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Monday, June 6, 2011

Why One Size, or Style, Doesn’t Fit All- Brian K.

As a disclaimer to this blog entry: I am going to contradict myself, but in doing so perhaps I will more clearly illustrate my point.

We have discussed the Carver model of policy governance in class, and while discussing it we talked about whether one model of any kind is applicable across an entire field. I spoke adamantly in class that there is no way that one model can be applied to all forms of governance in a board, in the treatment of an illness, or really in anything. I believe that there are too many factors, most of them human, which prohibits applicability across all circumstances.

There is a big problem with most “one size fits all” theories, and Carver’s is no exception.. Carver stresses that the board must delegate operational tasks to the CEO, and then they are to make sure that those tasks are taken care of. Distance between the board and CEO is recommended by the Carver theory, and he feels that the board should have authority over the CEO. Let’s assume that both distance and authority as discussed in this model are ideal, which I believe they are. The recommendations above are not possible in reality in most cases, much less all of them. In the majority of nonprofit organizations, the organization is too small, the board is too disengaged, and the CEO is too critical to the operation for these suggestions to be practiced. Carver suggests several outside sources for the board to get information about their organization and how it should be run, but how do you ignore the CEO’s information since he is the one most closely acquainted with how things run and the climate in which the organization operates? For a board to get outside information, form their own opinion on how the nonprofit should operate, and force these ideals on the CEO is ignoring the reality of the environment in which the organization operates, and is certain to meet resistance from the staff, and is even more sure to fail as it is formed in the “vacuum of board opinion, rather than in the real world where daily operations take place. It is for this reason that distance isn’t feasible between the board and the CEO in most cases. The board and CEO must work together for things to be enough to keep them “in the loop,” then they should consider a different CEO.

Although authority does ultimately lie with the board, the CEO does hold some power over the board. This authority is the information that I mentioned earlier. The information itself, the amount of information, and how it is delivered can be used as a tool to shape the opinion of the board. That allows the CEO to bend the board to his or her will. One might argue based on this statement “Carver says that the board should get their information from exterior sources and orient their own new members, you already mentioned that yourself, Brian.” Yes, I did. And this actually proves my point. The board can’t get great information without having a good, and close, relationship with the CEO. And they can’t have a good and close relationship with their CEO without some bias in the information that they receive from the CEO…. Hmmmmm… how then does Carver assert that his method is perfect? Well…. He says that if something goes wrong it is because the implementation was flawed, not the program….. Wow. What a smart guy. “My system works, all of the time. If it doesn’t work, it is something you did, not my program. This, is the exact reason that one model will never fit all circumstances. There are a million different factors in the world that can make the circumstances in which nonprofits operate different from one to the next. I think that Carver’s governance model is a lot like human flight. You can say that if you flap your arms hard enough and fast enough with enough surface area on your arms you can fly. If you can’t fly, it isn’t the theory of flight that is wrong, it is how you are doing it. You either aren’t flapping hard enough, or your arms aren’t wing-like enough. I don’t know how many humans you may have seen fly in your lifetime, but I don’t think this is a very successful theory in practice. To carry this analogy a little further (as though I haven’t carried it too far already), there is only a very specific niche of animals that the theory of flight without mechanical apparatus works for. Those with low body weight and wings can fly. There is also a very specific population of organizations that Carver’s theories work for. There are far to many differences in structure, operation, geography, market, and function for all nonprofits’ ills to be cured with one solution.

Works Cited

The Model. (2009, December 30). Retrieved May 26th, 2011, from

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely loved the flying human analogy. Is that an original? Agree that that most "models" are not one size fits all. The missing link often seems to be simply human nature and placement of values, which are expressly unpredictable. Spencer