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Three documents laying on a table covered in a table cloth. A strategic plan, a governance review, and table card that says "Lara Schroeder, Facilitator, Sheffe Consulting". Spark Solutions.

The Process of a Governance Review

Last week, I was in Toronto, as Associate with Sheffe Consulting, to work with stakeholders from the Professional Golfers Association of Canada. The two and a half day leadership retreat was the final step in the first phase of a robust governance review. A governance review is a comprehensive assessment of governance processes to determine if there are ways an organization could operate more effectively. I worked with the PGA of Canada, throughout 2021, to develop their strategic plan. As part of their new five-year plan, they identified a goal of completing a review of the governance model of the association. They re-engaged Sheffe Consulting’s services and I have led this governance review up to now.

Governance Review Process

I begin a governance review by meeting with the client to discuss what they hope to get out of the process. Do they have a sense of what their challenges are? What factors would they like to consider or what types of information would they like to examine? Who would they like to consult and would they like to look at others externally to compare to? Would they like to see anything specific in the report? How would they like to move forward when the research is complete? What is the budget and what timelines are we working with? Identifying the scope, objectives, and expected outcomes is the first step.

Stakeholder Engagement

From there, we move into stakeholder engagement by engaging with people who have insight into how the organization operates. This could include the board of directors, senior staff, committees, members or clients, and partners. We carefully consider how to engage these stakeholders and what questions to ask them. Feedback might be captured through a survey, individual interviews, or though focus groups. Each method has advantages and disadvantages and is selected based on the depth and breadth of the engagement, the time available, and the size of the budget.

Research

It can be beneficial to conduct research alongside the stakeholder engagement. Reviewing the governing documents and policies of an organization is a wise place to start. This might also include items like meeting minutes, board orientation manuals, the website, or other documents that might be insightful. Often, we look externally, as well, at the practices of other comparable organizations. When I do this, I look at websites and contact those organizations directly to interview them, or ask them to share their documents. Sometimes, the client will request that we also engage in a review of academic literature which might also result in insight that’s beneficial. If, in the course of this research, more questions come up, I work to find those answers too.

Present the Findings

When the data collection is complete, it is time to present the findings in a manner that will be useful to the client. This is typically through a report, which details what was done and found in each step, and ends with the conclusions and resulting recommendations. It is common to present the report to the client, to allow them the opportunity to ask questions or seek clarification.

Determine What Actions to Take Next

While some consultants are comfortable with recommending certain courses of action, I prefer to present a variety of options to my clients, both small and large in nature, and discuss some of the implications for each. Because I am not bound by fiduciary responsibility, meaning I am not legally responsible for the organization or the actions it takes, I believe I cannot make the final decisions on what to do next. I recommend hosting a session, which I facilitate, to support the board through the decision-making process. I can build a safe space to have an open discussion so that the client can focus on making decisions. My services can be re-engaged to help implement the actions to be taken, but we often wait to see what the decisions are before committing to moving forward.

The stakeholders of the PGA of Canada spent their leadership retreat discussing findings of the report. We facilitated a discussion on where the PGA of Canada currently is, where it wants to be in 6 years, and what steps must be taken to get there. Once those steps were identified, we discussed the advantages, disadvantages, and implications of each step, before breaking them down into action items with timelines for completion. Coming out of the leadership retreat, the group felt very satisfied about the tangible steps forward and I’m eager to see how things evolve as they move forward out of this governance review.

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