Demands on boards to ensure desired company performance outcomes are achieved have led to increased scrutiny of directors and director effectiveness in recent years. Performance evaluation systems (PES) have emerged as a tool of choice to assess director performance. However, the influence of such systems on business performance is largely unknown.
Marie-Josée Roy reported the findings of a recent Canadian study that examined PES closely, in an attempt to bridge the knowledge gap. Roy's survey-based study of 89 large Canadian companies identified three distinct types of PES (exemplar, formal, minimalist—definitions of which were provided in her supporting paper). The typology was based on descriptions provided by survey respondents. Her analysis revealed some interesting correlations, including that boards with an exemplar PES were more likely to be involved in important board roles of strategy and monitoring, and were more likely to be effective in these roles.
While Roy's study was helpful in that it provided empirical evidence on board performance evaluation systems, it did not resolve the crucial question of how, in actuality, an effective PES might work. Survey respondents can (and often do) provide answers of convenience. Sadly, knowledge of whether any PES in use is actually useful (or not) for improving director and board performance remains largely unanswered. Other approaches to research, including longitundinal observations of boards in action and (probably) pyschological assessments are likely to be required if tangible progress is to be made. Even then, another even more vexing question—of whether improved board effectiveness leads to improved company performance—lies in wait.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.