Board Policy A-001.00
Board of Trustees Process

College Policy Organization

  1. The NMC Policy Governance Model: A Summary

Board leadership requires, above all, that the Board provide a vision for the college.  To do so, the Board must first have an appropriate vision and understanding of its own responsibilities.  The NMC policy governance model provides a powerful framework for structuring this task.  Following this model, the Board can focus on the business of governance.

The NMC policy governance model is modeled after and explained fully in John Carver’s documentary Boards that Make a Difference (Jossey-Bass, 1990).  In brief, it reduces or eliminates meaningless Board and committee work, trivia, Board involvement in administrative and staff matters, unclear evaluation criteria, and role confusion.

Policy governance emphasizes vision, mission, and values; the empowerment of both Board and staff; and the strategic ability to lead.  Because policies permeate and dominate all organizational life, they present the most powerful tool for exercising Board leadership and responsibility.  Designed as a total system to encompass all expressions of Board wisdom and guidance, the policy categories include: Board process, Board-president relationship, ends, and parameters.

Board Process

The Board must set policies for its own internal workings:

  • How meetings will be conducted.
  • What topics will be addressed.
  • The role of officers and committees.
  • How the Board will discipline itself .

An effective design of Board process ensures that the Board fulfills its three primary responsibilities:

  • Maintaining links to the ownership (the citizens of the service area).
  • Establishing the four categories of written policies as included in this framework.
  • Assuring presidential performance.

These are areas in which the Board, and only the Board, must assume full responsibility.  By setting clear Board process policies, the Board develops a plan for how it will operate—compelling it to remain focused on the critical challenges of providing vision and leadership.

Board-President Relationship

The Board must set policies about how it relates to staff—the Board’s approach to delegation of power, its view of the president’s role, and how they will assess staff performance.  The NMC policy governance model envisions the president as the link between the Board and the faculty and staff.  In essence, the president is the Board’s sole employee.  The only specified duty of the president is to be accountable to the entire Board for the performance of the organization—on how well the Board’s ends are being met and the parameters not violated.  This maintains accountability while allowing the president optimal latitude to act and to empower others in the organization to act.


The Board’s most important job is to devise a vision, mission, and mission-related statements, which clearly establish the desired results—the ends—of the college.  The ends statements should address what human needs are to be met, for whom, at what cost, and how the world will be different as a result of the college’s actions.  The Board leaves it up to the staff to decide the parameters by which to achieve these ends, and evaluates staff performance based on how well the results of the organization’s actions match the desired ends.


While the Board prescribes the ends it wants to achieve, it only sets limits on the parameters within which the staff operates.  These limits are principles of prudence and ethics that form a boundary on staff practices, methods, and procedures.  In parameters policies, the Board states clearly what the Board will not allow, but it is otherwise silent regarding staff actions.  This empowers the staff to use their full creative powers while at the same time safeguarding against potential abuses, enabling the Board to concentrate its energies on ends issues.

  1. Levels and Types of Policy

In the NMC policy governance model, there are two levels of policy: Board Policy and Staff Policy.

Board Policy
Board policies for the organization are broad, guiding statements which reflect the Board's philosophy, values, or principles. Board policies can be proposed by staff to the President, by the President to the Board, or by a Board member for consideration for adoption by the Board of Trustees. There are four types of board policy.

  1. Board Process Policies (Prefix A) are established by the Board for its own internal workings.
  2. Board-President Relationship Policies (Prefix B) are established by the Board to indicate how it delegates authority to the President and monitors presidential (organizational) performance.
  3. Ends Policies (Prefix C) of the college are its Vision Statement, Mission Statement, Purposes Statement, Values Statement and the Institutional Effectiveness Criteria Policies. Ends policies deal with the ends or goals for which the college exists. Ends policies state a philosophy or general principle which is intended to provide broad guidance for organizational decisions in a variety of situations. These policies are designed to promote consistency, continuity and standards of performance, and reflect the basic needs of the college as well as its faculty, staff, students and community.
  4. Parameters Policies (Prefix D) limit the means staff may use in accomplishing the ends of the college. They are generally in the form of placing boundaries or parameters on prudence, ethics, and methods.

Staff Policy
Staff policies generally affect more than one area of the college and define in more operational terms how the board policies will be interpreted and implemented. In other words, staff policies describe the means which staff will use in accomplishing the ends of the college. Staff policies are recommended to the president by the Policy Council. The president issues final authorization of staff policy.

New staff policies, as well as changes to existing staff policies, are proposed by the Policy Council to the President for approval and may be reported to the Board of Trustees as deemed appropriate.

Staff Procedures
Staff procedures define a manner or process for implementing a board or staff policy. Staff procedures are developed by the area primarily responsible for implementing the policy and approved by the appropriate executive officer or administrator. In order to assure effective and consistent implementation of staff policy, the Policy Council may review office procedures as part of the policy review process.

If any provision(s) of this policy or set of bylaws conflicts with laws applicable to Northwestern Michigan College, including the Community College Act of 1966, the Freedom of Information Act, or the Open Meetings Act, as each may be amended from time to time, such laws shall control and supersede such provision(s).

Adopted by the Northwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees January 27, 2020