It’s no secret that strong organizations have strong executive leadership and strong boards. But, all too often, decision-makers become too busy and disconnected with the everyday events that occur within their organizations. This article is about a very simple technique that has proven to be effective in creating engaged and high-performing members who are focused on quality outcomes.
The concept of rounding comes to us from the healthcare sector. As physicians and clinical staff make their daily rounds, they build a rapport with their patients and with one another while gathering information on the front line in order to make the best decisions.
A board member’s ability to make good decisions is limited by the quality of the information to which they are exposed. Information that is presented to board members that is focused on financial, governance, or overall strategic topics tends to be more direct from the source than information related to quality issues, which can be filtered through many layers by the time it reaches the board level. The best way for a board to effectively understand quality metrics that have been presented to them is to see the delivery of services or the everyday functions that are being performed within their organization. In addition, when board members are seen rounding in various programs, front line staff will be left with the feeling that what they do every day makes a difference, and that their actions and efforts do not go unnoticed.
In preparation of their rounding, board members need to be ready to ask general questions, but those questions need to be sincere and with a purpose. This would include questions such as, “Tell me about your successes, or the challenges that you face every day”, or “How can we, as board members, help you provide the highest level of care, so that our organization is recognized as a center of excellence?”
Board members are generally rewarded for their efforts with a feeling of enthusiasm and appreciation for the organization that they serve by knowing that they can make a difference. Board members should report their experiences at the next board meeting, describing the program that they visited and sharing their stories with the rest of the board to build enthusiasm at the overall board level. In an effort to ensure that all board members fulfill their obligation by making their rounds during an annual period, the board should consider using a scorecard or some type of mechanism to report at the board level each member’s attendance and participation in board rounding.
Lastly, rounding can be utilized by virtually every type of organization such as museums, performing arts organizations, human service organizations, foundations, healthcare facilities, behavioral health and mental health organizations, and on and on. Be creative!
While rounding may not be for every organization, most will see a benefit from it, and should consider at some point making it a part of their by-laws to incorporate a mandatory board rounding requirement, with the end result being the highest level of board engagement driving quality outcomes through VBP (valued board participation).