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Considering strategic and operational problems as a board

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Use this page to learn about how to navigate strategic and operational problems and where the responsibility is located.

A primary part of the trustee role is decision making, which includes addressing problems the organisation might face and coming up with solutions.

Depending on the structure of your organisation you might work alongside senior management on these issues, or they may be entirely the responsibility of the board.

Leading a strategy

As a board, you’ll set the direction for the organisation and map out the strategy the organisation follows. You’ll likely work in collaboration with senior management, staff, members and other stakeholders, but the leadership of the organisation's strategy rests with the board.

This can be challenging, particularly as trustees often don’t have regular contact with the organisation outside of board meetings and formal governance structures.

Trustees should make sure they’re aware of progress around the organisation's strategy through regular management reporting and through data gathering to understand the impact which their charity is having.

Monitoring operations

A part of being certain that your charity is achieving your purposes for the public benefit is making sure that it’s operating effectively. Charity operations cover the day-to-day functions of a charity.

Depending on the structure of your organisation trustees may be directly involved in operations, or may analyse them from a distance.

Regardless of your operational involvement, it is important that trustees are able to step away from the day-to-day management of the charity and objectively monitor how it operates.

Effective problem solving

When considering strategic and operational problems as a board, you should remember the role of governance in considering the long-term sustainability of the organisation as well as giving clear focus to the charitable objectives.

Your decision-making should be informed by your overall organisation vision, your funding position, and the needs of your beneficiaries.

If you’re in doubt about a challenge or issue, remember that trustees are encouraged to take expert advice to reassure their decisions.

Where responsibility lies

In order for your board to be effective, it’s important you know where responsibility lies for different areas of work and decisions. The board needs to have oversight of the organisation, but this should not cross over into micro-management of staff or over-involvement in operations.

Many organisations use a scheme of delegation to help set out which groups are allowed to make decisions, and in what circumstances.

The scheme of delegation usually includes which decisions are board level, which can be made by other governance committees, which can be made by the chief executive and where there is responsibility delegated to a wider management team.

Using tools like a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) can help you in identifying where decisions should lie within your structure.

A RAM sets out the different decisions to be made or tasks to be undertaken, and maps out the involvement of individuals or groups. Here is an example RAM which uses the ‘RACI’ model - this stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, informed.

In this example, the:

  • trustee board is responsible for decisions relating to the budget, strategy, and data policy of the organisation
  • executive is accountable for delivery of each of these areas
  • and in the case of the budget staff are also accountable for delivery.

Members are informed about the financial position of the organisation but have no other involvement, whereas they (alongside staff) are consulted about the strategy.

Last reviewed: 29 April 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 29 April 2022

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