Former Reuters reporter turned academic Donald Nordberg led a very interesting discussion on the topic of good governance. He suggested that corporate governance researchers and working directors like to think of corporate governance as being a rational and tidy activity with clearly accountabilities and readily defined boundaries. However, the reality is quite different: governance is actually quite messy, with no universally accepted definition of what corporate governance is, might be or does, let alone a common and consistent set of practices to guide boards towards this so-called nirvana of effective governance.
Nordberg suggested that researchers and directors need to get down from their lofty pursuit of order, in favour of reasonableness and flexibility. They also need to embrace accountability in terms of giving an account of why something was done or a decision made, because the compliance view of accountability serves only to establish an adversarial relationship between parties. If researchers and boards embrace these suggestions, then "reasonably good" governance can follow, and that might just be good enough.
Now in the twilight of his working career, Nordberg's experience—and value as someone with both practical and academic experience—was palpable. I'm glad to have listened to him speak, and thrilled to now have the opportunity to sit with him again later in the year during my next trip to England.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.