In November 2014, the board of regents for the University of North Texas System engaged in an all-day planning session as they have each year. This year, however, was different. While still taking care of the regular business of the board, the regents wanted more of their discussions to be at the strategic level.
At the retreat, the board focused on how they actually spend their time versus how they believe they ideally should spend their time—and how to bridge that gap.
The University of North Texas System board is relatively small—nine members appointed by the governor with work done in four committees organized along traditional functional lines. Through discussions facilitated by AGB, the regents decided: 1) they would make better use of a consent agenda, and 2) they would combine two existing committees into one, making room for the new Strategic and Operational Excellence Committee.
Since the retreat, the board has seen a positive spillover effect of more strategic discussions in the committees. And adding the new Strategic and Operational Excellence Committee has allowed a deeper discussion about strategic planning and the system’s Shared Services Initiative which aims to consolidate redundant IT and business services.
It took a dedicated space and participants willing to work together to identify these solutions.
Whether it’s at a board retreat or through an external meeting, creating such a space will allow participants to think more deeply about the role of their board committees and explore ways they can be more effective. While the solutions will vary and be influenced by factors such as institutional mission and the size of the board, they will share the ultimate outcome of improved board effectiveness.