“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all of its powers of acting and reasoning as fear “– Edmund Burke philosopher 1756.
Uncertainty, volatility has tested most Boards. The requirement to adapt to changing conditions or resetting strategy has focused the minds of Board directors.
The good news of the successful rollout of the vaccine program is welcomed, most insightful boards will now be considering how best to deal with 2021 and onwards and the extent to which their board will continue to be effective.
Working with boards throughout 2020 has highlighted three critical components for us to cope successfully with, the new levels of volatility, certainty and complexity.
The governance processes for example, the type of information, it’s timeliness, relevance and format that the Board receives has a significant impact on the boards ability to make informed decisions.
The composition of the Board, particularly in terms of diversity of breadth and depth of experience relevant to the organisations stakeholders affects the quality of thinking.
Most significantly are the dynamics of the Board, how the Board works together, the extent to which it functions in a challenging but supportive manner and the safety of Board members to be in a minority of one in decision-making is the determinant as to the Boards capacity and capability to utilise the information and the talents of Board members.
Fear of making the “wrong” decisions or fear of challenging the views of others, or fear of being in a minority of one impairs the Boards effectiveness.
Where fear does exist, rational thinking, constructive challenge and creativity may well be undermined or significantly impaired. Whilst Board members may be loyal during this period, increasingly we are hearing off individuals suffering from exhaustion and burnout and questioning whether they can sustain the level of demands experienced in 2020.
Preparing for the new normal can start with a review or reflection of the extent to which the Board is likely to receive the right type of information in the right format given the new but changing environment, if the diversity of the Board in terms of capacity capability, experience fits with the new challenges and an assessment of whether the board is a psychologically safe place going forward.
There is a temptation for some Boards to focus purely on the operational challenges it faces, thinking about how your board will function best over the next 2 to 3 years is a key strategic imperative.
If the worlds richest man, Jeff Bezos sees the value of refocusing and adapting his Board at this time there may well be a message for us all.
For more information on how we measure Board effectiveness take a look at our BoardWorks LinkedIn page https://www.linkedin.com/company/boardworks
Hamish Moore, Founder of BoardWorks