Governance ‘lines of sight’

To avoid oversights, directors need to ensure effective oversight.

How ironic is it that a key governance term can have opposite meanings depending on the context in which it is used? ‘Oversight‘ is one of the roles of board directors, meaning they oversee (monitor) the implementation of the strategy they developed, along with the organisation’s performance and conformance. When things go wrong however, a common reason is that there was an ‘oversight’; something important wasn’t noticed by a responsible person or persons.

Oversight is one of the four ‘lines of sight’ commonly mentioned when discussing the roles of the board, with hindsight, foresight and insight completing the quartet. A ‘Backgrounder’ published by the Ontario Institute on Governance (NFP Governance Leadership: Creating a Culture of Accessibility) features valuable material on these lines of sight, and pages 8-12 are recommended reading for all directors (and managers).

The chart below is an adaptation of one devised by Soumitra Bandyopadhyay, which was his take on the ‘analytics continuum’, or maturity model, popularised by Gartner.

My additions allocate the four lines of sight to the analytic modes, methods and activities, while also overlaying the board roles according to the EDM governance model (Evaluate, Direct and Monitor).

Not-for-profit directors new to the role can sometimes assume that their agenda pack contains everything they need to do their job. By referring to these more subtle models, they may discover there are other questions they should be asking, and that additional analysis may be required for the board to add value for the organisation.