5 elements of a stewardship contract

December 17, 2013       The NonProfit Times      

Most managers believe that only strict and complete control will yield satisfactory results, but in his book “Stewardship” Peter Block argues that stewardship is preferable to dictatorial control.

For Block, stewardship means getting employees more involved in the thinking, as well as day-to-day operations. Many executives view this approach as simple chaos, but Block argues that giving those in the trenches more of a say in what is done also gives them more responsibility in operations and more accountability for results. He suggests a stewardship contract.

The stewardship contract has the following five elements:

1. Core mission for the unit. What services and products does the unit offer and not offer? Who are its customers and, especially, what is the unique value added for them?

2. Financial accountability and results. The place has to work and deliver results. The boss has a right and obligation to define the outcomes that are required, one of the key hedges against anarchy or government by entitlement.

3. Structures and constraints. Defining the stewardship contract involves choosing a basic structure that fits the task and mission and environment of the organization.

4. Basic governance strategy. Stewardship means taking a clear stance in support of partnership and empowerment.

5. Focusing attention. This means two things: identifying the difficult issues and choosing where to begin.