A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege and pleasure of working with 20 company directors on the strategy day of the Institute of Directors' Company Directors Course. Several delegates had a particular interest in how to keep strategy 'alive' in the boardroom. In their experience, boards start with good intentions but they quickly return to what they know best, monitoring and controlling. They agreed that boards are responsible for company performance (which means boards need to make decisions about the future of the business), so boards need to take strategy seriously. But many don't, which suggests that an important questions remains unanswered. How can boards keep the important matter of strategy alive?
I put the question to the group and we had a great discussion. After about 20 minutes of to-ing and fro-ing, the group seemed to settle on four main suggestions, as follows:
These are great suggestions, and they are consistent with my research and experience. They appear to have 'reach' as well, from smaller companies just starting out with boards, right up to publicly-list enterprises. What was most heartening though was the reality check that came at the end of the discussion: many of the delegates agreed that the 'urgent' can and often does get in the way of the 'important'. Consequently, business-as-usual (monitoring and compliance items) can supplant strategy. A strong and vibrant relationship between the chairman and chief executive was thought to be vital, to ensure that the agenda was appropriate; that the reporting was at the right level; and, that the chief executive had the resources to execute on that which they were expected to deliver upon. Notwithstanding such efforts, individual directors need to make a commitment—to themselves and each other—to keep the conversation focussed on strategy, for the sake of the future performance on the company.
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.