A somewhat satirical opinion piece, written by Joe Bennett, caught my eye this morning. As I read it, over my morning coffee, I smiled, for the opinion piece is very well written. But afterwards, as I sipped on my coffee again, I winced, for the images conjured in Bennett's mind and exposed through prose, cut a little closer to the bone than many who are au fait with boards and governance would care to admit.
Most of the directors that I know, and boards that I am familiar with, work hard, as they seek to optimise business performance and build shareholder value. They read their board papers carefully and critically before meetings, prepare well and ask searching questions. They also spend time understanding the business of the business, so they can contribute meaningfully to strategic discussions, and make informed decisions about the strategic future of the business. In other words, they engage actively in the process of governance.
However, some (perhaps the majority?) directors and boards still don't engage in this way. They adopt a more passive modus operandi of monitoring past performance. They spend little, if any, time considering strategic options and marking out the future of the business. In extreme cases, they behave as Bennett suggests. Sadly, the self-serving, fat cat imagery described by Bennett will remain part of the psyche—for as long as it continues to describe how some boards behave at least. I long for the day that such imagery becomes folklore, of the way things used to be, but no longer are.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.