17 Jun Are boards broken?
Cash, Clout, Connections, Commitment. These are the 4 C’s that I learned early on were fundamental to every non-profit or private-public board. I’ve always felt that each “C” was equally important; the folks who carry the water are as important as the folks with thick wallets, and so forth. Until a few weeks ago…
I attended a 24 hour board retreat for an organization I love. It was exhilarating: we addressed long-term issues, had excellent discussions, and worked hard in three intense sessions. We also drank wine, told stories, and bonded. A solid experience overall.
When we left the retreat I was chagrined to learn that some of the decisions we made at the retreat might not endure because “the most important people” were not there. In this case, “most important,” referred to those with Cash. Evidently, I had wrongly believed that those who did not attend the retreat would trust the rest of us to act as stewards of the organization, and to abide our decisions.
I may be wrong.
I’m all for big checks. But I draw the line when the importance of Cash outpaces the importance of Commitment, Clout or Connections. Problems cannot be solved and strategies cannot be innovated with money alone. Those who think so have never been involved with a start-up company, when the pressure to create value from nothing is tested to its limits. Money alone did not invent smallpox vaccinations or put people on the moon. I can think of no single instance where money motivated a group of people to achieve breakthrough performance.
Why then, should one’s ability to write a check veto others’ shared deliberations and aspirations? I wonder, are boards broken?
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