The Alliance for Children & Families Issue 2, 2011 (alliance1.org) has offered four suggestions for how boards can focus on improving (or even think about) their performance.
1. Implement the 33 board principles developed by the Independent Sector. And, yes, this is one of those little gifts the IS offers the "rest" of the nonprofit sector who aren't its elite members.
2. Evaluate the decisions the board made during the past year as excellent or lackluster and as fully-informed or not. This exercise, maybe at the annual meeting, is a good review of how outcome-focused the board is.
3. Dedicate one day each year to training. I however believe every board meeting should include training or at least consciousness raising about outcomes and results and the stories that illustrate outcomes and results.
4. Establish an emeritus trustee program as a resource pool of counsel to and for the board. I kind of like this principle but would caution that this should be on the Governance Committee's not the Staff's shoulders, and a plan for how to effectively use this resource should be in place.
This is certainly a helpful list for boards to consider as they ponder (assuming they do) how to be effective.