A few months ago I was asked by someone I trust to sign up to a new social media service called Klout—one of a new breed of social media tools. It's purported to measure your influence on social media networks. Going by some blog entries I've read, Klout has followers and detractors. However, while I use this blog, LinkedIn and Twitter for my professional networking, I decided to signup to get a feel for how the system works and what benefits it offers—for 90 days or so.
Today, I took stock. What have I found? First, Klout is potentially addictive and certainly manipulative. I have no idea how it works but it plays with your mind. While registered, my use of LinkedIn, Twitter and this blog didn't change. Yet after starting me on a low score (fair enough), Klout fairly quickly gave me a much higher score (presumably to make me feel good), and then, after a couple of weeks, my score started dropping bit by bit. Weird. They encouraged me to check back every day—to see my score and understand my "true reach" (whatever that is). After 90 days, I cannot see any personal benefit to being registered—apart from feeding one's ego. I doubt anyone who wants to avoid the Facebook Effect (being bogged down in front of a screen all day, reading and responding to inconsequential stuff) get anything from Klout. Consequently, the experiment is over. I've happily opted out.
What role should a Board of Directors play in the development of strategy? I've heard many responses when I've asked this question—ranging from "rubber stamp the CEO's plan" through to "actively create and implement the strategy".
The best answer lies between these extremes. The Board should be fully involved with the development of the strategy and oversight of execution, but it should not become involved with implementation because that is the job of management (the Board should "create, decide and monitor" but not "do"). There seems to be widespread agreement amongst researchers(*) that this level of involvement is appropriate, and importantly, that this level of involvement is associated with good company performance. And it makes sense—after all, the Board (not the CEO) is ultimately responsible for the performance of the organisation. Given this argument, why do so many Boards steadfastly remain passive when it comes to the development strategy? They are doing their companies and their shareholders a gross disservice.
(*) Please contact me if you'd like a list of references.
I am no English scholar, but I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to grammar and punctuation. Take for instance the humble apostrophe. How often have you seen an apostrophe inserted in the word "it's" to imply ownership when "its" is correct? Another rather common mistake in business writing is the incorrect usage of the plural "are" following a company name. When a company (singular) takes an action, the company "is" acting.
The incorrect usage of words, punctuation and grammatical constructs is a sign of sloppiness. It also creates an opportunity for miscommunication to occur. In today's technologically-equipped world, real-time grammar checkers should have all but eradicated poor grammar. Yet the evidence seems to show the opposite. The widespread influence of instant communication via email, text messaging and Twitter seems to have elevated speed (of response) over precision (of message). Think about the messages you have received in the last seven days. How many contained ambiguities or grammatical errors? Perhaps more importantly, how many messages did you misinterpret or misunderstand—to the extent that you needed to ask a question or double-back to check on a relationship? This might sound a little picky, but each poorly constructed message has the potential to reduce our productivity. And that brings me to the point. Isn't technology supposed to enhance our productivity? I'm sure it can, but only if we get the basics correct first.
What's your attitude towards risk? Are you a pragmatist, a conservator, a maximiser or, are you a manager?
When I was young I used to ride motorbikes on the farm—fast, sans helmet and often in light clothing. It was the normal thing to do in the seventies. I also did many other things that, looking back, could easily be described as "risky" in today's terms. My risk appetite was high (and to be truthful, I probably didn't even think about it at the time). Now, forty years on, our children have grown and all but left home. I've gathered a wealth of life experiences. Unsurprisingly, my appetite for risk—as a father, husband and as a business professional—has changed. In some areas, I take fewer risks than before. In others, more.
Understanding our attitude towards risk in the business world is as crucial as it is in our personal lives. There's a great article over at the HBR Blog Network that puts it all in perspective—particularly our response in different market conditions and the downstream consequences that follow. I commend it to you over coffee today!
Calls for more women on governance Boards have been coming thick and fast for a while now. Many proponents (here, here, here) are taking a stand, and the noise seems to be reaching a crescendo. The growing body of research that women make a difference is starting to look compelling. The presence of women on Boards seems to be associated with many positive aspects of governance, particularly behavioural aspects, including:
Eight weeks ago, I mentioned a great project to improve the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged kids. Since then, the Shoes-for-Schools project has really taken off. Children from four schools now have new shoes. And today, the Dominion Post picked up on the project with this article. This project is a great example of a community rallying around to support others who are less well off.
PS: About $28,000 is still needed (not $2800 as reported in the article) to put shoes on every child in the area. If you can help, please contact the NPBC office.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.