Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, is front-page news today. This time, the museum has "lifted the lid on Michael Houlihan's disastrous tenure as its chief executive"—a strong opening statement by the newspaper. Houlihan has presided over several years of poor business and financial performance since his arrival in 2010. However, two big loss-making exhibitions and the Chief Executive not coming "anywhere near meeting any of the targets we gave" led the board to its decision to agree to Houlihan's departure.
The newspaper suggests that the problem lay with the Chief Executive, by implying that he was ineffective. Indeed he may have been, but is that where the enquiry should stop? The Chief Executive is accountable to the board, so the board should not be beyond scrutiny. The board's job is to govern (to steer and to pilot). This is (or should be) an active role. Why did it take two years to act? Was it asleep at the wheel? Some further enquiry is likely to be beneficial—not as a witch hunt, but to reveal insights and provide guidance for other boards.
Thankfully, the Te Papa board has now acted. A new Chief Executive has been appointed, and the museum is looking to the future. The Minister of Culture and Heritage seems to have had her confidence restored as well, now "[new] Chief Executive Rick Ellis and Chair Evan Williams are now steering the ship in the right direction".
Leave a Reply.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and boardcraft; our place in the world; and other topics that catch my attention.