Is your board ready for changing times? Take this short quick to assess its preparedness. Answer each question with "yes" or "no," then total your "no" responses.

1. Is the organization's strategic plan divided into annual work plans with regularly reported quantitative benchmarks?

2. Are fewer than half of board meetings devoted to passive reviews, and is more time devoted to patient care quality and safety than finance?

3. Are open discussion and dissent encouraged, and does every trustee participate in discussion at least once at each meeting?

4. Does the annual budget recommendation specify how growth, quality, safety and other strategic goals are funded?

5. Does the board have its own goals and annual work plan apart from that of the organization?

6. Does the board meet privately — without inside directors or staff — with the external auditor and outside counsel to review Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings?

7. Does the board conduct a formal annual self-evaluation survey with results used to strengthen governance systems?

8. Are there specific criteria for evaluating trustee candidates, and for evaluating individual trustee performance for reappointment?

9. Has the board audited contemporary best governance practices, or retained a consultant to assess governance in the last five years?

10. Does the board monitor standings with various constituencies, including patient and family perceptions, and employee/medical staff cultures?

If you checked "No":

8 or more times: Warning alarms should be sounding all around you. Make a priority of reviewing whether your governance mindset and systems are hindering progress.

5–7 times: Time for a reality check to see if your governance systems could be more contemporary.

2–4 times: Regular tune-ups and self-evaluations will continue to improve performance.

0–1 times: Nice going, but avoid complacency. Today's best practices can become tomorrow's anachronisms amid market turmoil.

For more on preparing your board for the future, read "Changing for the Better."

Paul J. Taylor ( is an author, consultant and former senior vice president of South Shore Hospital, Weymouth, Mass. He lives in Hingham, Mass.