One of the crucial tasks of a board of directors—as they discharge their duties to optimise the performance of the organisation in accordance with the shareholder's wishes—is to make decisions. While most directors and boards (that I have spoken with) agree with this viewpoint, there seems to be far less agreement about what sort of decisions this means boards should, and should not, make. Should boards only make strategic decisions (those that relate to the achievement of corporate objectives and affect the long term performance of the organisation), or is the making of important operational decisions acceptable?
I have been pondering this question for several months now, in the context of the data being collected for my doctoral research and the wider body of literature. I've concluded that boards should limit themselves to those decisions that have a direct impact on their duty (to optimise performance). As such, boards should make strategic decisions only. Boards that move beyond this and make operational decisions are, in effect, becoming involved in the operation of the organisation (the implementation of strategy)—which is dangerous because that is the job of management. Examples of strategically important decisions might include:
None of these decisions are straightforward. They require time; the gathering of (often) considerable amounts of information; high levels of cognitive ability to analyse and process options; and, wisdom and experience. Given this, an effective board, operating on the basis of optimising performance based on the making of strategic decisions and the monitoring of performance against strategy, may only make 2–4 strategic decisions per year. Does that sound reasonable or feasible? I'd value some feedback on this one!
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.