Sorry folks, but I have just seen red. Rich Fields, a correspondent at Tapestry Networks, has just proclaimed that board composition will be the big corporate governance story in 2015. I'm surprised, really surprised.
For well over a decade now, the academic and practitioner communities have been exploring a wide range of board structure and composition options, in search of a causal link with business performance. Many attributes of boards and directors have been investigated including gender; CEO duality; independent director; board size; and, diversity, amongst others. Positive, neutral and negative associations have been reported in the research. Earlier this week, I wrote a thought piece on independent directors, and offered the following conclusion:
A variety of conclusions are apparent in the research. Cause has not been established. It's a bit like saying that female directors cause companies to perform better. Increasingly, people are realising that board performance is more likely to be contingent on what directors do in certain situations than on who they are or any specific board structure or composition. Like gender, the independence attribute is likely to be a proxy for something else. We need to discover what that might be, so it can be used to qualify the suitability of director candidates and inform board performance assessments.
Respectfully, I suggest Mr Fields needs to think a little harder about what is known already and what is yet to be discovered. Aspects of composition may be topical, but to suggest that board composition will be the hot topic is rather myopic. We need to move on, and turn over some other rocks, elsewhere.
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.