For decades now, researchers have been searching for the link between governance and performance that supposedly exists. Most of the research has investigated isolated attributes of governance—things like Board size, gender diversity, the inside/outside director balance, and CEO/Chair duality. The results have been mixed. Some researchers have suggested correlations. Others have disagreed. Despite considerable effort—over an extended period—researchers seem to have reached an impasse.
I was thinking about this while watching a motor racing programme on television yesterday, and concluded we've been looking at the wrong things.
Do cars go faster because they have a male driver or red paint, (for example)? Of course not. Rather, they go faster because of the way they are prepared and what happens on the race track. Racing drivers win because of what they do (techniques, decision-making), not who or what they are (gender, fitness levels, red car).
We have much to learn from this analogy. If a link between governance and company performance exists (as several well-regarded scholars have postulated), it will, in all likelihood, be due to the activities of the Board as a whole—what they talk about, the decisions they make, the way they monitor performance. If progress towards exposing the elusive link between governance and performance is to be made, the research agenda needs to change—from attributes to activities. Does this sound plausible to you?
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.