Policy Governance® FAQ
What Do You Mean by “Ends,” “Means” and “Executive Limitations”?
Policy Governance® is a revolutionary approach to organizational management and, as such, uses some terms in ways unique to it.
The “ends” are the results the school board expects, including how much they expect those results to cost. The school board creates policies that define the “ends.” In this way, the board provides strategic leadership by clearly defining what is to be accomplished, for whom and with what worth, cost or priority.
The board also sets “board means.” These are the policies that describe the board’s job and how it directs the superintendent to achieve the “ends.” These also are referred to as the “governance process.”
The superintendent doesn’t have complete freedom in making decisions about how to accomplish the ends. “Executive limitations” are policies that define what methods cannot be used to get the expected results. In essence, the school board is pre-approving all means that have not been expressly prohibited. This gives the superintendent the power to make decisions that create the desired ends.
Isn’t this a way to get out of much of the responsibility for running the district?
No. Under the Policy Governance® model, the board has as much control as needed over the results. The board decides what the results should be and how much they should cost, and what specific methods are not acceptable. The board then delegates authority to the professional—the superintendent—to make the decisions about HOW to achieve the results.
The superintendent determines the “means” for accomplishing the “ends.” They are responsible for figuring out the how in reaching the expected results. Since no one could run the district alone, the means most likely include hiring staff to determine the decisions and circumstances that produce the “ends.”
How will policies change?
There will be fewer policy areas set by the school board. Those policies will be reviewed yearly.
What is the benefit of a smaller number of basic policies?
By having a smaller number of basic policies, the school board can review every policy each year. Under the old system, it would take at least four years to review all policies and procedures.
With a school board that potentially changes makeup every two years (due to elections), it wasn’t feasible to review the old policy manual. Instead, individual areas were reviewed as problems or issues arise.
Under Policy Governance®, each year, a calendar of policies to be reviewed can be published in advance and the public will have transparent knowledge of what policy issues will be on the agenda for each meeting.
The basic policies define the ends and the limits on staff means. The actual means of achieving the ends will be left to the professional educators – specifically, the superintendent and those he delegates.
The superintendent is held accountable for achieving the ends, and the school board is accountable to the public for defining those ends policies and hiring and supervising the professional superintendent who ensures that those ends are met.
Because the entire body of policy is reviewed throughout the year, evaluation of the success of those policies takes place on an ongoing basis. Instead of reacting to a problem, the policies are examined proactively and evaluated for needed changes.
Everyone — the school board, the staff of the district and the owners (the public) — are aware of the criteria against which the school board measures success — the expected “ends” to be delivered by the superintendent.
What is the benefit to the students and families?
By using the Policy Governance® model, there are clearly defined “ends” that are expected to be achieved. That leaves the means of achieving those ends up to the superintendent and all of the FWPS employees that work under his direction. People with extensive professional preparation and experience make the decisions that affect student education.
What is the benefit to FWPS employees?
Policies will clearly define the ends expected, allowing everyone to understand them. Policy Governance® allows performance evaluations to be tied to the “ends” set by school district policies.
What do you mean by owners?
The Federal Way School Board exists so that young people residing the area served by the Federal Way School District will have skills and knowledge. It does so on behalf of the public. Under Policy Governance®, this makes the public the OWNERS of the school district.
The Board is accountable to the public as a whole and on their behalf decides the benefits to be produced by schools, who the beneficiaries are, and what the benefits are worth.
The public includes parents, students, and employees when they are considering the purpose of schools from the broad perspective of the common good rather than from their personal perspectives.
Shouldn’t the “owners” be families and students with a more direct connection to the school district
Families and students are not owners. In their specific roles, they are the BENEFICIARIES of the school district — they benefit from what the school district provides. Their only ownership role comes from being a part of the public as a whole.
The Board holds the Federal Way School District in trust for the owners. Those owners (and we’re still talking about the public) have the moral authority to determine the purpose of the organization. In this case, that purpose is to educate children attending the schools in the district.
Isn’t the government truly the owner?
While government may be the major—or even the only—source of funds, it is not the “owner” but a “bulk purchaser” on behalf of the public in general. In return for providing resources from public funds, the government maintains the right to require certain results or place certain restrictions on the school Board, but is not directly the “owner.”