As a director, where does 'risk' feature in your considerations? Is risk something that gets close attention only when a major proposal is being considered around the board table or when a significant and unforeseen problem occurs? Away from major events, is risk something associated with a register of items (that receives cursory attention)? And whose job is it to identify and manage risk in a company, anyway?
Should boards rely on management to report both accurately and well, or do boards need to probe? If boards wait on management, as happened at the Christchurch Council a few years ago, the board is entirely dependent on the propensity of management to report risks both accurately and in a timely manner. If they do, well and good. If not, the consequences can be dire.
Boards have a duty of care to ensure resources are applied well and that expected results are achieved. Verification is a crucial—to ensure projects are on track, that expected outcomes are being achieved, that material risks are being identified and that satisfactory mitigations are established. To monitor is insufficient.
To remain silent and to rely on management reporting (only) is to abdicate one's responsibility. Take this current case, a project that has been allowed to run 100 per cent over budget. What got in the road of objective scrutiny? Hubris, ineptitude, incompetence or something more sinister? Might this problem have been avoided if hard questions were asked early on? Directors need to remember their fiduciary duty. The priority is to serve the company, not self.
Directors need to be as cunning as foxes, checking and probing from several angles, in case a problem lies in wait. The best time to ask probing questions is 'now', before it's too late.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.