Preserve Your Board’s Strategic ‘Memory’

Vol. 15 No. 4

trustees eletter vol15 no4 strategicmemory

One way to ensure strategic continuity at your school is to preserve Board memory—to learn and grow from your history. Your school’s strategic “history” provides both constraints and opportunities for its strategic future. As Board President, you should consider a formal review of the quality of your existing historical portrait, take steps to reorganize that portrait if needed, and elevate the quality of your school’s organizational “Board memory.” Consider the following four key steps.

  • Produce an annual set of “action minutes” from your Board meetings. A list of your Board’s formal decisions, taken from the accumulated sets of full minutes, greatly simplifies creating any strategic history. If, appended to this list, you also attach the single-page Board-review operations budget and/or the 4- to 5-year strategic financial plan, the strategic history compilation process will be streamlined still further.
  • Every second year, write a single-page strategic history covering the tenure of your Board President. File this page in the same storage binder as the annual set of action minutes. Resist any temptation to ruminate about the Board’s and school’s general activities, an approach that could readily consume 25 pages while contributing little to the next full history review. Restrict your strategic history instead to a series of bullet points that delineate only the most highly strategic events or outcomes. This may include major gifts progress, cash-reserve levels, percent coverage of operations expense with hard income, and the size of waiting pools at various levels.
  • Ask your Committee on Trustees, in its next Board profile, to consider including one or even two slots for “recycled” Trustees. When your Committee on Trustees profiles the Board, it may consider a profile slot specifically targeting a person who rotated off the Board one, several, or many years before, to boost the “institutional memory” physically present in your Board deliberations.
  • Institute the category of “Trustees Emeritus.” Honor your strongest former Trustees with this designation, and include them in your strategic history review process.

When the time comes for creating your next strategic plan, use your updated strategic history in exactly the same way that you use survey data, demographic data, and any other pertinent material assembled for review before the strategic planning retreat day. Arm your Board, School Head, and other leaders and planners with a concise list of the critical strategic events and benchmarks (positive and negative) from your school’s past. Enter your planning cycle prepared to recreate the peak years of your institutional past—not by copying earlier decisions, but by studying them and shaping them to your school’s present and future.

Additional ISM resources
The Source for Trustees Vol. 12 No. 10 Centralize Your Board’s Key Documents

Additional ISM resources for Gold members
I&P Vol. 41 No. 12 Refocus Your Board Agenda and Your Board Minutes
I&P Vol. 32 No. 13 Your Strategic Financial Policy Document: A Sample

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