been a picture that most schools have lived with and tried to parse out meaning for in their own schools for many years now. Every type of organization has their own version of these areas of responsibilities.

This picture shows faculty as being responsible for the ideal or cultural life of the school, - the Thinking - , and administration for the social or rights life of the school, - the Feeling -, and parents / board as being responsible for the material or economic life of the school, - the Willing. (I am referring to this model here because it is widely referred to throughout the country – I think there may be other ways to depict the structure of our schools, including the where parents fit in and what the core corresponding task areas are.)

There has been much discussion and many attempts to apply this structure to the decision-making responsibilities of each area. While I see how this definition has helped to bring overall clarity to the structure, especially in a time when administration and administrators were still a fairly new phenomenon, I think we can add to that picture now in order to illustrate the dynamics of what I mean by collaborative leadership and decision-making responsibilities, and how it applies to all areas equally and simultaneously.

Let’s assume that we agree that the three areas of responsibility of leadership are to assure and guide Direction in the ideal reality, Alignment in the social reality, and Commitment in the material reality, within the school.

Let’s then layer these areas of responsibility horizontally across the diagram of the vertical pillars.

This second layer illustrates the interconnectivity and interdependence of those vertical pillars, of the three main sections of the school.

It illustrates the collaboration and partnering necessary in the leading of the school. Each section of the school must come together with the other sections to collaboratively assure that there is Direction, Alignment and Commitment. We all have roles in all three realms, this is what self-administration is all about.

I would like to come to an end with the quote from Socrates “Man, know thyself”, and implore us all to do our work in the identity realm – to understand who we are individually, and understand who we are as a community.

We need to know this so we can be good partners to each other – so that we can truly and honestly collaborate - so a yes can be a yes and a no can be a no.

I need to be able to rely on your commitment, and you must be able to rely on mine. And I can’t truly make that commitment without knowing myself. We must take each other seriously in what we say we will do – and that we will do what we say – fulfill our promise. I think that’s called accountability.

Each of us must be able, out of themselves; to align with what it is we are promising to the world. From the I to the You to the We.

We know that organizations cannot evolve beyond the developmental level of their leaders. So, let’s make sure the people that step up to the plate – the ones that have shown the courage and resolve to help guide our schools – receive our full support, which includes helping them attain and practice the skills and tools necessary to do their jobs, and give ourselves opportunities to practice this work.

Know what is most important to your school body – what core criteria are “must haves” when choosing your leadership, and understand which areas are not their strengths – and provide them either with more training and / or key partners whose skills and talents are complementary.

Look carefully. Choose carefully. Then give them your full support; invest in them, and allow them to do their jobs.

Our communities depend on us to not undermine ourselves.

This is of course the work of the Consciousness Soul in our times. This is why it is so hard and yet so important – and so full of potential for us all!

Below are two diagrams.

The first depicts the archetype of an organization based on Bernhard Lievegoed’s work, as described in the above talk. We call this model the Seven Levels of an Organization, or the Jacob’s Ladder.

The second is a sketch of the two overlapping layers – the three pillars of a school: faculty, administration and board, overlapped by the three realities of an organization: ideal, social and material. We all work together across all three realms.

Between Our Demons and Our Gods: Human Encounter in tthe Light of Anthroposophy – Elan Leibner

Between Our Demons and Our Gods Human Encounter in the Light of Anthroposophy Elan Leibner

AWSNA Summer Conference

June 26, 2017

When Melanie Reiser asked me if I would speak at the opening of this conference, she read me AWSNA’s Shared Principle #7. It begins with the words “Waldorf schools are self-administered. This work is strengthened by cultivating a shared anthroposophical understanding of social interactions.” She said, “Talk about what that means.”

My mind quickly turned to my earliest days as a Waldorf teacher. There were two teachers in the school I joined, and every week during the faculty meeting a strange ritual would unfold: some topic or other would be up for discussion; sooner or later, one of the two would take a stand, usually in strong, confident words. With the predictability of a Swiss watch, the other would take the opposite point of view. It didn’t matter whether we were talking about a child, a festival, or where teachers should park their cars in the morning. Sometimes it even seemed that one of them would try to take the point of view that the other was usually espousing, as if to make nice. No matter: the other would contradict his usual approach just for the occasion, as if saying, “I usually stand for X, and you stand for Y, but today, since you suggest X, I must advocate for Y.” It became clear to me that the topics   were not really what mattered; rather, it was the encounter between these two that had its own special signature gesture. Two consequences of these weekly events were that the meetings often felt both predictable and exhausting. I can even say predictably exhausting. I would like to leave this little image, surely not one that is entirely unfamiliar to many of you, as an example of one kind of encounter.

The other example I want to present is from a College of Teachers meeting several years later. The context is a review of the work of the College during the previous school year. A colleague said something deeply significant: “Two things really strike me about our meetings: the first is that they always surprise me. We find new ideas and solutions that no one seemed to have when the meeting began, and I personally often leave feeling that I have more energy than I had when I came in.” So that’s a different kind of encounter, with radically different results. I would like to posit that surprise, in the good sense, and renewed energy are two hallmarks of the encounters we should foster.

Back to Melanie and the shared principle: I pondered the wording, particularly wanting to focus on the “anthroposophical understanding of social interactions.” In the end, it struck me that anthroposophy has one essential contribution to make to the study of social interactions. It is strikingly simple to articulate: spiritual beings interpose themselves between us as we meet. Whatever techniques, practices, policies, and structures we can find helpful from the world outside of Waldorf education, this essential insight will always form a dimension that must be taken into account. Spiritual beings interpose themselves between us as we meet.

Mainstream psychology and sociology books that have looked into the area of social interactions have not been able to explore this possibility, for three reasons: first, because the requisite conceptual framework that would allow for this contribution is missing. Second, therefore the language that would allow for an articulation of insights is missing or ignored. And third, the capacities that would need to develop in order for meaningful research to unfold are nowhere to be found, since no one recognizes that they are needed in the first place.

When we undertake the task of leading an organization as a team, clarity about, and a conscious cultivation of the relationship with spiritual beings is an ever-urgent pair of challenges. We will first look at the historical development of our relationship with certain spiritual beings and then consider   a few suggestions   for cultivating healthy human encounters in light of the presence of those beings.

Soul Encounters as a Particular Challenge

The image of the human being in anthroposophy is of a threefold being: body, soul, and spirit.

Physical encounters are not usually overly challenging in the context of a Waldorf school. Our body odors or sloppy attire don’t commonly rise to existential levels of crisis. Spiritual aspects can sometimes create crises, for example around differing interpretations of pedagogy, but it is not very common. In this article I will focus on the third aspect of the human constitution, namely the soul.

Because they are often shrouded in the miasma of emotions, difficult soul encounters challenge us in ways that can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. They lack the clarity of spiritual principles, so they remain nebulous, but they carry a powerful surge of emotional intensity.

Rudolf Steiner describes two phases in the relationship of the “I”, the Self, to the lower members of the human constitution. The first phase entails an unconscious, the second a conscious set of transformations. The first phase produces an elaboration of the lower members (developed for us by spiritual beings) into three soul layers. The second phase produces three layers of spirit. I would like briefly to describe the stages of the first phase, and to characterize the resulting soul layers. In anthroposophical nomenclature, all of these layers have particular names. My language here, as possible, will avoid these names in favor of signature gestures. This is not to deny the validity of the usual terminology, but in order to encourage both you and me to avoid familiar  words that we, too easily, assume we understand, perhaps more than we actually do.

Historical Context

At the outset of the transformational process just mentioned, the human constitution included three facets that Rudolf Steiner called physical, etheric, and astral “bodies,” as problematic as that English translation can be for the second and third of them, since they lack obvious physical characteristics. (The German “Leib” is not as problematic; it is used as the word “body” is used in expressions such as “body of knowledge”.) The first was a physical body. We can think of it as the material level that we share with all mineral, living, and sentient beings. The second was the life “body,” which we can think of as the level we share with living organisms that grow and reproduce, namely plants and animals. The third Steiner called the astral or soul “body.” It is the level we share with all sentient beings, namely animals. Its signature gestures are movement, both inner (as in a response to stimuli and circumstances) and outer (in autonomous movement such as plants cannot achieve); another way of saying it is that beings endowed with an astral body exhibit some degree of consciousness.

When the human Self, or “I,” was introduced into evolution, it began interacting with the existing “bodies.” These interactions were completely unconscious initially. And although they have produced increasingly conscious results, as we shall see, they only recently began, themselves, growing more wakeful within us.

The Desiring Soul; The Spirit of Fun and Freedom; Illness, Suffering, and Pain

At first, during a period that Rudolf Steiner calls Lemuria, the Self began interacting with what we have termed the astral body. The mere instinctual, animal-like responses to stimuli grew more individualized. People could begin to like and dislike aspects of their environment in ways that differed from their peers. Rudimentary personality began emerging. At this point, an important spiritual intervention took place. Up until then, only benevolent spiritual beings were involved in earth evolution. But now, spiritual beings of an adversarial level equivalent to what Western traditions call angels developed a different relationship with humanity. Collectively, we can refer to these sprits in the singular as The Spirit of Fun and Freedom. Genesis depicts it as the serpent; elsewhere it is called the Devil, or also Lucifer. It introduced the possibility of error into human conduct. The result was, on the one side, a greater level of separation from the divine origins of humanity, and therefore freedom for the human being, and on the other the development of desires, cravings, and lust for sensations. It was the first elaboration of the human soul, and we can call it the Desiring Soul. Think of the moment when you meet a person and feel either an irresistible desire or an equally strong repulsion towards that person. On a more trivial level, you open a catalog that just arrived in the mail, or surf the website of a merchant, and suddenly you cannot live another moment without owning an item that five minutes earlier you did not even know existed. Or you see something that someone else has and you really, REALLY want it.

An important characteristic of the Desiring Soul is that it is inherently insatiable. No amount of goods, food, or pleasure is ever enough for more than a brief interval of time.

In order to mitigate the results of what The Spirit of Fun and Freedom wrought, the benevolent spiritual forces had to introduce illness, suffering, and pain into the life of humanity so that we would not utterly succumb to the temptations of the senses. This may sound cruel to the modern mind, but we can also think of it as being given the opportunity to learn to live with consequences. Other terms for that are growing up, or maturing. Like a young person coming into adulthood, one has to learn there is a price for bingeing on anything, and sometimes even for trying just a little taste. A hangover after a night of drinking is one small example of how our desire for sensations can result in adverse consequences.   Addictions of all kinds are further examples.

The Explaining/Planning Soul; The Spirit of The Machine; Karma The next step in evolution involved the Self-penetrating and unconsciously transforming the life body. This took place in the period that Steiner terms Atlantis. Living organisms grow in lawful ways, which shows us that there is an intelligible pattern governing their life cycles. This pattern is coded, so to speak, into the life body. When the Self-finished “working through” the life body, the result was a second layer of the soul, one that we can designate The Explaining, or Planning Soul. To get a feeling for it, we can imagine that the Desiring Soul wishes for some item or experience. It is the role of the Planning Soul to figure out how to satisfy the wish of the Desiring Soul. For example, we can plan on buying it, stealing it, or killing our neighbor in order to get it. All three would achieve the desired result, and for the planning soul there isn’t yet a particular preference for one over the other, except expediency. In the realm of knowledge acquisition, the Explaining Soul does just that: it explains things, which means replacing mysterious phenomena (e.g., nature’s) with models that are easier to comprehend. The entire edifice of natural science is the glorious, and problematic, triumph of the Explaining Soul, essentially replacing the mysteries of nature with mathematical formulations. It is immensely satisfying to feel that we know what something “really is,” even if, for example, we are not much closer to understanding the nature of pleasure when we say that pleasure “really is nothing but” the body secreting certain hormones (e.g., serotonin, oxytocin, or dopamine). We have just turned our gaze to where the street lamp is lighting a section of the sidewalk, though it isn’t where we lost the keys, or at least not most of them. But we are left with the satisfying illusion of knowing. In effect, we made the world into math, and now a blind person understands color as well as a seeing person because “color is nothing but an angle of refraction, or a wavelength, that can be expressed mathematically.” The same goes for all other senses and even for consciousness itself. We think that we have explained them, but we have really only explained them away. The world disappears, and all that’s left is math.

When the Explaining/Planning Soul came into being, there was a second intervention of spiritual beings, this time of the adversarial level equivalent to that of the archangels. We can name them, in the singular, “The Spirit of the Machine.” The Persians, and anthroposophists,   name it “Ahriman.” Others call it Satan. Initially, this spirit’s influence led to the possibility of what we call sin. Sin differs from error in being deliberate. Human beings could now know in advance that they were violating the intended order of the universe. A second consequence of the presence of the Spirit of the Machine was that knowledge of the spiritual origins of existence was gradually lost, and people could not see beyond the senses. We can see, therefore, how materialism could develop.

To mitigate the influence of the Spirit of the Machine, the benevolent forces introduced death and the law of karma. We shall return to death a little later. But karma is really a wonderful thing! We usually think of it as the source of all manner of difficulties, but we should be eternally grateful that it exists, for it allows for the balancing of sins. Imagine if your sins were written into your being in such a way that it would be impossible to make matters right. Next time you find yourself in a karmic knot, be glad and thankful for it. You may not be able to untie it yet, but at least you have the opportunity to try.

The Understanding/Empathetic Soul; The Spirits of Darkness;

AHAVA

The third chapter in the Self’s unconscious transforming of the lower members was its penetration of the physical body. It is still ongoing, and has been bringing a third soul facet into existence. This facet we can designate “The Understanding or Empathetic Soul.” Its chief attribute is that it can serve as a moral compass. In the example I gave earlier, the Planning Soul can find different ways of satisfying the cravings and wishes of the Desiring Soul. How would one choose which of these ways is best? For the materialistic-thinking Planning   Soul, expediency is the only arbiter. But what of ethics? If the former can say “true or false; fast or slow,” the Understanding Soul can tell, and FEEL, good from evil. It is the soul facet that can understand, rather than merely explain, and that can empathize with another human being. After the increasing distance from the phenomena that the Desiring Soul and Explaining Soul produced, the Empathetic Soul can re-connect with phenomena, this time without disappearing completely into a dreamy or sleepy state of consciousness. “I” can understand “you,” rather than merely feeling attraction or repulsion, as with the Desiring Soul, or explaining you (using extrinsic measures) to myself as with the Explaining Soul.

There is also a third intervention of adversarial spiritual beings that is beginning, and this one has a particular twist. These beings are       the adversarial equivalents to the spiritual hierarchy designated        in Christian esotericism as the “Archai.” The benevolent Archai are the ones that bestowed the Self on humanity, while these adversarial counterparts work in precisely the opposite direction. They encourage human beings to use the understanding capacities that the Self has been developing in order to manipulate others in purely egotistical ways. Sociopathy and psychopathy are examples of this type of action, and orgiastic behaviors, for example, point towards a future in which some people will arrange their entire lives to gear towards incessant sensual pleasure. The sociopath has a keen understanding of others, but does not care about their wellbeing. The psychopath is similarly insightful, but goes even further by actually enjoying the pain he can inflict. The twist in the narrative here is that, according to Rudolf Steiner, the benevolent spiritual powers cannot help us find redemption for acts committed under the influence of these new adversarial forces, which he names (using an old term for the Archai) the Asuras; every time we choose the path of pure egotism, a sliver of our divine Self is lost to darkness. This is a new reality in human evolution, and means that we are now increasingly capable of self-annihilation. It is darkness, the likes of which humanity has never encountered before.

But where great darkness appears, a great light must also be present. This light I would like to designate AHAVA, as the acronym for the “Archetype of Human Amity, Verity, and Altruism.” Conveniently, AHAVA means, “love” in Hebrew, and we can think of “the archetype of the human capacity for love” as another name or designation for AHAVA. I will use “the Love Impulse” to describe what AHAVA is trying to help us develop. Rudolf Steiner referred to it, in a term that was less problematic for his milieu than it is for our time, as the Christ Impulse. According to Steiner, there was a moment in history when AHAVA joined the earthly, human stream of being for a brief period. It penetrated the lower sheaths, or bodies, of a human being and, as a human being, shed blood into the earth as it died. This love- infused blood turned into life forces (ether), and the earth itself began, for the first time, to radiate light into the cosmos. AHAVA moved its sphere of action into the sheaths surrounding the earth, and the light associated with Love began radiating as the earth’s own emanation. This light was not yet physical, but if human beings take this Love Impulse into themselves, it will increasingly condense into physical light until the earth itself will become a new sun!

The Etherization of Blood and the Love Impulse

As if the idea of helping to make the earth into a new sun is not inspiring enough, Rudolf Steiner also says that every human heart turns a portion of the blood that passes through it into a fine stream of life (or etheric) forces that flows upwards into the head. When human beings take up the Love Impulse into themselves, the individual stream of etherized blood joins the etherized stream of the Love Impulse, and completely new capacities can arise in the soul. Those capacities are key elements of any potential progress for humanity, and, I suggest, for the potential survival and success of Waldorf schools. They entail, among other things, direct perception of spiritual realities and an ability to act out of the highest moral ideals.

.Human Encounter on the three levels; Proposed Practices

Thus far we have surveyed an evolutionary process and followed the appearance and influence of various spiritual beings, both benevolent and adversarial. It is time to “get down to brass tacks,” as it were: what can we do in  a school context in order to facilitate healthy human encounters, knowing that our demons and our gods, as the title suggests, are both eager for our cooperation?

I would like to take each of the three soul facets, or members, characterize its typical appearance in human relationships, and propose a salutogenic approach.

The Desiring Soul

The two archetypal gestures of the Desiring Soul are attraction and repulsion. A new colleague or parent comes into view, and one feels a strong attraction towards this person, or perhaps a strong revulsion. In our culture, it is not acceptable to express these sentiments. I don’t think that school communities would benefit by encouraging verbal expression of the animal-level desires and revulsions that we feel towards one another. The point here is not to externalize that which is ordinarily expressed only in anonymous online chat rooms. There are not only humane grounds for the idea of restraint but legal ones as well.

But I also think that suppressing the lower impulses of the Desiring Soul is not a good practice if it remains the only thing we

  1. Suppression leads to repression, and repression leads to illness. You can sit in a faculty meeting and find yourself wondering why on earth tensions run so high when the topic is seemingly so benign. The same two or three individuals seem intent on clashing with one another regardless of the topic, as in the example with which I started. The opposite can also happen: people agree with one another based on sympathy, or even attraction, and yet the root of their agreement is not the topic at hand or the wellbeing of the school. And when people manage to sublimate their attraction and repulsion completely, that, as noted above, can lead to physical and/or emotional illness. We don’t overcome a lower aspect of ourselves by pretending it does not exist.

So the two extremes of repression and expression are not healthy for us or for the school. What I would like to suggest is that ther is a way of processing the impulses of the Desiring Soul that can be healthy: engagement with the arts, specifically in what I would call chamber arts: eurythmy, chorus, speech chorus, drama, music making, and so on. There is a whole field of artistic endeavor, some extent and some waiting to be developed that would allow teams to work through the impulses of the Desiring Soul so that beauty can emerge out of the process. Since The Spirit of Fun and Freedom is also a key inspiration for artistic creativity, we would be using his gifts to neutralize his malevolent influence!

Another essential benefit of chamber arts is that they provide a strong impetus for recognizing the spiritual in our fellow human being. Artistic processes, when done well, move people through obstacles and long-established patterns, and allow them to grow. When we witness someone growing we know that we are in the presence of a “human becoming” entity. This experience should always leave us hopeful: what is problematic today may change in time. As long as we are hopeful, progress is possible. The main problem with our patterns of desire and revulsion is that, especially with the latter, we assume permanence. But when our “enemy” has overcome an artistic blockage or, better yet, helped us overcome one of our own, a layer of enmity is shed. Over time, enough of those layers can be shed so the two of us can see the better aspects of each other that were hidden from our view before. Real conversations, verbally or through correspondence, are another way of overcoming these impulses. They are seeds of the future social art of conversation. A striking and very moving example is the late-life correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. So I would like to throw down something of a gauntlet here to my art-teaching colleagues: there is a whole field of exercises that you can develop to help teams process the lower impulses of the soul healthfully. I want to be clear that individual artistic work can also be helpful. I have written a lot of poetry to process my life’s events. But individual work helps an individual. Chamber work helps those who are in the chamber, which in our sense is the relevant group within the school. It helps, in part, by inviting the spiritual beings that support harmony and collaboration to be active for the time people strive together artistically.

The Planning/Explaining Soul

The signature gestures of the Explaining Soul have in common that they are past-oriented and replace genuine encounter with analyses and prescriptions of all kinds. Since the birth of the Explaining Soul was accompanied by the possibility of sin, policies, and procedures are introduced in order to prevent sinfulness. This leads to a safer environment, but also to a stilted and warmth-less one. Every bureaucrat says, “That’s the policy; I did not make it, I just administer it.” The policy was no doubt created because someone did something that had the “flavor” of sin, so there was some justification for it. I do not suggest that policies and procedures have no place in a school. But they do present a new kind of challenge in that they eliminate the human being as a complex and individual reality in favor of a species-wide, one-size-fits-all approach.

A second common gesture of the Explaining Soul is the dissection of another person in psychoanalytic language. This language is invariably past-oriented. Parents or food or some trauma are held responsible for something that a person did or is doing. Again, there is some justification for this approach, but it comes with the danger that we distance ourselves from the other, and most importantly that we feel superior. Since we think we know why she behaves in this particular way, we could respond with empathy, but all too often we remain with the self-congratulatory mood of seeing the other “from above.”

I would like to suggest three practices that can help us work with the gifts of the Explaining Soul in order to neutralize its deleterious aspects:

  1. The first is enlivened study of inspired texts. The hallmarks of enlivened study are that it is experiential, context-rich, and deed- oriented. When we merely read a text in a faculty meeting, the effect is minimal and sometimes even negative. Study is best begun by bringing an experience, just as we know from the classroom that beginning with the will and proceeding through feeling to thinking is the best way to go, so also in the faculty study.

Secondly, healthy study is context-rich. It arises out of and in turn creates context and relationships. Anything, even anthroposophical concepts, studied in isolation is a lie. For example, the cultural, political, and location-specific circumstances of Steiner’s lectures are important; we can also follow up a reading with a discussion of how the themes he develops might need to be articulated in our own circumstances. It is inconceivable to me that Steiner would be saying the same things in the same language a hundred years later. He was the consummate innovator and revitalizer of culture; how would he develop his themes in light of what has transpired since he first brought them forth?

Thirdly,   the study should be deed-oriented. We should ask ourselves what is indicated by this study for our work. How do we translate the inspiration of the text into action?

  1. The second “cure” for the Explaining Soul is a study of nature as a text. In the works of our contemporaries Craig Holdrege and Denis Klocek, for example, we have instances of research into the meaning of natural phenomena. When we seek for meaning, as opposed to explanation, we learn to read nature as a text. A text implies a creative force, an author, and this sense helps us overcome an ailment that the Spirit of the Machine has infected us with: the estrangement from our divine origins.

 

  1. The third “cure” is the study of projective geometry. The Explaining Soul typically traffics in mathematical explanations that replace the phenomena with numbers. Projective geometry is a mathematical field that requires imaginative capacities to unfold. It is, if you will, the redemption of our relationships with mathematics.

The Empathetic Soul:

Encounters that originate with the Empathetic Soul are most easily characterized as the experience that someone else sees us. Beyond gender, race, age, appearance, status, and all the other veils that hide us from one another, we are, each one, a human being, a species onto ourselves. When another person can see us, we are neither simply attractive or repulsive, nor are we explained through some pre-existing model (not even the anthroposophical one). While these interpretations will, no doubt, play into what another sees, he or she can see something else. It is an exhilarating moment. It is also interesting that it is also exhilarating when we manage to see another human being, really see. On the few occasions in my life when that’s happened, I felt like Adam in the Garden of Eden. There is such simplicity and purity in an encounter that leaves your heart open and receptive, sans the veils that customarily come between people.

The question then becomes: what happens now?

When one person sees another, there are usually only two basic choices to be made: to love, or to hurt. I don’t mean sensual love; I mean that you have seen another human being, including his or her golden qualities and less-than-golden needs. To the needs you can respond with whatever it is you have to offer. To the other’s golden qualities you respond by calling them forth. Or you can put a hook into the need and begin to manipulate. You can also ignore, remain indifferent, but that is just another way of hurting. And you can try to undermine the golden qualities.

We have all met people of both kinds of resolve. In the presence of someone who has seen another and chosen love, we feel peace.

With those who lust for power and who utilize their insights for control and manipulation, we can feel helpless. They are far too clever and skilled to meet head-on. We can sense that ultimately only love can counter their power. It cannot redeem it, but it can serve as a countermeasure within individuals and communities. The opportunity for love to build momentum in our situation may take time. In the meantime, they can do a lot of damage.

As I mentioned before, there is no direct remediation of the dark impulses we are talking about. But if love is ultimately the antidote, there are a couple of practices that we can take up in order to strengthen our relationship with the Love Impulse. There are others, too, but we are focusing now on collegial relationships.

  1. The first is biography work. This is a fairly well developed field of study in our circles, with people who are skilled at facilitating excellent processes. Entering attentively into the images of another’s life and then taking those into our sleep life for several days can go a long way towards building a real feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood.
  2. The second is meditation. The path towards the Love Impulse needs to be taken up within each one of us. As Steiner develops this work, an essential aspect of it is that we first build up a picture, and then we allow what we have achieved to disappear, to die, as it were. Only the force we had built up in the process of forming the image remains. Apart from the value of meditative work as a spiritual path of knowledge, the practice of letting something die within us is a profound step towards Love.

When death is approached without fear, anger, or resentment, it can be the most amazingly graceful moment in the whole of life. We can “gift” our dying to those around us as their opportunity to care. In the realm of ideas, death means renouncing our ownership and attachment to what originally came to us, allowing it to be owned and revised by the group. And when we see another person, with their physical, emotional, karmic, or any other illness, we can ask ourselves: “Were she on death’s bed, would I love her?” If the answer is yes, and few of us would choose to attack or ignore a person on death’s bed, the next question is: “Why should I wait until she is on death’s bed to love her?”

We find, approaching our fellow human being with the mindset that “Love shouldn’t wait” that the twin experiences of surprise and invigoration meet us all the time. Just like a good College meeting!

 

References:

The Deed of Christ and the Opposing Spiritual Forces (GA 107)

The Etherization of the Blood (GA 130)

From Jesus to Christ (GA 131)

The Gospel of St. John and it Relation to the Other Gospels (GA

112)

New Impulses for Waldorf School Administration, Leadership and Governance

Leading with Spirit

Sensing a new impulse in leadership and governance of Waldorf Schools

We are entering a new phase in the development of Waldorf education in North America: the relationship between the administrative work and the pedagogical work of the school is changing. We can see the signs that the old imagination of what was termed a “teacher- run” school is no longer effective and a new possibility is emerging. Schools are seeking to create a pedagogically and anthroposophically inspired administrative group working in true spiritual collaboration with the teachers, and supported by an anthroposophically inspired, policy-oriented Board.

The social form of the Waldorf School arose, not from Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical work, but from his lifelong work on the inner aspect of the social question and the true nature of social life - and it came into practice in the Waldorf School through his years of leadership as he worked with the staff of the original school. Both of these culturally transforming streams, the pedagogical and social, have developed and matured over the past 100 years. There is a new possibility and opportunity to weave the streams together in an impulse for spiritual collaboration that could guide the future development of Waldorf schools in our culture. To achieve this ideal, we must overcome several obstacles.

  • One of the factors influencing the development of healthy administration in Waldorf schools is the shortage of trained teachers across the continent. A new generation of teachers is not flowing into the schools that would allow experienced teachers, with social and administrative capacities, to step into administration. The lack of qualified teachers creates a situation where experienced teachers are needed in the classroom longer, to teach, to provide training and support for practicing teachers, and to provide pedagogical leadership in the faculty circle. As a result, experienced teachers remain in the classroom and are not able to bring their practical experience fully into administrative leadership positions without draining the faculty.
  • In addition, administrative staff with an understanding of the social impulses arising out of anthroposophy and Waldorf education are difficult to find. Many administrative positions are filled by good people who do not have an adequate orientation to the overall spiritual, pedagogical and social dynamics of the school or the necessary support to help them be successful. The result has been marked: significant turnover in administrative staff, growing anxiety at the board level in many schools leading boards to institute reforms that appear practical but have no relationship to the social ideals of Steiner (policy governance, hiring heads of school, as examples), and unreasonable administrative burdens continually placed on teachers. Our schools often experience a lack of human and financial resources to provide the training and support needed by administrative leaders to be highly successful.
  • Independent, self- financed schools require significantly more time to manage and operate, and are frequently understaffed, leaving little time or resources for training and professional development. The practical demands and resources required to run a school outweigh the good intentions to provide deepening opportunities for administrative staff and pedagogical leaders. Yet without the inspiration and support provided by an understanding of the guiding principles that inform the pedagogy and our work together, staff often leave in exhaustion or disillusionment.
  • Schools often rely on consultants with backgrounds in organizational development that typically lack knowledge of Waldorf schools and culture and the guiding principles informing our work together. Our Schools require organizational development that is rooted in anthroposophy and an understanding of the social questions of our time. General ideas and approaches from outside the movement can be helpful but are not sufficient for long-term success.
  • Unspoken expectations of administrative and school leaders, power conflicts, patterns of undermining or sabotaging leadership within some schools, lack of clarity and agreement about roles and responsibilities, all contribute to the revolving door that is all too common in the administrative realm of many of our schools.

Here are a few guiding thoughts for how the Waldorf school movement could support schools in taking this transformative step to a stronger and more integrated administrative life.

  • Support everyone working in the schools to understand ans see the connection between both the educational and social impulses that Rudolf Steiner brought forth.
  • Create and support new, widely accessible training for administrative staff equivalent to foundation studies in teacher training, designed specifically to inform their work in the schools out of Anthroposophy.
  • Ensure that existing teacher preparation programs offer a much greater exploration of, and exposure to, the social insights, principles and practices of Rudolf Steiner and their practical applications in a school.
  • Encourage networks for administrative staff to connect around questions of how the practical work of administration and governance can be inspired by, and reflect, the social and pedagogical insights of Anthroposophy.
  • Make a significant investment in board resources and development to provide practical imaginations of how governance can work out of anthroposophy.

The seeds of this work have been planted over the last 10 years by independent initiatives that are growing in the Waldorf School movement across the world evidenced by:

  • Websites and social media groups dedicated to collaboration between administrative leaders in schools such as Waldorf Admin Central, Waldorf Marketing Group, ANA (Admin Network of AWSNA) Basecamp groups and the LeadTogether.org resource collection 
  • Increased activities of ANA, the Administrative Network of AWSNA 
  • Greater focus of activities from AWSNA and other national associations around anthroposophically inspired school administration 
  • Emerging new anthroposophically inspired training programs for administrative staff such as Antioch’s Waldorf Administration and Leadership Development program and the Leading with Spirit Administration and Leadership Program and summer seminars
  • New articles, books and other resources focusing on anthroposophically inspired school organization and dynamics such as Partnerships of Hope by Chris Schaefer 
  • A new widely read Waldorf related newsletter, Waldorf Today 
  • A transformed website and resource site for Waldorf Schools through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America 
  • A renewal of the shared principles of Waldorf schools based on the anthroposophical Waldorf ideals articulated by the Pedagogical Section Council of North America
  • A new anthroposophical and Waldorf centered administrative training program in China

These are all promising developments. The factors influencing the growth and development of collaborative spiritual leadership in the schools are numerous. Identifying and understanding them is an important step in moving towards a more resilient school movement.

In order to achieve successful collaboration, however, we need to develop new competencies that go beyond knowledge of Steiner’s ideas about education or the social sphere. Intellectual understanding is only valuable when it leads to changes in our thinking, behavior and attitudes – when both teachers and administrators feel that their unique contributions are seen and valued – and when building and maintaining trust are priorities within the organization.

Along with deepening the work of administration comes the additional challenge of bringing the cherished goals of the classroom into the Administrative Group, the Coworker Circle, the College of Teachers and the Board of Trustees. In our leadership roles, do we strive to be worthy of imitation? Do we play fair, refrain from gossip, assume the best, and ask questions rather than jump to conclusions? Are we always helpful and kind? Do we practice observation? Are we awake and able to respond to what is living in the school now - or are we focused on a fixed solution, or caught in repeating the dynamics of the past? In order to be successful at collaborative leadership we need to strive for the freedom that is developed in meditative practices; to prefer listening over our own speech, to sense the work of the unseen world, and to draw on imagination, inspiration and intuition.

We know that anthroposophically aligned boards, Waldorf trained and experienced administrative staff, and administratively capable teachers that understand the social organizational ideals of Waldorf education make all the difference in the health and success of school administrative life. The results of these strengths can be seen in practice in healthy schools across the continent.

The key to success of Waldorf schools in the coming years lies in the in the hands of current school leaders. The economic and social challenges for independent educational institutions like Waldorf schools will continue to become more difficult in the coming years. It is incumbent on us as school leaders to continually strive to find the balance between maintaining the good practices needed to sustain the institution effectively, and heeding the inspirations needed to sustain our mission, which arise out of true collaboration with each other and with our spiritual helpers. Sharing insights and experiences, asking the right questions, and actively supporting one another in a spirit of community, not just within our individual schools but also as a movement, are needed measures for Waldorf Schools to continue to be socially renewing institutions.

“Nothing else will do”, Rudolf Steiner says, “if our courage is not to fail. We must discipline our wills and seek the awakening from within ourselves every morning and every evening.” This inner discipline, self-responsibility and awakening can lead us to re-imagine our work together as a community of servant leaders dedicated to doing our part in the radical, social renewal of our world.

 

Michael Soule

Marti Stewart

Leading with Spirit.org

January 2016

 

 

 

 

Highlight 2, 8-25-2014 The Phases of Development in Spiritual Organizations

Dear Colleagues

What are the natural developmental phases of spiritually based communities and organizations? Bernard Lievegoed, one of the leaders of organizational development work and long-time Director of the Anthroposophical Training Organization, NPI, in Holland, wrote “ The Developing Organization" in 1973. In 1988 he offered a new booklet to clarify his thoughts about the difference between the phases that economic businesses and educational institutions go through. Lievegoed offers that spiritually focused organizations involved in human development don’t follow the typical phases of pioneer, administration and integration, but develop in a much more organic fashion, from their early development through growth and into maturation. This new booklet, “Institutions of the Spiritual Life”  helps us to better understand how the growth and development of our institutions unfold over time. We have added the booklet into our resource collection for you. Find it here.

Keep in touch,

Michael Soule

A New Image of Waldorf School Organization – M Soule

A new imagination of organizational form and function in a Waldorf school

Summary

After years of working in and with Waldorf schools, I have found that the imaginative thinking about the governance and organizational structure of a school is key to the school having a wholeness. Since each school is independent and unique, and is responsible for creating itself over time, the key to organizational health rests with the capacity of the leadership at any given time to build an imagination of the organization and from this imagination to find insights that can guide thinking about the challenges faced by the school at its unique phase of development. What has developed for me through many conversations is a thinking process that leads to an organic evolving imagination that can fit an organization at any phase of its growth and in any situation.

Starting over

I have been in many schools over the last 20 years and have found that the many attempts to describe the organization using diagrams rarely if ever yields any real insight into the life of the organization and how to manage the operations. With various groups, I have gone through a process of building an imagination of the school which brings new ideas, a new sense of relationship, responsibility and helps identify key areas needing attention.

From the whole to the parts

A Waldorf school is a living organization involving many people who each have their own relationship to the endeavor, and who find themselves in groups that have particular roles and responsibilities – all important to the overall function and health of the organism. The school itself is part of its community, an endeavor to create a place where parents can find common ground and inspiration about the care and nurturing of their children. It is also a part of the evolving landscape of the educational community, the non profit community, the philanthropic community and the neighborhood where it resides. As a unique part of the community in which it lives, like any organism in its environment, it needs connection to everything around it for support and nourishment, and some separation from what lives around it for protection and identity.

Like any organism, it has three basic conversations ongoing. First, it has the conversation with itself about its own development – what is its mission, how shall it operate and reflect upon its own life. In this conversation it should be completely free to make its own way, to seek its own light and learn its own lessons. Just like a human being, it is responsible for making its own decisions and judgements and acting accordingly. Secondly it has the conversation with the other institutions and culture around it – how is it connected to other Waldorf shools, to other independent schools, to the government, to its neighbors. In this conversation it should be guided by the agreements it has with others – from being part of the association of Waldorf schools to filing taxes to adhering to fire codes to adhering to state regulations. In this realn it is important that it remembers that it is an equal part of the social fabric and that it has agreements to uphold. Thirdly, the school has a conversation with the earth itself – how it sustains itself, maintains buildings and garners the resources needed to assure its continued existence. This conversation is guided by mutuality – it provides parents with care and nurturing of their children in exchange for financial and personal support, it provides a service to the educational community and receives gifts and resources, it supports many vendors and service providers in exchange for their support.

These three conversations, while essential to any organization, have special significance in a Waldorf school. From the beginning of the first school in 1919, emphasis was placed on the importance of organizing the school from the inside out – that the first conversation, the internal one about its own direction and purpose rooted in self reflection, was the one that should guide the quality of the other conversations, the more outer ones. And this was rooted in the striving of the individuals in the school to be developing themselves. Both the work with the students and the work in organizing the school depend on the inner work of the people involved in the endeavor – their capacity for self reflection. The school was reminded this over and over again – that to be healthy and creative in its task, the individuals must be actively striving towards self-understanding. And this self understanding can come about only when an individual has an active contemplative practice aligned with the impulse of Anthroposophy. But as we know concerning our capacity for nurturing our development, we need help from each other. We are not in a time in history when an individual can develop independently. That means that the work in the school must be guided by processes that allow for individuals to remain independent and free but to seek and explore insights in such a way that their own development is furthered.

From the beginning of Waldorf education and Waldorf schools it has been of the utmost importance for the groups within the school to work within themselves and with each other in ways that seek and explore insights. This requires continual practice. At a simple level this would be expressed at meetings by saying a verse, reading something together, reviewing meetings, having regular meetings between groups and having a clear system of regular conversations between colleagues about their work. But these are just the surface. The work of each group needs to evolve as it seeks both common ground and meaningful ways to support the development of each person in the group. And here is where the faculty as a whole is essential to the work throughout the school. The work of the faculty in meaningful self reflection and the application of insight into the many operations of the school is truly like a heart of the school with the circulation being the sharing of insight as nourishment.

How faculties are prepared and able to do this work is a question. One learns this essential work by doing it, by participating in it. And as the task of holding a class and teaching becomes more and more challenging over time, the amount of energy and time left to spend in deeper work in the faculty as a group is diminished. We are faced with a situation in which there is less time and energy to do deeper work that is essential to the health of the organization. The result is often weakened operations and greater need for outside intervention as the organization is less and less able to meet the demands put upon it. It is a dilemma that when one is ill, one often has the least capacity to heal oneself – too often one must attend to the secondary effects rather than the root cause.

So how does a school potentize its work on seeking the inspired consciousness it needs?

Relationships

 

Start with an imagination of a class – we have a teacher dedicated to the growth and development of the students gathered around her. The students (purple) are in the center in the care of the teacher (yellow), surrounded by their parents (light blue) and held in a vessel (red) by the whole faculty and staff.

 

IMG_1512Fig 1

 

Now place classes next to each other in a ring. This would create the teachers in a circle with an inner space free from the students and parents surrounded by the classes and parents. What is living between the teachers might be viewed as a kind of sun that radiates out into the classrooms.

 
Fig 2

 

Now we notice that between the classes there are areas that are empty, that we could designate as “the school.” What is it that connects the classes into a whole? In this we could add festivals, assemblies and all activities that involve more than one class.

IMG_1517

Fig 3

 

In this evolved picture one can see the inner realm of the teachers. This space is extremely important to the health of the school. Much has been written about the role of the faculty, the ways the teachers can work together to create harmony and effective working, and the relationship between the faculty and the rest of the organism. In the faculty it is important to note the different task that the class teachers and subject teachers have. One is tasked with guiding the journey of a grou p of students, and the other is tasked with helping all the students make strides in relationship to a subject. How these tow are woven together has a significant effect onteh students and the whole school.

 

In this picture one can also see that the parents surrounding the classes create a supportive substance around the educational work. In this outer layer, a skin is formed that allows for the organism to have identity and protection. In addition, the skin could be seen as semi permeable and allowing nourishment in and letting out toxins.

 

Fig 4

 

Now in the area outside the classes and within the skin we have organs that form to help the overall organism to function. Over time more organs are needed to manage the flow of communication, manage the flow of resources and care for the growing structure of the whole organism. Classes need designated spaces, and structures, and tools that all need to be maintained.

 

Fig 7

 

In this figure, we have processes from five realms:

 

Board processes – like that of skin:

Protection (legal issues)

Nourishment (resources and sustainability)

Identity (mission and vision, evaluation )

Interaction with environment (ambassadorship, community relations)

Sensing imbalance and supporting functions

 

Administrative processes – like that of internal fluids and organs

Communication

Managing flows of money

Supporting activities of teachers, parents and all organs

Community building in the whole

 

Faculty Processes – like that of the heart

Tending to students

Collaboration in faculty

Finding inspiration

Being creative

Sensing the whole and the parts

 

Student Processes – like that of the cells

Playing, working, learning and growing

 

Parent Processes, like that of the lungs

Caring

Pitching in

Supporting

Reflecting

Connecting and exchanging with the world

 

In each of these realms, there is a need for an organizing principle or a leading activity.

In the parent realm this can be the class parents in a grade who develop their own structure of support (class rep or class helper) and for the whole parent body it is usually a parent council or parent organization. Its purpose is often to assure that each parent finds their rightful place in the school in which their talents and capacities can best contribute to the whole. It has a second purpose of assuring that the parents as a whole are organized to be best involved in the community building of the school.

In the faculty realm it is two fold : the sections (EC, GS , HS) and the core group, college or leadership team that acts on behalf of the whole.

In the admin realm it is often one or a few administrators tasked with assuring the healthy flow and organization of the administrative realm.

In the board it is the officers and the board development group tasked with helping the board as a whole continue to develop.

In the students it is the classes. In the older sections of the school it can be a student leadership group or council.

Because the organism is an integrated whole, (even thought it might not feel like it at times), every organ (parent council, board, faculty, admin, committees) is connected intimately to the whole and is a microcosm of the whole. Every organ has its own skin, it own identity, its own creativity, its own responsibility for communication etc. all purposefully aligned with the whole organism.

Now we have an overall picture of the organism that can speak to us and with which we can have a conversation.

What happens when a class become weak? What happens when a teacher can’t teach any longer? What happens when the faculty as a group is not able to work toether in such a way as to provide inspiration and insight that can guide the whole organism? Or when they isolate themselves from the rest of the organism and create their own skin that lacks permeability? What dynamic appears when an organization fails to renew its vision? Or when parents who are an integral part of the organism don’t identify with the mission of the school or follow healthy school processes?

Many of the dynamics alive in schools that I have worked with, when seen in the context of a living picture, can be understood more completely and dealt with in relationship to a sense of the whole.

The school is a living organism, that has living processes that function in service to the primary task of the whole – to care for, nurture and guide the development of children who come to the school, to provide support and encouragement to the parents who bring them and to build a conscious community that is committed to the understanding and practice of a new view of what it means to be a realized human being and to be a community.

(Further exploration of the physiology of the organism can be helped by looking at other resources.)

In another article, there is an outline of what aspects of this organism are unique to Waldorf school and what are more general to schools, non profits and businesses. The purpose here is to provide a living picture of a school organism that moves our thinking away from dead diagrams and towards new imaginations and questions.

What I have found important in a picture like this, is that it places the classes and students in the center and the faculty in the center and shows the space required by the faculty from which can radiate the insight needed to sustain the whole organism. This picture allows us to see an image of the healthy social life given to the first school as an imagination for moving forward.

Resources:

Vision in Action: Working with Soul and Spirit in Small Organizations, by Christopher Schaefer and Tino Voors.

Organizational Integrity: How to apply the Wisdom of the Body to Develop Healthy organizations, by Torin Finser.

 

 

 

 

 

Where the Spirit Leads – the Evolution of Waldorf School Administration

Social Development Insights of Rudolf Steiner in Waldorf School Administration and the new Leading with Spirit Training program starting this summer.

(In this essay, Michael Soule and his colleagues in the Leading with Spirit training program, discuss the evolution of both the role of the administrator and Rudolf Steiner’s social ideas in Waldorf School’s in the United States over the past 30 years. This article also introduces the people and the ideas behind the new Leading with Spirit administrative training starting this summer sponsored by the Waldorf Institute of SE Michigan, WISM and hosted by Alkion Institute in NY and the Whidbey Island Waldorf School in Washington State.)

In 1986, when I, (Michael Soule) was hired as the administrator of the Seattle Waldorf School, the idea of an administrator in a Waldorf school was still new. Of the few established schools in the Northwest, in Vancouver B.C. and Eugene, OR, there was just one other administrator. I remember the many hours we spent on the phone (yes, long distance) sharing stories and ideas.

What would happen in the 20 years between 1980 and 2000 was akin to a mini educational explosion. In the Northwest region alone, we went from having a single school in Portland, Eugene, Vancouver and Seattle to sprouting 25 new schools – nine within an hour and a half of Seattle. Across the continent, some hundred new schools were founded!

Today a Waldorf school without an administrator is a rarity. The question is: where are these administrators coming from and how do they receive training that will help them succeed in the unique Waldorf organizational culture?

While Waldorf teacher trainings began sprouting up across the country in the ‘80s, there were only two courses that provided professional development for administrative staff until 1993. One was a week-long offering during the spring semester of the Sunbridge year-long teacher training course and the other was a year-long seminar at the Social Development Center at Emerson College. (Both of these programs were developed by Chris Schaefer, a Waldorf graduate, consultant, author and trainer.)

 

Also in the late ‘80s, a number of leading thinkers in the Waldorf movement gathered regularly at Rudolf Steiner College, in Fair Oaks, CA, to exploring themes of Waldorf school organization, finances, economic life and other social and organizational issues. Participants at these conferences pondered upon what an anthroposophically inspired organization looked like and what were considered the core principles and guiding imaginations that might help a school thrive both as an independent school and as a center of cultural renewal.

 

I attended a number of these gatherings and the week-long seminar at Sunbridge. Then, after fives years as the Seattle Waldorf School administrator, I took a year off both to travel and to study at the Social Development Center in England. In the following years, I took on the various roles of Waldorf teacher, consultant, AWSNA executive and again a school administrator, but I never lost track of the ideas and questions central to Rudolf Steiner’s insights of how to continually grow an anthroposophically inspired organization. It would be some 20 years before my hopes for a training program for administrators in the Northwest would materialize.

 

 

We all know that the hope of Rudolf Steiner, when he helped found the first Waldorf School, was that the school would become a beacon of spiritual impulses for the local community – a center of social/spiritual renewal. This would require a special kind of working together by the teachers and staff and volunteers of the school led by an interest in anthroposophical insights. But who was to lead these endeavors?

 

It was clear that Steiner imagined that the teachers, trained and experienced, committed to working both educationally and socially out of anthroposophy, would provide leadership to their own schools and that these schools would find support from local groups of people involved in anthroposophy.

 

What has happened for Waldorf schools in North America is a different story. Today, more than ever, there is a shortage of trained and experienced teachers. The task of teaching has become so demanding that teachers have less and less time to explore the social organizational dimension of the schools. Therefore, to help ease the burden on the teachers, schools have developed professional administrations to share the responsibility of running the schools and instilling related social ideals.

 

Between 1991 and 2008, Chris Schaefer and a group of colleagues, offered the first training for administrators of Waldorf schools at Sunbridge College in NY. This training arose in response to the problems arising in Waldorf schools related to either hiring administrative staff with no understanding or real connection to the education, or hiring teachers to do administrative work with no professional experience. It was an intensive course that took participants through a journey of exploring the basics of Waldorf education and anthroposophy, helped individuals on their path of self-development and explored the unique organizational dynamics of Waldorf schools.

 

Much of this curriculum stemmed from Chris Schaefer’s experience as a Waldorf student, as an organizational consultant with various companies and as a teacher at the Social Development Centre at Emerson College, where the focus was on the work of the Dutch anthroposophist and doctor, Bernard Lievegoed. Lievegoed, one of the leading thinkers and practitioners of anthroposhical organizational development in the last century, was a teacher, author, head of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society and a student of Rudolf Steiner’s.

 

“What we were hoping to do, at the Social Development Centre and at Sunbridge, was to keep the ideas of an anthroposophically inspired organization alive in small groups of people. That’s why each course involved not only helping participants develop their professional organizational skills but helping them each find a living relationship to Steiner's social insights through their own practice of inner work based on anthroposophy. Our hope was to help people become the vessels for new social impulses and to serve and help lead their schools on their individual journey of growth and development. To a great degree we felt successful. One of the challenges we faced was that our students would return to their schools and not have the easiest time integrating their new capacities into the schools’ structures. We spent a lot of time on the phone coaching our students!”

 

Leading with Spirit picks up where the Sunbridge program developed by Chris Schaefer and his colleagues left off, but with some significant differences. We understand that this type of training program needs to be flexible to meet the many demands of current administrative staff in Waldorf schools. The vision for the program is to offer a regionally based course that can be joined by new students at any point in the program. It will provide students with opportunities and support to do research, to come together in intensive seminars with colleagues, to be able to explore other local and regional weekend offerings, and to provide ongoing mentoring to participants as they meet challenges between courses. All of these are rolled into a flexible but intensive learning journey. (You can find an outline of the course content and process at www.leadingwithspirit.org)

 

Starting this summer in Hawthorne Valley, NY, hosted by Alkion Teacher Training Center, and by the Whidbey Island Waldorf School in WA, the program begins with one simple week-long intensive. Another program group hosted by the Waldorf Institute of Southern Michigan will start in the summer of 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The program website provides detailed information.

 

The future of Waldorf education and the possibility that Waldorf schools can be transformative organizations rests both on the capacity of teachers to continue their good work out of a real creative impulse connected to anthroposophy and the capacity of administrative staff to do the same. Leading with Spirit is one attempt to support this essential task.

 

A graduate of the first class of the Sunbridge administrative course, Mara White, Director of School and humanities teacher at Waldorf High School of Massachusetts Bay, joined Chris in 1996 as a core faculty member in the Sunbridge administrative course and will again be instrumental in the program being launched this year. Working with Bob Dandrew, the Chair and Development Director of AWSNA in 1993, Mara helped establish a network of administrative and development staff in Waldorf schools across the continent to grow a supportive community of those working in schools in administrative capacities. The goal was to highlight the importance of administrative work and to encourage an understanding that this work in the schools is, as with teaching, a vocation.

 

What grew from these efforts was named DANA (Development and Administrative Network of AWSNA). DANA is still active today, with coordinators in each of AWSNA’s eight regions. “DANA was another hope to provide individuals who were involved in school administration with support, collegial mentoring and shared resources and to gather information for the movement’s leaders on the needs of the administrative work and staff in our schools. The DANA network initiated an effective practices project (resources on the AWSNA website), hosted conferences and worked to be active as the administrations in schools grew more and more professional and better rooted in anthroposophical principles. After many years of work with DANA, I am even more committed to providing professional level training focused for administrative staff in Waldorf schools. We need a training that can be flexible, and both regional and continental, at the same time. Our new work with Leading with Spirit is an attempt to do this.”

 

Another collaborator on Leading with Spirit, Marti Stewart, began her administrative work at City of Lakes Waldorf School thirteen years ago. Marti views her work as an Administrative Director as a true vocation and believes in the profound importance of administrative work in creating and maintaining health in our schools. "In the same way as the teacher guards and respects the unique gifts each child brings to the class community, it is the task of the administrative staff to honor and nurture the gifts of everyone in the adult community." Marti participated in the administrative course at Sunbridge and was inspired to look at the deeper aspects of guiding the administrative work in a Waldorf School. Now, as a regional DANA Coordinator in the Great Lakes Region, she is excited to be a part of an administrative course that can support individuals who are serving in administrative roles across the continent. "I am especially excited that the Waldorf Institute of Southern Michigan (WISM) is willing to offer the training program in our region."

 

Sian Owen-Cruise agrees. As High school Coordinator at the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor and Interim Director at the Waldorf Institute of Southeastern Michigan, Sian is another colleague in the movement who started her work in administration and sees clearly that the development of Anthroposophically centered administrative structures is essential to the growth and development of Waldorf education in North America. Sian comments “it is clear to me that my path in Waldorf Education is one of administration and the building of collaborative schools that truly support children and their families, and have an impact on the wider community they are part of.” Sian is also a graduate of the Sunbridge course.

 

In Steiner’s life, after many initiatives were launched in 1917 around his social ideals, he found that people did not have the capacities to be successful in some degree because they were not prepared to understand the spiritual ideals needed to be creative in new ways. While this realization was a life disappointment for Steiner it also served as one of the impulses for Waldorf education. Steiner believed that a new educational process, and a journey based on a new understanding of the human being, might have the hope of preparing generations of young souls to meet the social challenges of their times with new capacities. That is still our hope with Waldorf Education. And that is the basis for this new training program.

 

www.leadingwithspirit.org

Come join us this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Management and Governance – Dianna Bell

Management vs Governance – It’s Not That Easy

WRITTEN BY DIANNE BALL - NOVEMBER 3, 2010

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

( Editor note: This article describes the three possible modes of board work in an organization. It assumes the role of CEO and a hierarchical structure that are not common in Waldorf schools. But the concept of the different modes of action of a board still hold , even in our collaborative organizations. You need to do a bit of translating to make it relevant to our situations. Still I have worked with different schools where boards worked in these modes and each mode has specific strengths and weaknesses. There is a lot of interest in schools for developing boards that are more strategic than managing, but the lack of resources and the infancy of many administrative structures often makes a board feel they are responsible for cleaning things up and they feel justified in being strongly managerial. An experienced administrator, a strong administration or a well functioning college of teachers all contribute to allowing a board to be more involved in being a watchdog than a pilot. -ms-)

During our education on governance and directorship we are taught that “directors govern and managers manage”. The analogy of steering versus rowing is often used to describe the delineation of roles between directors and managers. Most directors are well aware of this.


It seems that many boards are challenged with the task of getting the ‘right’ balance between governance and management. Why is this so? Experienced directors are aware that every board is different in terms of the way they implement their governance role. Lack of clarity and agreement about this issue can be a source of misunderstanding and potential conflict around the board table.

 

According to Demb and Neubauer (1992)* there are three main archetypal ways for boards to implement their governance role; named the watchdog, the trustee and the pilot mode. In summary, a ‘watchdog’ role is one in which the board provides total oversight and has no direct involvement in the company’s activities. The ‘trustee’ role is where the board behaves like a guardian of assets and is accountable to shareholders and society for those assets. In a ‘pilot’ role the board takes an active role in directing the business of the corporation.

 

There is no ‘right’ approach for a board to take. The stance taken by a board depends on the company’s growth and development, the nature of the industry, national legal requirements and culture and preference. To illustrate how these modes operate we use an example of how the board of Company X would address issues of workplace safety in an industry where safety was a major risk.

 

In the watchdog mode the board monitors the process of corporate activity. It is not necessarily a passive role. If Company X performed in this way they could take an active role in setting up mechanisms of safety and security as an issue of high risk and concern, and scrutinise in detail. The difference between an active watchdog role and a passive role would be the degree of scrutiny and interrogation of information that occurs. The focus of a board in watchdog mode is on monitoring and evaluation and confirming decisions made by the CEO.

 

This mode could be effective if all of the following conditions are met:

 

  • Directors are satisfied that appropriate systems and policies are in place and have been demonstrated to be effective. The important point is demonstration or evidence of effectiveness rather than just the assurance of the CEO.
  • Directors are satisfied that information reported by the CEO includes relevant indicators and other information that directly reflects the integrity of safety and security systems.
  • The CEO is willing and able to guarantee that appropriate safety systems are in place and they have been tested and found to be robust.
  • Contingency and business continuity plans are regularly reviewed and tested and the results reported to the board.
  • Directors are able to exercise critical and independent judgment.

 

If the board of Company X was in trustee role it would ensure that activities enhance corporate value; that is, ensuring that assets used in the business such as natural assets, human, finance, reputation and others, would at the least avoid being depleted. The board would be involved in evaluating what the company defines as its business as well as how that business is conducted.

 

If Company X was in trustee mode it would be more actively involved than a watchdog board but still confirming management decisions. This involvement would be limited in the initiation and implementation of safety systems but substantially involved in analyzing options, monitoring and evaluating results. The following actions would be undertaken in this mode:

 

  • With input from the CEO the board would give direction to senior management to develop an appropriate safety and risk management system. The board would set the parameters and expectations and allow senior management to develop the detail.
  • Directors would be actively involved in analysing options in the safety strategy.
  • The CEO would implement the safety systems and the board would be intimately involved in monitoring progress and evaluating the results.

 

The trustee mode would give sufficient attention to the integrity of safety systems, regardless of whether the existing safety systems are appropriate or otherwise.

 

So how does this compare with the pilot mode? As the name suggests, in pilot mode the board would be actively involved in the direction, management, implementation and evaluation of safety systems. The board would be making more decisions than in the other modes such as the following:

 

  • Deciding what constitutes a safety system and what is to be installed;
  • Determining the degree and method of integrating systems with customers;
  • Actively analysing options;
  • Deciding how and when to implement changes to the safety system;
  • Detailed monitoring of the safety systems, even when there is no evidence of problems;
  • Close scrutiny and evaluation of the systems.

 

Pilot mode could be appropriate in situations where there was evidence of significant issues or after a safety issue had occurred and the board felt the need to directly intervene. Pilot mode would be more time consuming and involve greater degree of involvement by directors.

 

We can see from the above examples that a board can fulfil its governance role and be involved in decision making in a range of different ways, all of which are appropriate in the right circumstances.

 

It is important for boards to take a step back and reflect on the way they behave and ask whether the degree of involvement by directors is appropriate for this organisation, at this time, in this context. Whether the issue is explored in a board evaluation process or discussed around the table, it is important that all directors give consideration as to what is appropriate for your organisation and be in agreement about what is required. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to do things a little differently.

 

About Dianne Ball

Dianne has thirty years experience working in service organisations, mainly in the public and private health sectors and consulting with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Her roles include senior management and executive positions including CEO Australian College of Health Service Executives, and General Manager Operations with McKesson Asia Pacific. She has several years experience as a non executive director and has Chaired board committees and working parties. Dianne’s particular work interests lie in organisational change, corporate governance, risk and strategy.

 

 

 

Good Governance Checklist from CWP

GOOD GOVERNANCE: THE ESSENTIAL CHECKLIST

Based on and adapted from Capacity Waterloo Region on the internet

Editor's note (I especially like this checklist more than others because it emphasizes attention to overlaps that normally cause problems in Waldorf schools. You can certainly adapt it for your use. As with all checklists, it is a good place to launch a discussion of roles, responsibilities and agreements. -ms-)

CO M M UN I CA T I O N

The Board speaks collectively with One Voice at all times

Admin/Faculty reports to the Board on a regular basis

The Admin/Facultyalways keeps the Board informed of major internal / external issues or trends

The Admin/Faculty does not instruct any Board member, including the Chair of the Board

The Board makes an honest effort to engage with the membership

The Admin/Faculty makes an honest effort to engage with the beneficiaries & customers

 

RO L E S  A N D  RE S P O N S I B I LI T I E S

The Board focuses on governance duties, i.e., strategic visioning & long-term planning

The Admin/Faculty focuses on operational duties, i.e., annual budgeting, goal setting, day-to-day

The Board does not instruct the Executive Director or staff on day-to-day duties

The Admin/Faculty does not instruct any Board member, including the Board Chair

The Board Chair facilitates free and open meeting discussions based on a set agenda

 

MON I T OR I N G

Detailed minutes are kept from all Board meetings, i.e., Motions, Vote Counts, etc.

The Board monitors its own performance on a regular basis, e.g., Self-Evaluations

The Board evaluates the Administrator’s fulfillment of strategic objectives

The Board monitors the organization’s financial conditions on a quarterly basis

Audited financial statements are readily available and accessible to the membership

 

CO M M I T T E E W O RK

Board committees have a set mandate, membership, and lifespan

Board committees report to the Board and thus have no binding authority

Board and staff committees do not have overlapping mandates

Board members on staff committees do not direct staff or report content to the Board

Board committees are used infrequently, as boardroom discussion is paramount

 

AC C O U NT AB I L I T Y

The Mission, Vision, and Values are drafted and enforced by the Board

The Admin/Faculty is fully accountable to the Board for all activities & actions of the organization

The Board remains accountable to the membership at all times

Confidentiality is respected by all Board members and staff alike

The Board is ethical, prudent and legal in all of its duties

 

 

Policy Governance Introduction by John and Miriam Carver

Carver's Policy Governance® Model in Nonprofit Organizations
by John Carver and Miriam Carver

 

Over the last decade or two, there has been increasing interest in the composition, conduct, and decision-making of nonprofit governing boards. The board-staff relationship has been at the center of the discussion, but trustee characteristics, board role in planning and evaluation, committee involvement, fiduciary responsibility, legal liability, and other topics have received their share of attention. Nonprofit boards are not alone, for spirited debate about the nature of business boards has been growing as well. Whatever the reasons for this intense interest in governance, the Policy Governance model for board leadership, created by the senior author, is frequently a primary focus of debate.

The Nature of Governance and the Need for Theory

The Policy Governance model is, at the same time, the most well-known modern theory of governance worldwide and in many cases the least understood. It applies to governing boards of all types—nonprofit, governmental, and business—and in all settings, for it is assembled from universal principles of governance. In this article, we will focus exclusively on its use in nonprofit boards, though many descriptions of its application in business (for example, Carver, 2000a, 2000c) and government (for example, Carver, 1996a, 1997d, 2000b, 2001; Carver and Oliver, 2002) are available elsewhere.

Governing boards have been known in one form or another for centuries. Yet throughout those many years there has been a baffling failure to develop a coherent or universally applicable understanding of just what a board is for. While comparatively little thought has been given to developing governance theory and models, we have seenmanagement of nonprofit organizations transform itself over and over again. Managers have moved through PERT, CPM, MBO, TQM, and many more approaches in a continual effort to improve effectiveness. Embarrassingly, however, boards do largely what they have always done.

We do not intend to demean the intent, energy, and commitment of board members. There are today many large and well known organizations that exist only because a dedicated group of activists served as both board and staff when the organization was a "kitchen table" enterprise. Board members are usually intelligent and experienced persons as individuals. Yet boards, as groups, are mediocre. "Effective governance by a board of trustees is a relatively rare and unnatural act . . . . trustees are often little more than high-powered, well-intentioned people engaged in low-level activities" (Chait, Holland, and Taylor, 1996, p. 1). "There is one thing all boards have in common . . . . They do not function" (Drucker, 1974, p. 628). "Ninety-five percent (of boards) are not fully doing what they are legally, morally, and ethically supposed to do" (Geneen, 1984, p.28). "Boards have been largely irrelevant throughout most of the twentieth century" (Gillies, 1992, p. 3). Boards tend to be, in fact, incompetent groups of competent individuals.

An extraterrestrial observer of board behavior could be forgiven for concluding that boards exist for several questionable reasons. They seem to exist to help the staff, to lend their prestige to organizations, to rubber stamp management desires, to give board members an opportunity to be unappointed department heads, to be sure staffs get the funds they want, to micromanage organizations, to protect lower staff from management, and sometimes even to gain some advantage for board members as special customers of their organizations, or to give board members a prestigious addition to their resumes.

But these observations—accurate though they frequently are—simply underscore the disclarity of the board's rightful job. Despite the confusion of past and current board practices, we begin in this article with the assertion that there is one central reason to have a board: Simply put, the board exists (usually on someone else's behalf) to be accountable that its organization works. The board is where all authority resides until some is given away (delegated) to others. This simple total authority-total accountability (within the law or other external authorities) is true of all boards that truly have governing authority.

The Policy Governance model begins with this assertion, then proceeds to develop other universally applicable principles. The model does not propose a particular structure. A board's composition, history, and peculiar circumstances will dictate different structural arrangements even when using the same principles. Policy Governance is a system of such principles, designed to be internally consistent, externally applicable, and—to the great relief of those concerned with governance integrity—logical. Logical and consistent principles demand major changes in governance as we know it, because these principles are applied to subject matter that has for many years been characterized by a hodgepodge of practices, whims of individuals, and capricious decision making.

Such a change is a paradigm shift, not merely a set of incremental improvements to the status quo. Paradigm shifts are difficult to cope with, since they often render previous experience unhelpful; they demand a significant level of discipline to be put into effect. But if there is sufficient discipline to use the Policy Governance model in its entirety, board leadership and the accountability of organizations can be transformed.

It is important that we underscore this point. Using parts of a system can result in inadequate or even undesirable performance. It is rather like removing a few components from a watch, yet expecting it still to keep accurate time. Unlike the traditional practices to which boards have become accustomed, the Policy Governance model introduces an integrated system of governance (Carver and Carver, 1996; Carver, 1997).

Greater effectiveness in the governing role requires board members first to understand governance in a new way, then to be disciplined enough to behave in a new way. Boards cannot excel if they maintain only the discipline of the past any more than managers of this new century can excel if they are only as competent as those of the past. Does this ask too much of boards? Perhaps it does ask too much of many of today's board members. Yet there are other board members—or potential board members who thus far have refused to engage in either the rubber-stamping or the micromanaging they see on boards—who would rejoice in greater board discipline.

The Policy Governance model requires that boards become far more enlightened and more competent as groups than they have been. If that means losing some board members as the composition of boards goes through change, then the world will be the better for it. The Policy Governance model is not designed to please today's board members or today's managers. It is designed to give organizations' true owners competent servant-leaders to govern on their behalf.

Board as Owner-Representative and Servant-Leader

In the business sector, we can easily see that a board of directors is the voice of the owners (shareholders) of the corporation. It is not always apparent that nonprofit organizations also have owners. Certain nonprofits, such as trade associations or professional societies, are clearly owned by their members. Beyond such obvious cases of ownership, however, it is useful to conceive that community-based agencies in the social services, health, education, and other fields are "owned" by their communities. In neither trade associations nor community agencies is there is a legal equivalent of shareholders, but there is a moral equivalent that we will refer to as the "ownership." Looking at ownership in this very basic way, it is hard to conceive of any organization that isn't owned by someone or some population, at least in this moral sense.

The Policy Governance model conceives of the governing board as being the on-site voice of that ownership. Just as the corporate board exists to speak for the shareholders, the nonprofit board exists to represent and to speak for the interests of the owners.

A board that is committed to representing the interests of the owners will not allow itself to make decisions based on the best interests of those who are not the owners. Hence, boards with a sense of their legitimate ownership relationship can no longer act as if their job is to represent staff, or other agencies, or even today's consumers (we will use that word to describe clients, students, patients, or any group to be impacted). It possible that these groups are not part of the ownership at all, but if they are, it is very likely they constitute only a small percentage of the total ownership.

We are not saying that current consumers are unimportant, nor that staff are unimportant. They are critically important, just as suppliers, customers, and personnel are for a business. It is simply that those roles do not qualify them as owners. They are due their appropriate treatment. To help in their service to the ownership, Policy Governance boards must learn to distinguish between owners and customers, for the interests of each are different. It is on behalf of owners that the board chooses what groups will be the customers of the future. The responsible board does not make that choice on behalf of staff, today's customers, or even its own special interests.

Who are the owners of a nonprofit organization? For a membership organization, its members are the owners. For an advocacy organization, persons of similar political, religious, or philosophical conviction are the owners. There are many variations. But for purposes of this paper, we will assume a community organization, such as a hospital, mental health or family service agency, for which we can confidently say that the community as a whole is the legitimate ownership. In this case, it is clear that in a community organization, the board must be in a position to understand the various views held in the community about the purpose of the organization. In short, if the community owns the organization, what does the community want the organization for?

Traditionally, boards have developed their relationships largely inside the organization—that is, with staff. Policy Governance demands that boards' primary relationships be outside the organization—that is, with owners. This parallels the concept of servant leadership developed by Greenleaf (1977, 1991), in that the board is first servant, before it is leader. It must lead the organization subject to its discoveries about and judgments of the values of the ownership.

We have thus far referred repeatedly to the board and very little to board members; that is intentional. Since we are now establishing the starting point for governance thinking, it is important that we start with the body charged with authority and accountability—the board as a group, not individual board members. It is the board as a body that speaks for the ownership, not each board member except as he or she contributes to the final board product. So while we might derive roles and responsibilities for individual board members, we must derive them from the roles and responsibilities of the board as a group, not the other way around. Hence, board practices must recognize that it is the board, not board members, who have authority.

The board speaks authoritatively when it passes an official motion at a properly constituted meeting. Statements by board members have no authority. In other words, the board speaks with one voice or not at all. The "one voice" principle makes it possible to know what the board has said, and what it has not said. This is important when the board gives instructions to one or more subordinates. "One voice" does not require unanimous votes. But it does require all board members, even those who lost the vote, to respect the decision that was made. Board decisions can be changed by the board, but never by board members.

The Necessity for Systematic Delegation

On behalf of the ownership, the board has total authority over the organization and total accountability for the organization. But the board is almost always forced to rely on others to carry out the work, that is, to exercise most of the authority and to fulfill most of the accountability. This dependence on others requires the board to give careful attention to the principles of sound delegation.

Since the board is accountable that the organization works, and since the actual running of the organization is substantially in the hands of management, then it is important to the board that management be successful. The board must therefore increase the likelihood that management will be successful, while making it possible to recognize whether or not it really is successful. This calls upon the board to be very clear about its expectations, to personalize the assignment of those expectations, and then to check whether the expectations have been met. Only in this way is everyone concerned clear about what constitutes success and who has what role in achieving it.

At this point, we wish to introduce the chief executive (CEO) role. (Policy Governance works in the absence of a CEO role, but the governing job is more difficult than with a CEO.) We are not concerned whether the CEO is called executive director, director-general, president, general manager, superintendent, or any other title. We are, however, concerned how the role is defined and we will use the term "CEO" to reflect the role definition we recommend.

We recommend that the board use a single point of delegation and hold this position accountable for meeting all the board's expectations for organizational performance. Naturally, it is essential that the board delegate to this position all the authority that such extensive accountability deserves. The use of a CEO position considerably simplifies the board's job. Using a CEO, the board can express its expectations for the entire organization without having to work out any of the internal, often complex, divisions of labor. Therefore, all the authority granted by the board to the organization is actually granted personally to the CEO. All the accountability of the organization to meet board expectations is charged personally to the CEO. The board, in effect, has one employee.

It is important that boards maintain a sense of cause and effect with respect to their CEOs. The board creates the CEO; the CEO does not create the board. As the board contemplates its accountability to the ownership, it decides that creating a CEO role will be a key method in fulfilling that accountability. It is true that a founding father or mother will sometimes be the inspiration for a new organization, so that the board then created occurs after rather than before the founder. If the founder becomes the new CEO, it will seem that the CEO is parent to the board. Boards established in this way make a grave error when they mistake an accident of history for a proper view of their accountability. The CEO role, as such, is even in these cases created and governed by the board (see Carver, 1992).

Consequently, in every case, the board is totally accountable for the organization and has, therefore, total authority over it—including over the CEO. We can say that the board is accountable for what the CEO's job is and that the CEO do the job well. But we cannot say the CEO is accountable for what the board's job is and that the board do its job well. Unfortunately, much of current nonprofit practice supports this board-staff inversion. CEOs are expected to tell their boards what to talk about (provide agendas), to pull their boards together when there is dissension, and to orient new board members to their job. Nowhere else in an organization are subordinates responsible for the conduct of the superiors. Yet virtually all nonprofit literature on governance falls into this fallacy of CEO-centrism. "Thus, we argue, the board's performance becomes the executive's responsibility," say Herman and Heimovics (1991, p. xiii), a position we contend excuses and prolongs board irresponsibility.

We have said being accountable in leadership of the organization requires the board (1) to be definite about its performance expectations, (2) to assign these expectations clearly, and then (3) to check to see that the expectations are being met. Traditional governance practices lead boards to fail in most or all of these three key steps.

Board expectations—which are instructions—when they are stated at all, tend to be unclear, incomplete, or a mixture of whole board and individual board member expressions. Board members form judgments of staff performance on criteria the board (as a whole body) has never stated. Regular financial reports report against few or no criteria. Staff members can be seen taking notes of what individual board members say, as if it matters and as if they work for the board members rather than the CEO. Boards decide whether CEO's budgets merit approval when they have never stated the grounds for approval and disapproval. Virtually every board meeting—other than in Policy Governance boards—is testimony to carelessness of delegation and role clarity.

Traditional governance allows boards to instruct staff by the act of approving staff plans, such as budgets and program designs. When the board has approved a staff recommendation, doesn't the resulting approved document become a clear board instruction? Actually, it does not. For example, when a board approves the CEO's personnel policies or budget, does it really mean as an instruction every tiny segment of that document? Does every budget line and the smallest issues of a program plan become a criterion on which the CEO will be judged? Certainly not. Even the most micromanaging board does not go that far. But to what level of detail should the CEO treat the approved document as being a board instruction, therefore a criterion for evaluation? The tradition-blessed habit of board approvals is a poor substitute for setting criteria, then checking that they have been met. Board approvals are not proper governance, but commonplace examples of boards not doing their jobs.

What about the clear assignment of expectations to a person or persons? In conventional practice, boards' delegation to a CEO is frequently compromised by delegating the same responsibilities more than once or by delegating to around the CEO to sub-CEO staff. An example of the former is when a board charges the CEO and a board finance committee for financial decisions. Delegating around the CEO occurs either when a board gives instructions to the financial officer or other person who reports to the CEO or when a board itself judges the performance of sub-CEO staff.

Finally, in the absence of clear instructions or clear assignment, evaluating performance is an exercise in futility. Yet boards receive volumes of information that purports to monitor organizational performance. The sheer amount of information masks the fact that proper monitoring is still not occurring. Because monitoring performance is the systematic disclosure of whether board expectations have been met, monitoring that is fair and incisive can only occur after clearly stated and clearly assigned board expectations.

Using the Ends/Means Distinction

The point was made earlier in this paper that the board is accountable that the organization works. Clearly, the word "works" must be defined; defining it establishes the board's expectations for the organizations, the performance that will constitute success. The board need not control everything, but it must control the definition of success. It is possible to control too much, just as it is possible to control too little. It is possible to think you are in control when you are not. The zeal of a conscientious board can lead to micromanagement. The confidence of a trusting board can lead to rubber stamping. Defining success is a matter of controlling for success, not for everything. How can a board control all it must, rather than all it can?

Boards have had a very hard time knowing what to control and how to control it. Policy Governance provides a key conceptual distinction that enables the board to resolve this quandary. The task is to demand organizational achievement in a way that empowers the staff, leaving to their creativity and innovation as much latitude as possible. This is a question of what and how to control, but it is equally a question of how much authority can be safely given away. We argue that the best guide for the board is to give away as much as possible, short of jeopardizing its own accountability for the total.

What is there to control? In any organization, there are uncountable numbers of issues, practices, and circumstances being decided daily by someone. The Policy Governance model posits that all of these decisions can be classified as those that define organizational purpose, and those that don't. But the model calls for a very narrow and careful definition of purpose: it consists of what (1) results for which (2) recipients at what (3) worth.

Let us define these more fully: Some decisions directly describe the intended consumer results of the organization, for example, reading skills, family harmony, knowledge, or shelter from the elements. Some decisions directly describe the intended recipients of such results, such as adolescents, persons with severe burns, or low income families. Some describe the worth of the intended results, such as in dollar cost or priority against other results.

In Policy Governance, this triad of decisions is called "ends." Ends are always about the changes for persons to be made outside the organization, along with their cost or priority. Ends never describe the organization itself or its activities. For example, the professional and technical activities in which the organization engages are not ends. In a school, for example, which students should acquire what knowledge at what cost are ends issues. Ends are about the organization's impact on the world (much like cost-benefit) that justify its existence.

Any decision that is not an ends decision is a "means" decision. In that same school, the choice of reading program, teachers' credentials, and classroom arrangement are means issues. Most decisions in an organization are means decisions; some are very important means. But even if a decision is extremely important, even if it is required by law, even if it is critical to survival, unless it passes the ends test (designation of consumer results, which consumers, or the worth of consumer results), it is not an ends decision. Hence, means include personnel matters, financial planning, purchasing, programs, services and curricula, and even governance itself. No organization was ever formed so it could be well governed, have good personnel policies, a fine budget, sound purchasing practices, or even nicely planned services, programs or curricula.

The ends/means distinction is critical. Many boards claiming to use the model routinely confuse the Policy Governance meaning of ends and means, thereby sacrificing much of the benefit the model can give. For example, means is not synonymous with "administration" as some have misinterpreted (Herman and Heimovics, 1991, p. 44). Ends is not synonymous with "strategic plan," as others have misinterpreted (Murray, 1994). The ends/means distinction is not comparable to any other distinction used in management or governance; it is not parallel to policies/procedures, strategies/tactics, policy/administration, or goals/objectives. Indeed, ends may include very small and specific decisions about a single consumer, while means may include very important programmatic decisions as well as how a board constructs its committees. The ends/means distinction is exclusively peculiar to Policy Governance (with the possible exception of Argenti, 1993) and, therefore, is governed by Policy Governance principles. In Policy Governance,means are means simply because they are not ends.

Are ends the same as mission? Unfortunately, the answer is usually "no," because mission statements have not traditionally had to conform to the definition we have given ends. Consider the following mission statement of a mental health center: "The mission of the XYZ Center is to be a responsible employer, providing quality mental health services in a cost-efficient manner." This statement—quite acceptable in traditional governance—is entirely means, no ends. This organization can fulfill its mission even if consumers' lives are not any better. In contrast, consider this broad statement of ends: "The XYZ Center exists so that people with major mental illness live productive lives in an accepting community at a cost comparable to other providers." In the latter, unless the targeted group are benefited in the required way, the organization is not successful, no matter how good an employer it is and no matter how much "quality" its services have. Notice that the cost component in the first statement is the cost of staff activity (services), while in the second statement it is the cost of consumer results.

No matter how central ends are to the organization's existence, however, because the board is accountable for everything, it is accountable for means as well. Accordingly, it must exercise control over both ends and means, so having the ends/means distinction does not in itself relieve boards from any responsibility. The ends/means distinction does, however, make possible two entirely different ways of exercising control, ways that—taken together—allow the board to have its arms responsibly around the organization without its fingers irresponsibly in it, ways that for the staff maximize accountability and freedom simultaneously. The board simply makes decisions about ends and means—that is, it controls the organization's ends and means—in different ways, as follows:

  1. Using input from the owners, staff, experts and anyone in a position to increase the board's wisdom, the board makes ends decisions in a proactive, positive, prescriptive way. We will call the board documents thus produced "Ends policies."
  2. Using input from whoever can increase board wisdom about governance, servant leadership, visioning, or other skills of governance and delegation, the board makes means decision about its own job in a proactive, positive, prescriptive way. We will call the board documents thus produced "Governance Process policies" (about the board's own job) and "Board-Staff Linkage policies" (about the relationship between governance and management). Both of these categories are means, but they concern means of the board, not the staff.
  3. Using input from whoever can increase its sense of what can jeopardize the prudent and ethical conduct of the organization, the board makes decisions about the staff's means in a proactive, but negative and boundary-setting way. Because these policies set forth the limits of acceptable staff behavior, that is, the unacceptable means, we will call the board documents thus produced "Executive Limitations policies."

At this point in our argument, we have used the ends/means concept to introduce new categories of board policies. These categories of board policies are exhaustive, that is, no other board documents are needed to govern except bylaws. (Articles of incorporation or letters patent are required to establish the nonprofit as a legal entity, but these are documents of the government, not the board.) We will not discuss bylaws here, except to say they are necessary to place real human beings (board members) into a hollow legal concept (the corporate "artificial person") (Carver, 1995). However, so that we might continue to discuss the concepts represented by the words "ends" and "means," yet distinguish the titles of policy categories, we will capitalize Ends, Executive Limitations, Governance Process, and Board-Staff Linkage.

The negative policies about operational means requires further discussion. Here is the logic: If the board has established Ends and has determined through monitoring that those Ends are actually accomplished, it can be argued that the staff means must have worked. In other words, the means by which Ends were accomplished, though interesting, is of little importance to the board. This logic is largely accurate, but there is an important problem with it. Some means can be unacceptable even if they do work. Means that are effective, but still "unacceptable" are ones that are improper treatment of people or assets, that is, means that are imprudent or unethical. Consequently, although there is no reason for a board to control staff means decisions for reasons of effectiveness, there is reason to control staff means for reasons of prudence and ethics.

Whoever is directly responsible for producing ends must decide which means to use. That is, one must be prescriptive about one's own means. But the board is not charged with producing ends, only with defining them. It is to the board's advantage to allow the staff maximum range of decision-making about means, for skill to do so is exactly why staff were employed. If the board determines the means of its staff, it can no longer hold the staff fully accountable for whether ends are achieved, it will not take advantage of the range of staff skills, and it will make its own job more difficult. Happily, it is not necessary for the board to tell the staff what means to use. In Policy Governance the board tells the staff or—more accurately—the CEO what means not to use!

Therefore, it is the board's job to examine its values to determine those means which it does not want in its organization, then to name them. The board can then tell its CEO that as long as the Ends are accomplished and the unacceptable means do not occur, the CEO can make all further decisions in the organization that he or she deems wise. It is in this way that extensive, albeit explicitly circumscribed, authority is granted to the CEO. Effectiveness demands a strong CEO; prudence and accountability to the board demand that the CEO's power be bounded.

This unique delegation technique has a number of advantages. First, it recognizes that board interference in operational means makes ends harder and more expensive to produce. Therefore, delegation which minimizes such interference is in the board's interest. Second, it accords to the CEO as much authority as the board can responsibly grant. Therefore, there is maximum empowerment inside the organization to harness for ends achievement. Third, it gives room for managerial flexibility, creativity and timeliness. Therefore, the organization can be agile, able to respond quickly to emergent opportunities or threats. Fourth, it dispels the assumption that the board knows better than the staff what means to use. Therefore, the board does not have to choose between overwork and being amateurs supervising professionals. Fifth, in this system all means that are not prohibited are, in effect, pre-approved. Therefore, the board is relieved from meticulous and repetitive approval of staff plans. Sixth, and perhaps most importantly, by staying out of means decisions, except to prohibit unacceptable means, the board retains its ability to hold the CEO accountable for the decisions that take place in the system.

Thus, when we say a board is responsible that its organization works, we simply mean that the organization (1) accomplishes the intended results for the intended people at the intended cost or priority—expressed in the board's Ends policies; and that it (2) avoids unacceptable methods, conduct, activities, and circumstances—unacceptable means expressed in the board's Executive Limitations policies.

Expressing Expectations in Nested Sets

We have established that Policy Governance boards express their expectations for themselves and for their organizations in four categories of board policies: Ends, Executive Limitations (the unacceptable means), Governance Process, and Board-Staff Linkage (the latter two are board means divided into two parts). The separation of organizational values into these categories is a major organizing principle for governing boards. These four categories completely embrace all possible organizational values (except those more pertinent to articles of incorporation/letters patent and bylaws)—no other policies or documents are needed. But another feature must be added to enable the board to address its desired level of specificity within these categories.

To ensure precision as well as completeness in policy-making, Policy Governance provides an additional principle, one which recognizes the varying sizes of issues and values. One Ends statement of a nonprofit board may be that persons without shelter should have adequate housing. Another may be that families with school age children should have housing that allows children of different genders to sleep in separate rooms. It is easy to see that the second example is more detailed, or "narrower," than the first. Notice that these two statements can be pictured as a set of nested bowls, in that the first is a broader value that includes the second one within it. Even more detailed choices exist within the second level, and so on to third, fourth, and more bowls until the specificity reaches a level where Mr. Smith rather than Mr. Jones gets a particular amount of shelter next week.

Now let's illustrate the "nested bowls" concept with an example of unacceptable means. One means value of a nonprofit board may be that the CEO not allow anything imprudent, illegal or unethical. Another may be that unbonded persons may not have access to material amounts of funds. The first example is a broader prohibition than the second, but less specific. Even more detailed "bowls" exist, of course, such as a further proscription against access to more than $5,000 on any one occasion or more than $8,000 cumulatively over a one year period.

Board values about ends and unacceptable means, as well as the board's own means, then, can be stated broadly, or more narrowly. The advantage of stating values broadly is that such a statement is inclusive of all smaller statements. The disadvantage, of course, is that the broader the statement, the greater is the range of interpretation that can be given to it. To take advantage of the fact that values or choices of any sort can be seen as nested sets, the Policy Governance board begins its policy making in all four categories by making the broadest, most inclusive statement first.

The board then considers the range of interpretation that such a statement allows, and determines whether it is comfortable with the statement being given any interpretation that is reasonable. If the board would be uncomfortable delegating such a range, that is a signal that the board must define its words more narrowly, moving into more detail one level at a time. At some point, the board will have narrowed its words to the point that it can accept any reasonable interpretation of those words. Now the board has reached the point of delegation.

As an example, consider an Executive Limitations policy in which the board is putting certain financial conditions and activities "off limits." At the broadest level, the board might say: "With respect to actual, ongoing financial condition and activities, the CEO shall not allow the development of fiscal jeopardy or a material deviation of actual expenditures from board priorities established in Ends policies." That covers the board's concerns about the organization's current financial condition at any one time, for there is likely nothing else to worry about that isn't included within this "large bowl" proscription.

However, most boards would think such a broad statement leaves more to CEO interpretation—even if reasonable interpretation—than the board wishes to delegate. Hence, the board might add further details, such as saying the CEO shall not:  (1) Expend more funds than have been received in the fiscal year to date except through acceptable debt. (2) Indebt the organization in an amount greater than can be repaid by certain, otherwise unencumbered revenues within 60 days, but in no event more than $200,000. (3) Use any of the long term reserves. (4) Conduct interfund shifting in amounts greater than can be restored to a condition of discrete fund balances by unencumbered revenues within 30 days. (5) Fail to settle payroll and debts in a timely manner. (6) Allow tax payments or other government ordered payments or filings to be overdue or inaccurately filed. (7) Make a single purchase or commitment of greater than $100,000, with no splitting of orders to avoid this limit. (8) Acquire, encumber or dispose of real property. And (9) Fail to aggressively pursue receivables after a reasonable grace period.

A given board might go into less or more detail than in this example. But in any case, these principles stay intact: The language moves from a broad level toward a lesser level (we showed two levels in the example just given). The values that become policy are generated by the board's deliberations, not approved from a staff recommendation. The board, not the staff, decides what to say and where to stop. No matter where the board stops, the CEO is granted authority to use any reasonable interpretation of the board's words. The board can shrink, expand, or change the content of the policy at any time, as long as it does not judge performance retroactively.

This view of organizational issues—as values that can be specified moving methodically from the broadest to more narrow levels—allows the board to manage the amount delegated. The board is always clear about the authority being given away. The recipient of the board's delegation is always clear about the amount of accountability expected in return. There is a continuum of sizes of issues upon which, in Policy Governance, the board owns the broadest level, then successively smaller levels until it decides to delegate, after which it is safe to allow the remaining decisions to be made by others.

It is often observed by other governance authors that the distinction between what is board work and what is executive work is a naïve distinction. There is no universal rule, they contend, to mark where board policy stops and administration begins. Indeed, they are right as far as traditional governance is concerned, for the conventional approach to the board job is unable to make a policy-administration distinction that holds up in the real world. Policy Governance, however, introduces entirely different, more powerful conceptual tools— rigorous "one voice" clarity of delegation using descending levels of board control within the ends/means context. Even though there is still no predetermined or fixed point where board work automatically becomes executive work, each board using the principles we are describing can establish and, when necessary change, a distinct point of delegation applicable to its own organization. It is at that point, by the values of that board, for that organization, for that time, that governance stops and "sub-governance" begins.

To summarize the policy development sequence, Policy Governance boards develop policies which describe their values about Ends, Executive Limitations, Governance Process, and Board-Staff Linkage. Each policy type is developed from the broadest, most inclusive level to more defined levels, continuing into more detail until the board reaches the point at which it can accept any reasonable interpretation of its words from its delegatee. A step-by-step guide to such development of policy documents is available (Carver and Carver, 1997). Ends and Executive Limitations are delegated to the CEO, who is held accountable by the board for accomplishing any reasonable interpretation of the boards expectations in these areas. Governance Process and Board-Staff Linkage policies are delegated to the board Chair, who is given the authority to ensure that the board governs in accordance with its own expectations of itself, using any reasonable interpretation of the policy language.

Board Discipline, Mechanics, and Structure

It is clear that the Policy Governance model requires a board to govern in an organized, planned and highly disciplined manner. Boards which are accustomed to talking about issues simply because they interest individual board members will find agenda discipline to be a major challenge, as will boards that rely on their staffs to supply their agendas. Not everything is appropriate for board discussion just because it is interesting or even because the staff wants the board to make the decision. Matters that have been delegated to the CEO should not be decided by the board or by board committees, for in making such decisions, the board renders itself unable to hold the CEO accountable.

Policy Governance boards know that their job must result in the production of three deliverables. (1) The first deliverable is a systematic linkage between the organization and the ownership. This is not public relations. The board connects with the ownership in order to ascertain the range of ownership values about the purpose of the organization. If the board is to make Ends decisions on behalf of the owners, it must know what the owners in all their diversity think. (2) The second deliverable is written governing policies in the four areas, using the principles we have described. (3) The third deliverable is the assurance of organizational performance, that is, performance which can be shown to be a reasonable interpretation of the board's Ends and Executive Limitations policies.

We use "deliverables" to mean job products, outputs, or values-added. Since these summarize the purpose for the board's job, producing these deliverables is what board meetings are for. In fact, the list of job outputs can be considered to be a perpetual job description, for every agenda is an instance of the board's working to perform its job. A board can decide how much, in what detail, and at what level of excellence it will pursue its perpetual agenda in the ensuing year. By doing so, it takes control of its own agenda, rather than allowing its agenda to be staff-driven. Establishing its own job description and the longterm or midterm agenda is recorded as one of the board's Governance Process policies. As we shall shortly point out, if the board sketches its annual agenda only broadly, the specifics will be filled in by the board Chair, who is charged with taking care of Governance Process details.

Accordingly, the board must plan meetings that enable and guarantee the production of these deliverables. Being entertained or intrigued by staff jobs is no substitute for the board's accomplishment of its own job. While the board is entitled to any information it wants, it must be aware that collecting information about staff activities and even conscientiously listening to many staff reports does not substitute for governance. Let us again reiterate that the board, not the staff, is responsible that a board's meetings fulfill its governance responsibilities.

In taking responsibility for its own performance, the board confronts the difficulty of acting responsibly as a group of equals. Since the board is by definition a group of peers, no one has authority over anyone else. The first action of a group of peers is to create a position of Chairperson—a first among equals—to help it stay on task. Although it is important that each board member continue to take responsibility for the board's group behavior, the board grants the Chair extra authority required to make rulings that keep the board on track. To stay consistent with the superior role of the board as a group, however, in Policy Governance the Chair only has authority that is within a reasonable interpretation of the board's policies on Governance Process and Board-Staff Linkage. Hence, the Chair is truly the servant-leader of the board (Carver, 1999).

It is usual for nonprofit boards to expect the Chair to supervise the CEO, but in Policy Governance there is no need for the Chair to have authority over the CEO. Only the board has authority over staff operations, and it exercises that authority through carefully crafted policies. It is not only unnecessary, but harmful for the Chair to tell the CEO what the board wants, for the board speaks for itself. Consequently, both the Chair and the CEO work for the board as a whole, but their roles do not overlap because they are given authority in different domains. The Chair's job is to see to it that the board gets its job done—as described in Governance Process and Board-Staff Linkage policies. The CEO's job is to see to it that the staff organization gets its job done—as described in Ends and Executive Limitations policies.

Board Treasurers, as commonly used, threaten CEO accountability as well as the one voice principle. Treasurers are typically expected to exercise individual judgment about the financial dealings of the organization. But Policy Governance boards do not allow Treasurers to exercise authority over staff. (Rendering an official judgment of performance against one's own individual criteria has the same effect as exercising authority.) By creating a role with supervisory authority over the CEO with respect to financial management, the board cannot then hold the CEO accountable for that topic. The board should accept responsibility for financial governance (setting policy, then comparing performance) and require the CEO to be accountable for managing finances so that performance compares favorably to policy. The typical use of a Treasurer, when a Policy Governance board is required by law to have one, is to assist the board in making financial policy, never to judge CEO compliance against the Treasurer's own expectations. For more thorough treatment of the board's role in financial oversight, including commentary on the Treasurer and finance committee, see Carver (1991, 1996b).

In keeping with the "one voice " principle, the board can allow no structures or practices in which board members or board committees exercise authority over staff, any function of staff, or any department of staff. Typical nonprofit boards have a myriad of traditions that violate the one voice principle, such as placing the Chair between the board and the CEO. So it is common for boards to underestimate the amount of board member interference in operations. Such interference, even when well-intended, undermines the board's ability to hold the CEO accountable, for the CEO can argue that his or her actions were taken in compliance with a board member instruction.

Advice is a concept often carelessly used in nonprofit boards. This seemingly innocuous and well-intended practice can have the same deleterious effect as direct instruction by individuals or committees. It is common for the board, board committees, or individual board members to give advice to staff. But advice, if it is really advice, can be rejected. If staff has any doubt that advice given by the board or one of its components cannot safely be turned down, the clarity of board-to-staff delegation will be undermined. Policy Governance boards refrain from giving advice or allowing their members to give advice unless advice is requested. This protects the board's ability to hold the CEO accountable for his or her own decisions. The CEO and any of the staff can request advice if they need it, and they can request it from wherever they wish.

Traditional boards frequently create committees to assist or advise the CEO or staff, such as committees on personnel, finance, program, property maintenance, and other such staff means issues. In Policy Governance, such committees are illegitimate. They constitute interference in the CEO's sphere of authority and accountability, and damage the board's ability to hold the CEO accountable.

If, for example, the staff wishes to have an advisory committee, it is perfectly free to create one, then to use the advice or not as it deems wise. If, however, the board controls the mechanism of advice, a very different relationship between advisors and advisees is established. The wisest route is for the board to govern and leave advice and advisory mechanisms to the staff's own initiative. This way the staff gets all the advice it needs, role clarity and accountability are maintained, and board members are frequently spared unnecessary work.

Policy Governance boards use committees only to help the board to do its own job. Hence, a committee which explores methods of ownership consultation about Ends options is legitimate, as is a committee that studies possible sources of fiscal jeopardy that the board might address in an Executive Limitations policy. But a human resources committee that advises on or intervenes in personnel issus is not. To request advice or assistance with one's own job is acceptable and does not compromise accountability, but to foist help or advice on subordinates is not only unnecessary but destructive of accountability as well.

Policy Governance takes seriously the normally rhetorical assertion that boards be visionary and provide long term leadership. The discipline required for this challenge cannot be overstated. In fact, Policy Governance has been criticized as a "heroic board" model that is romantically idealistic! Yet boards do, in fact, have a critical job to do; no amount of helping staff can substitute for getting its own job done. Boards must persevere with the arduous, complex task of describing purpose and ethics/prudence boundaries. Forming those values into clear policies is far harder than telling the staff how to do its job. Speaking proactively for the ownership requires strong commitment not to take reactive refuge in rituals, reports, and approvals.

This requires board member expertise relevant to governance, not management. Board members should no longer be recruited based on their having skills that mirror the skills of staff. Governance excellence requires members who can think conceptually and with a long term perspective, able to welcome a diversity of opinions but abide by group decisions. They must be able to speak on behalf of the ownership rather than merely from their own or some splinter group perspective. They must place organizational accountability above personal gratification. They must be able to view the board's task of assuring performance at arm's length—through setting expectations (using the ends/means principle and values viewed as descending "bowls"), delegating pointedly (to a CEO if possible), and monitoring. And it is to the function of monitoring or evaluation that we turn now.

Evaluation

Evaluation of performance is not extraneous to the board's job. It is as integral to the board's job as it is to any manager's. But, as we have shown, proper evaluation is impossible unless the board has first stated its expectations and assigned them to a specific delegatee. That is, evaluation of staff performance cannot occur appropriately unless the board has done its job first.

Moreover, if the board has a CEO, the results of proper evaluation of organizational success is the only fair evaluation of CEO performance. Since the CEO's job is to see to it that the organization meets the board's expectations, there is nothing more and nothing less to evaluate when assessing the CEO. Thus, the board's evaluation of organizational performance is the same as board evaluation of CEO performance (Carver, 1997a). Monitoring the evaluative data, as we shall see, is an ongoing activity—perhaps as frequently as monthly—and the board may wish to have a formal evaluation of the CEO once each year. However, the CEO's formal evaluation is only a summary of the accumulated monitoring data, not something in addition.

But let us consider the monitoring or evaluative information itself. Not all information is useful in monitoring performance. There are two types of information that are useful for other purposes, but not for monitoring: one is information for board decisions, the other is information simply to satisfy board members' casual interest. To examine evaluation or monitoring, we must first separate out these two types of information, for they do not qualify as monitoring against pre-established criteria.

First, information for board decisions is needed in order for the board to make wise policy in the first place. To create policies that are both realistic and demanding, boards require information from a variety of sources. These sources include staff, owners, experts, associations to which the board may belong, and others. This information is required for the board's own decision-making and does not judge staff accomplishment. Boards should invest a great deal of energy in gathering wisdom, spending perhaps half their time in becoming educated. So information for board decisions is essential for board performance, but not for monitoring staff performance.

Second, information for board interest is information about the organization or its environment that is not useful for board decision-making, but is of political, social, or technical interest to board members. This information does not include data that directly measure the degree of staff performance on board expectations, for that would qualify it to be called true monitoring information. This kind of information is incidental to the board's job of monitoring, but comprises most of what most traditional boards receive. There is nothing wrong with boards getting all the incidental information they want, but there is something very wrong with the delusion that they are at that time doing their job. In traditional governance, most staff reports, including most financial reports and reports that purport to be "evaluation" are incidental information simply because they are not data compared with previously stated board criteria.

Monitoring or evaluative information must speak directly to whether board expectations are being fulfilled. Consequently, it is always related to expectations set by the board in its Ends and Executive Limitations policies. This discipline not only makes it unnecessary for the board to trudge through the mountains of data staff are able to assemble, but it keeps evaluation fair. After all, it is only right that the CEO should know ahead of time the criteria on which he or she will be judged. Since monitoring information is only that information that describes actual performance compared to expected performance, it is evident that most reports collected, examined and approved by traditional boards constitute interesting information, but cannot be said to be effective monitoring reports. For example, boards that gravely approve (or accept) financial statements thinking they have thereby exercised fiduciary responsibility are simply engaging in a meaningless ritual, for without criteria they don't even know what in those reports would have been disapprovable.

When monitoring is defined as we have done here, reports tend to be straightforward and transparent. Each board member can follow the link from board criteria to management data, for the report is not cluttered with incidental information. Monitoring is not nearly as difficult or time-consuming when boards know what performance they are expecting to see proven. Monitoring is thus more exact and, simultaneously, requires negligible board meeting time. In fact, we recommend that monitoring data be mailed to board members, thereby preserving valuable meeting time for board education and deliberation. Getting monitoring largely out of board meetings allows those meetings to focus on creating the future rather than reviewing the past, because inspection of the past is now safely routinized. For each Ends and each Executive Limitations policy, the board will have set a frequency and a method of monitoring, after which the process runs automatically. The choice of method will be a report from the CEO, judgment by a disinterested party (for example, an auditor), or—less frequently—direct board inspection of organizational practices or circumstances. It turns out to be rare that monitoring needs to be discussed in the board meeting, except for board members to affirm that they have received and read the mailed reports.

To illustrate the nature of what is reported in a Policy Governance monitoring report, we will use two items from an Executive Limitations policy already shown. In that policy, among other unacceptable means, the CEO was told he or she cannot (1) expend more funds than have been received in the fiscal year to date except through acceptable debt and (2) indebt the organization in an amount greater than can be repaid by certain, otherwise unencumbered revenues within 60 days, but in no event more than $200,000. Here is what the monitoring data might look like for these two provisions:  Item 1: Through the end of May, $3,694,800 has been expended. Receipts in the same period were $3,654,728. The shortfall of $40,072 was offset by a $60,000 short term loan. Item 2: Total debt is a 45 day working capital loan for $60,000 incurred on May 25. Revenues of $75,000 from our foundation grant, guaranteed by letter of May 5, are not otherwise encumbered and will be used, in part, to retire the debt prior to due date.

Notice that the data are rather bare-bones, only enough to answer the question, unobscured by incidental information. Board members should adopt a "prove it to me" attitude, so if the information submitted is insufficient to convince them, then more detail can be added. But the detail must be such that directly address the criteria. For example, what data prove the "not otherwise encumbered" statement? Obviously, the complexities of some organizations will cause the monitoring data to have more facets than in our simple example. Even then, however, the reported data should be as brief as possible and maintain a razor-sharp connection to the policy-based criteria being monitored. If more interesting, explanatory information, other than that directly addressing the criteria, is desired by the board or offered by the CEO, it should not clutter the monitoring report, but be distributed separately. Board members can know anything they wish, but they should never be in doubt about what is disclosure of performance on the board's criteria and what is not.

Using similar criterion-focused reasoning, when the board seeks to evaluate itself, it compares its actual behavior and accomplishment with the behavior and accomplishment it committed to in its Governance Process and Board-Staff Linkage policies (Carver, 1997b). Policy Governance boards tend to self evaluate on a frequent basis—we recommend every meeting—because a more sophisticated system requires continual tending.

Board Meetings

Because in Policy Governance the board is in charge of its own job, board meetings become the board's meetings rather than management's meetings for the board. Board meetings occur because of the need for board members to learn together, to contemplate and deliberate together, and to decide together. Board meetings are not for reviewing the past, being entertained by staff, helping staff do its work, or performing ritual approvals of staff plans. As a result, many board meetings may not look like traditional board meetings at all, but learning and studying sessions or joint meetings with other boards, particularly in communities where boards rarely talk with each other.

The CEO is always present, but is not the central figure. Other staff might be present when they have valuable input on matters the board is to decide. For community boards, with rare exceptions meetings would be open—not to please the law, but because a board commitment to transparency. The board is not merely a body to confirm committee decisions, but the body that makes the decisions. Board committees might be used to increase the board's understanding of factors and options, but never to assume board prerogatives or remove difficult choices from the board table. In contrast to the old bromide that "the real works takes place in committees," in Policy Governance the real work takes place in the board meeting.

Board meetings should thus be more about the long term future than the present or short term future . . . more about ends than means . . . more about a few thoroughly considered large decisions than many small ones. And by their very character, meetings should demonstrate that the board's primary relationship is with owners, not with staff.

Summary

The Policy Governance model recognizes that any governing board is obligated to fulfill a crucial link in the "chain of command" between owners—whether legal or moral in nature—and operators. The board does not exist to help staff, but to give the ownership the controlling voice. The board's owner-representative authority is best employed by operating as an undivided unit, prescribing organizational ends, but only limiting staff means, making all its decisions using the principle of policies descending in size. The model enables extensive empowerment to staff while preserving controls necessary for accountability. It provides a values-based foundation for discipline, a framework for precision delegation, and a long term focus on what the organization is for more than what it does.

The Policy Governance model provides an alternative for boards unhappy with reactivity, trivia, and hollow ritual—boards seeking to be truly accountable. But attaining this level of excellence requires the board to break with a long tradition of disastrous governance habits. And it offers a challenge for visionary groups determined to make a real difference in tomorrow's world.


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