One of my favorite questions to ask boards is “If your organization were founded today, what would it look like?” I love it because it leads to the board asking some other very important questions — questions that get to the heart of the organization’s existence:
- What’s our organization’s core purpose? What need or challenge are we seeking to address?
- What’s the best way — the ideal combination of programs and tactics — to achieve that purpose?
- What expertise, resources, and capacities do we need to achieve the ideal scale and reach?
When leaders are free from their current operating reality, they can think big about what their organization is all about. They can imagine what could — or should — be, without burden or obligation to what currently is.
And that’s the perfect starting point to another important conversation — a conversation about strategic partnerships. An open discussion about whether a partnership with another organization could unlock powerful new ways to achieve impact. An exploration of the many ways to build on complementary organizational strengths — including through structures such as joint programming, administrative consolidation, and mergers.
Talking about ways to partner with other organizations shouldn’t be scary. It should be exciting. It should be about finding creative ways to accomplish big things.
It should be about the power of possibility.
In the boardroom, just as in life, a good question can be a game changer. So ask yourself:
- What new realities might be possible for my organization with expanded resources and capacity?
- What might we be able to accomplish by working in partnership with an organization that has complementary strengths?
- What role can I play in helping to make that happen?