Govern Update Newsletter/Journal
Issue: 3/2020

A Message from Our GOVERN for IMPACT Chair, Hartger Wassink

This is a very challenging period for Govern for Impact. As it is for all other organizations, businesses and people worldwide. Now, more than ever, we as a board are aware of the importance of knowing our proper responsibility and work from the values of our owners. Now, more than ever, it is important to keep building a dedicated, knowledgeable community, committed to excellence in governance, driven by the vision that people all around the world benefit from excellent boards.

Govern for Impact has been faced with other challenges in our short history. If we rely on the same logic, faith in our community and belief in our values, as we have used before, I am confident that we will get through this difficult situation too. Let’s take on this challenge and help the world in showing how systematic, owner-accountable governance can help to adapt to quickly changing circumstances, while keep being focused on a common purpose.

I wish you the best for the health and safety of you and your loved ones. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet again in person soon.


On behalf of the Govern for Impact board of directors,
Hartger Wassink, CGO
by Karen Fryday-Field

A year and a half ago, with the launch of GOVERN for IMPACT’s new name, new Ends, new broader focus, we set out, as a community, to build the commitment to and knowledge, skills and wisdom to enhance governance excellence and the Policy Governance System application in our world.  Little did we know then, that as a world community we would need impact-focused, owner-accountable, systematic governance to the extent and scale that is evident now.

We pray for your safety and your wisdom in these challenging times. As you are and will face the impact and chaos of COVID-19, we encourage you to reflect on the key principles of effective governance and work to encourage their implementation now more than ever.

At GOVERN, we invite you to join hands, hearts, and minds with us.  We strongly believe that every organization, through principled board and executive leadership, guided by moral imperative, has the capacity to become ever more responsive, agile, and resilient, and in the process, to change the world for the better.

When Boards uphold an integrated set of governing principles within a sound framework, we have seen them lead with greater clarity of purpose and focus on the future. Boards that have lasting impact behave as unified bodies, engage in meaningful discourse, placing the needs of the greater community first, anticipating and leading change on behalf of that community, and ensuring proper stewardship of resources – human, nature, and/or financial.

At GOVERN for IMPACT, we have been very focused on affiliate, staff, and public safety. As a result, we will be offering a fabulous online conference in June 2020 – see the details below.

While you are physically isolating and hopefully socially integrating if you have time to volunteer with GOVERN for IMPACT we can use sure your help/expertise/insight.  Please contact Kathy Wiener at

Karen Fryday-Field



Karen Fryday-Field, MBA, GSP



2020 GOVERN for IMPACT Virtual Annual Conference

June 18-20, 2020 - Full Speed Ahead


Just six weeks ago, I had no idea that we would be writing to you to advise that our exciting 2020 GOVERN for IMPACT Annual Conference would be held in a new and exciting way this year.

When it became clear that an onsite conference in June 2020 was not an option due to the safety of everyone, we began defining and analyzing options. A few of the options evaluated include:

  • Fall onsite conference (still too risky and hence not financially viable)
  • Fall virtual conference – if we are going to go virtual for this year – then the sooner the better
  • June 2020 virtual conference – good option to get shared critical dialogue and learning out to people – the sooner the better – also these dates are already in many people’s calendars, and this option is economically viable.

Keep Saving the Date for the Pre-Conference Courses

Please continue to reserve the date of: Thursday June 18, 2020

For two online pre-conference one-day courses:

  1. Introduction to Policy Governance, and
  2. Excellent Governance in the Education Sector

More details to follow.

Please also to continue to reserve the dates of our Annual ‘Virtual’ Conference

  • Friday June 19, 2020, and
  • Saturday Morning June 20, 2020

If you have already registered – bravo!  We will be in touch to make a plan with you. 

If you have not registered continue to do so.  The fee for the conference is being adjusted and the new fee will be ready to go early next week.  We will let you know and be in touch with those who have already paid. We have an amazing faculty for this conference, awesome keynote topics and speakers, lots of innovation and a crazy amount of learning. It is not intended that the virtual conference replace our in-person conference in future years…virtual is our 2020 plan!

Lots more information to follow.  We really want you to keep these June 2020 dates in your calendar!

If you are a faculty member, you are still ‘on’ to speak.  We will again be in touch.  There will be lots of focus on governance in our changing world.

You are so important to us and so we warmly invite you to join our community and the bigger world at our virtual conference spectacular on June 18-20, 2020.

Karen Fryday-Field, MBA, GSP

Ted Humphrey,
Conference Program Chair


Anchor Govern Affiliation – Please Stay Connected


The world has changed, and we want you to know that we are here for you. Information and community are needed now more than ever. GOVERN for Impact is needed to help boards deal with this unique time.

We hope that you will continue to support GOVERN for IMPACT and remain an affiliate or join us at an affiliate. For those that are affiliates and are coming up on renewal let us know if you need more time to renew. We will maintain your active affiliation and work with you to partially delay your dues or create a suitable payment plan. Contact Michael Palmer at or by phone 248 770 1865.

AnchorCOVID-19: Does Your Board Have this Covered?

By Richard Stringham, GSP

Senior Consultant

A few weeks ago, the Canadian federal Minister of Health, cautioned Canadians to prepare for a COVID-19 virus outbreak here. We are appropriately witnessing more severe measures already in place elsewhere and in Canada such as many jurisdictions calling a ‘state of emergency’.

While governments are bracing and responding, Boards of Directors are wondering if their respective organizations are ready. And well they should, given that they have a duty of care for the organization’s performance and this health emergency is having serious impacts on most businesses and their people.

When Boards face challenging and urgent situations, there is a tendency to react and forget what is already in place. This applies as much to Boards using Policy GovernanceÒ as those that are not.

For example, a museum board considering a COVID-19 outbreak might roll up its sleeves and start building contingency plans for those operational areas impacted by such an outbreak (e.g., staffing absences, shortfalls in revenues due to fewer members of the public attending, if and when to close the museum to the public, how to help health authorities connect with those who might have been exposed to a verified COVID-19 carrier who was at the museum).

A School Board might jump in and require that the CEO develop contingency plans for an outbreak including specific actions the Board requests (e.g., protocols for school buses, how to continue educational support if children are required to stay home).  

But for a Board using Policy Governance, in all likelihood, you’ve already addressed your concerns in your policies!

Each Board is unique in the content of its policies; however, if the Board has built and maintained its policies using the policy architecture of Policy Governance (i.e., policies are created in sizes), at some level you’ve addressed your concerns. For example, you might have a policy that:

[…the CEO shall not:] Permit clients to be without reasonable protections against hazards or conditions that might threaten their health, safety or well-being.

In addition, you might have a policy such as:

The CEO shall not cause or allow a workplace environment that is unfair, disrespectful, unsafe, or disorganized or otherwise interferes with employees’ ability to do their jobs.

And regarding financial matters:

With respect to the actual, ongoing financial conditions and activities, the CEO shall not cause or allow the development of fiscal jeopardy…

“Okay,” you say, “what about plans for those situations?”

In some cases, we’ve worked with boards to develop policies such as:

[…the CEO shall not:] Permit budgeting for any fiscal period or the remaining part of any fiscal period that is not derived from the multi-year plan.

In other words, the CEO is not obligated to stay with the budget created at the beginning of the year. If the situation has changed, it would be imprudent not to revise her budget accordingly. It would also be imprudent not to revise her budget to ensure compliance with the Financial Condition policies (e.g., don’t allow fiscal jeopardy”).

Of course, your Board might not have these or similar policies in place; but if you are using Policy Governance, chances are you have a General Executive Constraint to the effect of:

The CEO shall not cause or allow any organizational practice, activity, decision or circumstance which is either unlawful, imprudent, or in violation of commonly accepted business and professional ethics.

Would there be any interpretation of that policy which did not include contingency plans for an event that is highly probable? Even without a policy directly naming COVID-19 or any other public health concern, the board has addressed this issue.

Nonetheless, a Board using Policy Governance should not be content with just having those policies in place. It should rigorously monitor to ensure compliance.

Under normal circumstances, the Board would expect to monitor each of the relevant policies over time. However, these aren’t normal circumstances. What can and should Boards do?

The Board can require that your CEO provide a special monitoring report to demonstrate compliance with potential scenarios related to your organization in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. In other words, the CEO would provide a report demonstrating that she has plans in place to address those policies (such as those included above) impacted by such an outbreak.

In this case, monitoring of student safety by the school superintendent needn’t address other issues of student safety as it would for a normal monitoring of student safety.

Instead, it would provide interpretations and evidence for measures in place related to student safety and COVID-19. To ensure that Ends are achieved, the superintendent’s contingency plans might address how education can continue if schools are forced to close by government officials. Planning for related revenue shortfalls and/or increased expenses can also be a part of this report.

The impact on each organization will be somewhat different. The policies that the CEO must address will vary accordingly.

The Board’s job is to ensure that the CEO’s interpretation of Board policies is reasonable for the outbreak. This does not mean that the Board needs to become experts in virology or public health. It does mean that it should look for reports which give robust rationale for why the interpretations are reasonable. For example, have the interpretations been created based upon solid advice from health professionals?

Following this process, your Board should get better results than if the Board dives in to develop specific operating plans or directing what should be included in the plans. Work your system and it will work for you.


Richard Stringham,
Senior Consultant


(including response to COVID-19)

Online | April 27, 2020 - 11am-1:30pm EDT

Some Preliminary Topics:

  • What is the Board’s Role in Crisis?
  • What Should the Board be Thinking, Saying, Asking, Doing?
  • What is the Board’s Accountability? Where Do Customers, Staff, and Owners Interests Come In?
  • Is Your Board Governance System Holding Up Under Crisis?
  • Practical and Pressing Considerations for Boards

More details to follow.

Registration Fee:  Complimentary

Register Here

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Policy Governance® is an internationally registered service mark of John Carver. The model is available free to all with no royalties or license fees for its use. The authoritative website for Policy Governance is
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