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Outpost's Board of Directors will use this blog to discuss issues the board is exploring as it envisions Outpost's future. Can't make it to a meeting? Check here frequently to read what the Board is up to. Your current Outpost Board of...
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How Policy Governance Guides Outpost into The Future

Board Beet
By Your Board on May 6, 2019

Now that the annual Outpost Board election is behind us, the Board will resume its day-to-day work of fiduciary oversight and strategic planning. One of the first things that new directors come to realize is how deliberative the work is. This is by design. Policy Governance, the process by which the Board monitors and guides the organization, is structured to promote gradual and incremental progress.

Policy Governance requires that the Board develop policies, which management then interprets and subsequently acts upon - all of which is subject to board approval. It’s not uncommon for this cycle to take between twelve to eighteen months. So even if the Board was in the mood for a drastic change of course, it would be precluded from doing so. Again, this is by design.

This sort of methodical work can be frustrating to those anxious to make a sudden impact, or to see a quick return on their efforts, but it lends itself perfectly to sound strategic planning. Such decisions involve how to grow, and exploring whether growing is good at all. Because in the co-op world, not everything is profit-driven. Why we do things matters, and it’s another reason policy governance can be so useful. It forces the Board to get downright philosophical.

By way of example, our Global Ends policy came up in discussion several times recently during this discussion on growth. This policy states that “Outpost Natural Foods exists so that our owners have a healthy, diverse, and sustainable community; this is accomplished while maintaining the long-term strength of the cooperative.” There’s a lot to unpack in that one sentence, and it continues to inspire spirited conversation amongst members of the board.

A decision on whether to grow depends on who we serve, what we want to accomplish, and the manner in which we accomplish it. Decisions like these are based on years of detailed planning and research performed by management, in conjunction with consultants, and then reviewed by the Board. In retrospect, the decisions always seem like no-brainers. But that’s only because so much painstaking effort goes into them. And it’s an example of why a deliberative and philosophical approach pays off – not just in profit, but in moral capital.


Jan Pierce

Board Treasurer



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