Learn to Contemplate 'Impossible' Scenarios

Postrecession governance lessons are emerging.

August 18, 2010

Linda Compton, president/CEO of BoardSource, recently participated in a discussion about the lessons learned for the nonprofit sector during the financial crisis and the slow recovery.

She offers directors her observations in Board Member:
Realize the weaknesses the crisis exposed are ones organizations already knew existed. Do a risk assessment and develop risk mitigation strategies before you actually need them.

You can't overemphasize the importance of communicating during any kind of crisis. Staff concerned about layoffs and a disengaged board are a recipe for bigger problems.

Use technology to get information and updates to people on the ground on a continual basis. This also prevents rumors and misinformation.

• Make the most of your CEO/chair partnership, but not to the exclusion of your board. All-powerful executive committees are in the past.

Get engaged and on deck to steer through challenges.

• Know that contingency plans are critical. Ensure your board identifies steps if results aren't matching projections—and learn to deliberately contemplate the "impossible" scenario. Many of them actually happened.