Jennifer Tomasik, SM, FACHE, Vice President & Principal
Thomas Gilmore / 2016
A major national medical association was struggling with tense working relationships between Board members and executive staff, including a new Chief Executive. Decision rights were unclear between the Board and the CEO, leading to a series of conflicts and misunderstandings around recent decisions about staffing and organizational structure. These tensions were eroding trust, dividing Board members and staff, and slowing down their ability to get work done, eating up valuable Board time and distracting staff from more important work for the association.

The Board approach CFAR for help in improving the working relationships between Board and senior staff, and in clarifying roles. Beginning with a diagnostic assessment based on in-depth interviews, we identified areas of work that required closer attention, and skills that needed development for both Board and staff members, and designed an intervention around these issues.

Drawing on our Decision Charting methodology and influence and persuasion frameworks, we worked with the Board and staff to clarify decision-making roles around important areas of authority. In conjunction with a session designed to help them improve their skills in negotiating and having difficult conversations, we worked through these decisions, reaching agreement about who would hold authority for which decisions, and when it was appropriate for staff to consult with or defer to the Board around particular decisions. In addition, we helped Board and staff articulate areas where they felt their counterparts misunderstood them, and where assumptions they each made about each other were getting in the way of reaching agreements.

At the end of the project, the Board and staff experienced a marked improvement in their work together as well as an increase in trust. They also incorporated the frameworks we introduced into their work together. Overall, they felt that their Board meetings and the work between meetings was more productive, and were able to accelerate and improve how they made important decisions together.

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