I've been reading back through some older Musings this week, to review (and smile at) ideas that were front-of-mind a couple of years ago. Which ones have been superceded or discredited; which has been forgotten; and, which are still topical?
This one, on boardroom motivations and habits, appears to still be topical today—perhaps even more so than when it was written in April 2012. How so? I was party to a discussion on boardroom behaviour today and a question of culture was raised. To what extent might culture drive conduct and ultimately business performance? The results of a recent survey conducted by Grant Thornton suggest that culture is a huge factor in corporate governance and strategy. There is much evidence to suggest that good business performance is an outcome of 'good' culture (here's one piece).
However, culture is complex. Consequently, when one of the discussants said that a senior leader at ASIC is looking for policies and procedures to support [a positive] culture in boardrooms I was bemused, to say the least. How might one successfully codify—much less 'legislate'—culture, in pursuit of good conduct and presumably good business performance?
A long time ago, Drucker famously said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Might the corollary be that a well-written code of ethical conduct that is periodically discussed, agreed and pursued by directors trump any attempt to 'legislate' any particular culture into being?
Compliance-based regimes rarely achieve much more than to incur expense, resentment and, sometimes, avoidance. That is well-known. However, while codes are by no means fool-proof they can be helpful if every director 'signs up' and willingly embraces them. My research suggests that the key lies with director behaviour and social interactions in the boardroom, not the code per se.
That said, why all boards that are serious about creating a positive culture both within the boardroom and the wider business they govern have not implemented a suitable code of conduct is beyond me. It is a matter of accountability. Perhaps boards that decline to travel this path have not realised that the fish rots from the head!
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.