Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
When I first came to the PMI SFBAC board, we had a serious problem with continuity: The entire board was elected every year, and terms were limited to two, which meant there was little chance of any vision longer than a year being accomplished. In addition, the board was a working board, meaning each of the board members also wore an operational hat, which led to some odd silos within our volunteer organization.
Every year, we’d have an executive retreat and work on what the strategic goals of the organization should be. And the next year, a new board (often with little point of reference for the prior vision) would come in and do the same thing.
The board would try to apply PMBOK best practices to the organization, and implement things like PMO’s, only to have to end up starting afresh as we experienced another complete rebuild every couple of years.
I know we recognized continuity as a problem, and had a few things in place to help mitigate that problem, but the reality was, we had no real fix until we were introduced to Policy Governance® and combined that with another brilliant concept for our key roles: triplets.
Triplets was a concept that came out of some work we did trying to solve the problem of human capital in a volunteer organization. The issue was that we’d find a volunteer who was really good at something, and then for various reasons they’d be ready to move on. We’d scramble to find a replacement, often leaving the board member to do the work left behind for some time.
We also had this odd arrangement where the President was also the CEO and chair of the board, which meant the direction of the organization often changed completely when a new president was elected.
Because we’re a volunteer organization, accomplishments are a bit more difficult than they are in a commercial organization. Work is done on a part-time basis by people who have other more important things to do (like make sure the bills are paid). And since they work on something only occasionally, it often actually takes more person hours to accomplish (since setup tasks often have to be repeated, and simple tasks like turning on the computer are a larger percentage of time spent when you only have a couple of hours).
So the triplet idea was to assign three people to every job. This didn’t necessarily resolve the problem of losing key people, but it did at least ensure we had a candidate when one of our volunteers suddenly found a new job and could no longer do what they’d been helping with.
Moving the operational work to the CEO, freed the board to focus on guiding the organization. It also separated the volunteers from any turnover in the board, since they no longer reported to a board member directly.
As of our last official board meeting, your PMI San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Board of Directors has a new Chief Governing Officer: Athens Kolias agreed to accept the appointment to lead your board and guide us in our journey toward leadership excellence.
When we adopted Policy Governance®, we learned that it was important to have a Chief Governance Officer to keep us on the track as we began the shift from working board to leading board, and that was the role to which I was appointed.
The CGO has two main roles: acting as the chair of the board which requires being assertive holding the rest of the board accountable to policy in order to speak with one voice, and secondly to interact with the board’s one employee (the CEO).
This video of an interview with John Carver will give you some idea of what we needed to consider in naming someone as CGO.
Please join me in congratulating the new board on a great choice for the new CGO, and congratulate Athens on showing the type of leadership that inspired her to be the clear choice.
In our first years with Policy Governance® we’ve managed to rewrite the bylaws, expand the size of the board, and create a more sustainable organization. With the help of our owners (the membership, the legal and moral owners of PMI SFBAC), we crafted our global ends statement (our guiding policy):
PMI-SFBAC members, people who live and work in Northern California, and virtual beneficiaries experience a continually improving standard of living, stability, a sense of community, self-esteem and self-actualization. These Ends will be achieved in a sustainable manner that represents value for the resources invested.
With this in mind, we’ve been able to focus on making the volunteer work more meaningful and useful in your professional life, and continue to build on sustainability. We’ve managed to increase what we are delivering, while driving down costs AND making our programs more accessible and valuable.
Thanks to the hard work of our CEO, Malika Malika, and her staff of volunteers, we have a growing volunteer operation and a sound financial statement, and solid reserves to carry us into the future.
In the coming years, we will continue the work of making sure the goals we are working toward are the right ones for the membership (you, our legal and moral owners), refine our policies, and continue to improve on what value that we can deliver together.
So here’s the board’s ask of you: take a moment to consider volunteering. We always have needs at all levels of the organization, the board is looking for people who want to learn more about servant leadership, and Malika has a variety of opportunities where you can help out and stretch your skills.