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Is It Time to Assess Your Environment?

Assessing Organizational Ends Starts with Questions – Not Answers

In his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins offers this wisdom for CEO’s:

“Leading from good to great does not mean coming up with the answers and then motivating everyone to follow your messianic vision. It means having the humility to grasp the fact that you do not yet understand enough to have the answers and then to ask the questions that will lead to the best possible insights.”

This wisdom applies equally to a Board of Directors.

Boards need to be a disciplined as they expect their staff to be in gathering information. Good information gathering starts by crafting the right questions prior to conducting an environmental scan to assess whether your organization is meeting the needs of the community.

An environmental scan should insure that a board’s Ends consider the needs, concerns and demands within the community it serves. An organization should exist to create change. It should be the change itself that drive the Ends.

External Environmental Scans

The “value add” of a board as trustees of the owners is to be the link with the external environment and bring that information to the organization. This linkage needs to be regular and periodic. The information gathered will help a board assess whether or not its Ends are relevant and current.

Just as a for-profit corporation conducts an environmental scan to assist with the strategic planning process, a governing board should periodically conduct an environmental scan and ask questions for which it doesn’t already have the answers.

Open meetings, focus groups, surveys, and presentations from third party experts are all dynamic ways to gather information. In addition, a board could consider:

  • Board-to-board meetings

  • Researching community needs assessments and demographic data

  • Breakfast or lunch meetings with groups in the community (one of my clients found this to be so successful that it launched a new entity of like-minded organizations who have similar funding needs)

  • Open forums

  • Town hall meetings

  • One-on-one meetings with community leaders

  • Board committees to gather intelligence


Sherry S. Jennings, PhD
Founder and principal of Sound Governance. Sherry started Sound Governance because board leaders need a safe space.

Read more about sherry.
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