Book review: Boards That Make a Difference by John Carver

Boards That Make a Difference: A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit and Public Organizations by John Carver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am in the process of learning more about board governance and how to be a better board member and chair. (This is in hopes of turning these experiences into a book someday.) This book is an excellent, comprehensive, and detailed book about how boards should be run. The author has clearly done much thinking of how boards should be run, how they should govern, and what they should be doing. There are many examples given, which makes the sometimes erudite and cerebral explanations more accessible.
In addition to the somewhat academic explanations that can be difficult to follow, I also think the author operates in a utopian vacuum. If you were starting a board from scratch, this book gives you excellent advice on how to operate. But changing the culture of an already existing board to the ideal presented in this book is often difficult, time-consuming, and impractical. I also think the author oversimplifies and glosses over the differences between being a board member of a non-profit and being a board member of a for-profit. Goals, metrics, and resulting issues can be very different. And, of course, the author has full faith that his approach is the right one for all organizations.
Despite these shortcomings, the author has clearly done much deep thinking and worthwhile analysis on the subject. I think this is an excellent reference book for people interested in how boards of organizations should work.

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