Over the past few months, I have been quietly testing some of my doctoral research ideas with a few esteemed members of the academic community. I've also chatted with some practicing directors as well. The discussions have been incredibly valuable, because they have generated a lot of interest and feedback, all of which has enabled me to refine and adjust the research.
On the strength of the feedback received, I have decided that it is time to "come out" as it were; to begin share my ideas with a wider community. To this end, I have submitted a paper abstract to ECMLG 2013. The abstract has just been accepted, so now I need to prepare a paper and start saving to get to Austria in November. How exciting!
And the ideas that have generated the interest? Here's a peek: Much of the governance research to date has involved the statistical analysis of large data sets, resulting in correlations between observable variables and rich descriptions. However, no definitive theories to satisfactorily explain how Boards contribute to performance have been produced. Despite considerable effort, researchers appear to have reached an impasse. A new research agenda in required if progress is to be made—one that moves from the study of isolated variables (structure, composition, behaviours) to the holistic investigation of governance itself. My reading of philosophy has exposed critical realism (CR) as an interesting basis for a new agenda. CR rejects the common view that social phenomena (of which governance is an example) are a mass of separable events or attributes.
When I re-read the literature through a CR lens, several discrete ideas that I've been pondering for some time started to come together into a cohesive picture. It seems that active engagement; an involvement in the development of strategy; and, the making of strategic decisions are somehow potentially significant causal mechanisms that explain how Boards actually contribute to business performance. Next step is data gathering and analysis. If validated, a new theory of governance which explains how Boards contribute to performance will hopefully emerge. Thankfully, I now have a philosophical framework to build upon. Yahoo!
So, there you have it—my ideas out in the open. Sorry if this summary was tough to read and understand! If however, you are interested in governance matters, and particularly in governance research, and would like to chew these ideas through, please post a reply, or contact me directly.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.