Why are board decisions often called resolutions?
There are three main senses in which a matter being considered by a board is resolved. These relate to focus, agreement and intention.
We adjust the focus of an optical instrument, camera lens, microscope, spectacles, or a telescope to render visible objects and spaces distinguishable. The power of a lens to magnify, and bring images into sharper focus, was dramatically illustrated recently when the first ultra hi-res images from the James Webb Space Telescope allowed us to see up to 13 billion years into cosmological history. Previously somewhat blurred images from the Hubble Telescope have now been resolved at much higher resolution, as illustrated in this comparison.
When deliberating on matters as non-profit directors and managers, we seek to bring them into sharper focus before deciding what action may be justified – if any. We use a range of scanning, data capture, and monitoring measures to bring observations under analysis, so that we are using evidence as the basis for our decisions. Investing in systems that deliver quality data permits more objective deliberations, and therefore, better quality decision making.
The second sense refers to coming to an agreement, or the resolution of a range of perspectives into a shared position – preferably by consensus, but if not, then by majority vote. Arguments and differences of viewpoint are resolved, often by compromise, but sometimes by the force of argument allowing all parties to see the situation in essentially similar terms.
This form of resolution merely captures a point in time when a matter which was either disputed, or had not been the subject of agreement, changed status. It is retrospective as it now becomes a matter of record.
The minutes of a meeting may express this in various ways, e.g.:
It was RESOLVED
It was AGREED
The third meaning of ‘resolution‘ relates to an expression of binding intent, steadfast purpose, or firm resolve.
When we resolve to take certain actions we are committing to that course and expect implementation or execution of the steps necessary to carry out that intention. This meaning, therefore, looks forward to the achievement of the goal expressed in the decision. It is prospective, as it becomes a matter of resolute execution, delivery, and follow-up (e.g. monitoring and evaluation).
Unlike New Year’s resolutions, which are so often honoured in the breach, board resolutions are designed to have binding force (until they are subject to further review and potentially, a new resolution).
‘Action sheets‘ which are reviewed by the board at future meetings, and strategic plans which express the organisation’s priorities and intended outcomes, are key mechanisms used to hold those responsible for the execution of the decision or goal to account.