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Pause To Consider

The following exercise was suggested to the author by similarly structured exercises presented by Chait, Ryan, and Taylor (2004, p. 170-172). It helps us think about the roles and value to the agency of the Board and the CEO.

  • Complete the following analogy: The agency Board is to the CEO as __________ is to __________.
  • Complete this statement: If the agency suddenly had no Board, the result would be __________.
  • Complete this statement: If the agency suddenly had no CEO, the result would be __________.
  • Complete this statement: If the agency suddenly had neither a Board nor a CEO, the result would be __________.

Let me note in passing Board members are, through the SSI CEO, Implementers, from the perspective of the Helping Triangle. They also may be – and often are – Initiators and are, in some situations, Authorizers as well. It is important to keep the perspective that specific individuals frequently fill multiple roles. This reality is both challenging and potentially confusing for the individual and for members of the Management and Leadership Teams.

The concept of delegation also requires additional attention. The most important aspect of delegation to understand is delegation is not transfer. The Board delegates a portion of its accountability to the CEO. This does not mean the Board is then less accountable. Rather, it means the CEO is now accountable to the Board to whatever extent the Board has delegated its accountability. He is the Board’s delegate or representative and acts on its behalf. When functioning as the Board’s delegate, whatever the CEO does is as if the Board does it itself. The Board is, then, accountable to the Authorizers and other entities for whatever the CEO does or does not do when acting as the Board’s delegate or representative.

The same principle applies when delegating responsibility. The Board delegates a portion of its responsibilities to the CEO. These responsibilities are duties, activities, and tasks for which the Board is responsible. Carrying out those responsibilities is expected to result in specified outcomes. The Board is no less responsible for achieving those outcomes after delegating the responsibilities to the CEO. If the CEO does not get the job done, the Board did not get the job done. The responsibilities were delegated, not transferred.

The principle applies in the same way to authority. The Board’s authority does not diminish after delegating a portion of its authority to the CEO. Here too, he is the Board’s delegate or representative and exercises the delegated authority on the Board’s behalf. The Board is fully accountable for the CEO’s use of the delegated authority. The SSI CEO has the types and levels of delegated accountability, responsibility, and authority the SSI Board chooses to delegate to him. This is the Executive Function. The SSI Board delegates, but does not transfer, its executive function to the SSI CEO. This is what is meant by the Chief Executive Officer designation.

An important aspect of delegation is, just as the Board may delegate portions of its accountability, responsibility, and authority, it may withdraw them for whatever reasons it believes sufficient. This also holds for delegation by the CEO to other staff members and to their delegation to still other staff members. Whatever is delegated may be withdrawn.

It is helpful to keep an additional concept in mind as we further consider structuring the internal eco system. Just as accountability, responsibility, and authority are delegated, we may think of Board Policies being delegated to the CEO. Those policies then become his policies as he manages SSI. For Management purposes, he may add additional Executive policies. To avoid confusion, refer to these additional Executive policies as Directives. The delegated Board policies are, nonetheless, still fully in force and effect. The same principle applies as the CEO delegates accountability, responsibility, and authority to other SSI Management staff. The Board policies and the Directives are delegated. The person to whom these functions are delegated may, in turn, add additional Directives.

This nesting of accountability, responsibility, and authority expands throughout SSI until each staff member has some level of delegated accountability, responsibility, and authority. Each staff member, in turn, is fully subject to the Board policies, the Directives, and to those additional Directives added at each delegation point.

In addition to Board policies, the SSI Board also has various priorities for SSI operation – values the Board expects to inform all SSI activity – and a strategic vision for SSI and its functioning. These priorities, values, and strategic vision are delegated to the CEO and subsequently to SSI Management staff and to each SSI staff member. At each delegation point – at each nesting level – local accountability, responsibility, authority, Directives, values, priorities, and strategic vision are necessarily introduced into the process and become part of SSI’s internal eco system.

We can see the above nested delegation is potentially complex and, to some extent, unavoidably confusing. This would be difficult enough to manage were delegation a one-time process remaining static once completed. It is not. Delegation is an ongoing process within SSI and the specifics of what is delegated to whom also changes with some regularity, including staff members and assignments changing from time to time. Beyond this, Policies, Directives, values, priorities, and strategic vision all have what I call fuzzy edges. By this I mean they do not consistently have crisp, unambiguous definition and meaning. At the edge, different people reasonably understand them differently. When the fuzzy edges are combined with the low likelihood of the nested delegation process resulting in completely consistent and non-contradicting Policies, Directives, values, priorities, and strategic vision, it is clear the significance of and the potential negative effects of delegation drift discussed earlier are substantial. Please keep these management challenges and realities in mind as we proceed.

Notice in Figure 5 the Executive Function – “A” – is on the circle around the primary Service Function. It is merely one of several secondary functions supporting SSI’s primary function: providing assessment, counseling, and case management services for children. From this position on the circle, all authority and responsibility delegated from the SSI Board to the SSI Executive pass through the Executive Function. What happens next is at the essence of the ecological approach to human services agency management.

Let’s use a simple example to make our point here. The Board delegates its hiring responsibility and authority to the SSI Executive. Within the approved budget, he hires the types and numbers of people needed, in his (or her) opinion, to do the work of the agency. Hiring transitions from a Board Function to an Executive Function, including both responsibility and authority. The SSI Executive may retain hiring responsibility and authority and do the work himself or at least keep it within the Executive Function where he has direct supervision and control.

Alternatively, he may delegate hiring responsibility, hiring authority, or both to another location on the circle, e.g., to the Human Resources Function. In the SSI eco system, hiring responsibility and authority are delegated to the Human Resources Manager, for all approved SSI positions below the Manager level. Manager level positions or higher remain the responsibility of and under the authority of the Executive Function.

The duties, responsibilities, and associated authority starting with the Board and delegated to the SSI Executive are, in part, delegated to other secondary functions. The SSI CEO and his executive team cannot and should not try to do all of the work of the agency. In addition to policy implementation, delegating responsibilities and authority for the various SSI duties and activities to the other secondary functions on the circle in Figure 5 is a major sub-function within the Executive Function. Further, the Executive Function retains oversight responsibility to assure the delegated duties and responsibilities are being handled correctly and on time. There are many other Executive sub-functions that may potentially be delegated beyond those briefly highlighted below. Here, simply note each of the Executive sub-functions is either managed within the Executive Function or delegated to other secondary functions on the circle around the primary Service Function.

As used here, oversight relates to delegation. The SSI Board delegates its Executive Function to its CEO. Nonetheless, the Board’s accountability, responsibility, and authority do not, in any way, diminish. Neither does the Board just walk away or take a hands off approach to its continuing accountability, responsibility, and authority. Rather, it has procedures and processes in place to determine whether or not the CEO is managing the Executive Function as the Board wants it managed. Through these processes and procedures, the Board oversees the work of the CEO. In turn, the CEO similarly oversees the work of those SSI staff members to whom he delegates portions of the accountability, responsibility, and authority delegated to him by the Board. Below is a sample of the sub-functions the CEO may or may not choose to delegate to others on the SSI staff.

·       Develop and direct the SSI strategic planning process, maintaining an awareness of changing community needs, new developments in services for children, and available resources.

·       Oversee agency services and operations to assure optimum efficiency and effectiveness of services.

·       Provide assistance to the SSI Board with policy development.

·       Manage and oversee internal committees, joint ventures, contracts, and collaborative efforts with other organizations or entities.

·       Develop an effective organizational structure and procedures to assure organizational goals are achieved in accordance with Board policies and regulatory guidelines.

·       Develop and manage SSI’s Board approved operating budget in accordance with Board policy.

·       Prepare appropriate fiscal forecasts and reporting procedures.

·       Develop performance measures for each operational area of the SSI internal eco system and monitor performance results.

·       Assure the adequate availability of and manage SSI facilities, equipment, supplies, and other resources.

·       Support adequate agency funding by researching and identifying potential sources of income.

·       Develop, recommend, and implement adjustments to current services, new services, and expansion projects, while assuring effective system design and internal control.

·       Evaluate SSI services and report the results to the Board.

·       Maintain sufficient, qualified and competent staff by recruiting, selecting, orienting, and training employees.

·       Assure procedures are in place to promote and protect the safety and well-being of agency employees and volunteers while they are performing their job duties.

·       Support staff performance results by planning objectives, by monitoring and appraising performance results, and by coaching, counseling, and disciplining employees.

·       Assure agency compliance with all applicable regulatory, legal, and accreditation-related standards and requirements.

·       Develop and maintain effective relationships with regulatory agencies, other human services agencies, and the community.

·       Promote and maintain a positive agency image by attending and participating in various social and civic functions, by making personal visits, and by assuring an understanding in the community of SSI’s services.

·       Serve as the primary agency spokesperson.

There are other Executive Sub-functions, but those included serve to show us the types and range of responsibilities, when managed successfully, assure SSI’s success and agency excellence. Below are a few examples of additional secondary functions and a sampling of the sub-functions delegated to the secondary functions from the Executive Function.

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