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7 directors about board performance issues, perspectives, sidered to address valid criticisms that management and staff and so forth. The self-assessment of performance can pro- may have, particularly criticisms that are supported by the vide boards and directors with a perspective on their own self-assessment. situation to share with other transit directors across the industry. Policymaking oversight boards seldom operate in Changes in the external environment that affect board a vacuum. Boards and directors engaging in self-assessment policy and oversight, potentially characterized by com- would be equipped to converse with other transit boards munity criticism or communication difficulties. Board self- about board inputs and outputs with regard to particular per- assessment may be triggered by the dissatisfaction of the formance issues, as well as the particular benefits of the self- community external to the transit agency (including specific assessment. The self-assessment can enable a sharing of expe- interest groups, political bodies, funding sources, etc.) with rience, wherein different transit boards can relate their own board performance. Self-assessment may allow the board to ideas and contributions arising from use of the Handbook. discuss its performance in light of the criticisms and identify what changes (if any) need to be made to address valid criti- cisms that outside interests may have with respect to the board. WHEN SHOULD THE ASSESSMENT BE INITIATED, AND SHOULD IT BE REPEATED? A decision to use multiple board performance assess- A board performance assessment can be initiated at any ments as a long-term learning tool. In this case, board self- time, but it will usually accompany changes in the decision- assessment is not viewed as a one-time event, but rather as making, policy formulation, and oversight environment. Those an opportunity for a series of assessments over time as the changes may be internal to the board or the transit agency composition of the board and its policymaking and oversight or driven by external elements (such as the community at issues change. In this case, the use of one of the assessments large or funding sources). Potential stimulants for board self- (Level I, for example, with its 13 responses) does not pre- assessment of performance are discussed below. clude using the more detailed assessment of the Level II or Level III variety at a later time. Similarly, a board that uses Changes in board personnel or in policymaking and over- a more detailed Level II or Level III assessment would not sight issues. As the board changes through new directors and be precluded from subsequently using a less detailed assess- as the policymaking and oversight issues change, the board ment for different circumstances or purposes (such as orien- may wish to use the assessment as part of taking inventory of tation of new directors). its perceived strengths and possible weaknesses. Directors and boards have life cycles with respect to familiarity with WHAT ARE THE EXPECTED RESULTS issues, diligence in discharging board roles and responsibil- OF THE ASSESSMENT? ities, the proclivity to engage in review of agency details (versus outsourcing all but legally mandated board approval The self-assessment instruments contain explicit statements to the purview of staff and management), and so forth. An about board performance effectiveness. Directors indicate assessment may be appropriate when there are changes in their levels of agreement using a scale ranging from 1 to 5, board composition, leadership, or the commitment and inter- where 1 indicates "strongly disagree" and 5 indicates "strongly ests of long-serving directors. An assessment may also be agree." The results are expected to be a compilation of indi- warranted when there are major changes in policy and over- vidual director responses that can be used to facilitate con- sight issues that tax the existing board's ability to adapt to structive, confidential review and discussion by directors. change or that require different skill sets. The use of self- Board confidentiality requirements will affect how assess- assessment in these situations would be analogous to a "stress ment results are compiled. The assessment results can be test" for a heart-wellness examination. compiled, distributed, and discussed informally or formally. In either case, the results are expected to be discussed in both Changes in the internal transit agency environment that informal and formal sessions to examine the responses, com- affect board policy and oversight, potentially character- pilations, and opinions of the board. ized by management and staff criticism or communica- In theory, the results of the less formal and more formal tion difficulties. Board self-assessment may be triggered approaches can be the same with regard to the level of detail by transit agency management and staff dissatisfaction with with which the composite assessment of the board perfor- board performance. The board may perceive that there are mance is recorded, tabulated, analyzed, and presented. How- communication difficulties with the management and staff or ever, the results of the less formal approach will tend to be that board policy and oversight are known to be under critical more general, which will be reflected in their compilation and review by management or staff. A board's self-assessment distribution. More formal assessment processes will tend to may be a conduit for discussing its perceived and expected result in richer detail, with the compilation, presentation, and performance, as well as what changes (if any) need to be con- distribution of results reflecting greater thoroughness and