Governing boards of universities and colleges are facing an unprecedented tidal wave of change that is creating new opportunities, risks, innovations, and disruptions within and beyond the confines of their campuses. A board's ability to be both reactive to these changes and proactive in response will require that they not only have the right members, but that they also have the right committees doing the right work.
AGB's recent report, "Restructuring Board Committees," shares a growing trend among boards: strategically focusing and often reducing the number of committees. From Abilene Christian University to Wofford College, this report reviews how multiple institutions effectively created change in their committee structure to ensure that their boards were engaged and making strategic decisions.
Below are seven questions to consider before undertaking this challenge on your board:
- Why should the board restructure its committees? What problem will be solved with a change in how we do our work?
- Is the time optimal for our board to rethink how it is structured, its size, how it spends its time in meetings, and how it accomplishes its goals?
- Who will lead the process? Do we have an existing group for this work, or do we need to create an ad hoc group?
- How will we get the buy-in of the entire board, especially if there is a perception of "winners and losers" as a result of proposed changes?
- What will be the effect of proposed changes on stakeholders? What will changes to board committees mean to our senior staff who currently support our committees? What about any students, faculty, or others who participate in our committees as they are currently structured?
- What changes do we need to make to our committee structure, and will these changes support the mission and needs of the institution or system?
- What are the intended outcomes from the process of restructuring our board committees?