Question: Is there a simple way to explain the difference between oversight and supervision to my board of directors? This is a struggle for our leaders as they are used to being more involved in the day to day operations of the organization.
The simplistic distinction is:
“If I’m focused on the outcomes to be achieved and whether they are achieved, and causing a change to occur if we are unsatisfied with progress, I am involved in oversight.”
“If I am focusing on what’s being done and how it is being done, then I am involved in supervision.”
“If I am focused on what is being done, how it’s being done, who is doing it, and substituting my judgment for the judgment of the individual or group being held accountable, that is snoopervision.”
Often, boards focus on what is presented to them.
If board agendas and dashboards focus on strategy, policy, and resource allocation it supports oversight.
If board agendas and dashboards are filled with the details of program and operations it invites supervision.
The agenda and companion background materials are the primary tools for helping boards focus on the right things in the right way.
When boards experience a simulation of meetings constructed in the right way, behavior can change. We find no amount of reading or discussion will enable a behavior change if folks don’t know what effective behavior looks like.