Comment – Can Be Found On Amazon
I’ve used the 1995 2nd Edition of Policy vs. paper clips to facilitate board governance retreats. With the dwindling supplies of that out-of-print book, I was relieved to learn that the 3rd Edition has been published. Prior to one retreat, Eugene Fram’s clever and comprehensive approach to illustrating the differences between The Corporate Model and The Dysfunctional Model was required reading by each board member. Because “Policy vs. paper clips” was longer than the usual advance homework, I created a study guide with questions to get board members’ minds ready for robust in-person debate.
By the end of that intense weekend retreat, the board voted to change the “executive director” title to “CEO” and, in their first regular board meeting after the training, turned to me at one point to ask, “Is this a policy issue or a paper-clip issue?” The important point was that they were (finally) asking that question. Reflecting on the easy-to-read wisdom in the book had given them shared code words to label the two conflicting approaches to board practice.
In 2011, younger board members probably don’t know what the quaint art of letter-writing was all about. Researcher Fram and writer Vicki Brown were wise to recapture the dialogue (between a discouraged board member and his friend, a successful nonprofit CEO) in emails. I was pleased to note other modern touches such as discussion about the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley. The 3rd Edition is truly “updated and expanded,” as the cover promises. I will definitely depend on it as a resource to help Boards recognize the danger of fiddling with paper clips while strategy burns.