Archive for the ‘The Value of Questions and Curiosity’ Category

Raising the Bar on Director Performance – New NACD Program Outlines 5 Keys to Success

July 27th, 2015 | By

The bar for director performance has been raised. A volatile economic environment, increased regulatory scrutiny, impending cybersecurity threats, and shareholder activism have all shifted the expectations for what should happen in the boardroom.

Responding to those growing expectations for directors, The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) has developed a new program—called Advanced Director Professionalism®—that focuses on understanding the market forces and “next practices” that will shape the boardroom in coming years.

At the inaugural Advanced Director Professionalism program in Philadelphia June 1-2, nearly 60 directors joined corporate leaders and subject-matter experts to discuss these market forces and next practices. Five key insights from the event follow:

  1. Avoid the “tyranny of unanimity.” In a structured, interactive, scenario-based workshop, participants were confronted with a board of seasoned directors who were reluctant to dissent from the majority at critical decision-making moments. Such groupthink dynamics preempt consideration of viable alternative strategies and responses—a failure that can lead to disastrous business outcomes.
  1. A healthy board culture is needed. Even effective boards are not immune to dysfunctional dynamics, such as hasty decision-making, disengaged directors, and too much deference to authority; yet the warning signs of dysfunction often go unrecognized. Continuous and rigorous evaluations can identify unhealthy dynamics early on, while periodic rotation of board leadership roles helps infuse fresh perspectives and approaches.
  1. Focus on dynamic agenda-setting. Participants learned how to maximize the limited time that directors spend with each other and with management. While some full board and key committee agenda items are mandatory, these need not dominate meetings. Instead, board leaders should ensure that agenda development is clearly linked to major strategic opportunities and risks, and should plan reviews throughout the year in response to changing marketplace realities.
  1. Cybersecurity is no longer an IT issue but an enterprise-wide strategic risk. The ramifications of cybersecurity breaches now include undermining customer trust, damaging operational effectiveness, and jeopardizing corporate strategy, to name just a few. Ownership of cybersecurity risk is distributed across the entire firm, from the CEO to frontline employees, who must all engage in secure behaviors with respect to system and data access. Boards should examine how effectively cyber risk is governed internally.
  1. Become the keeper of corporate strategy. Board members often have a longer tenure than the CEO, which enables them to see long-term strategies through to completion. They can help ensure an effective strategy development process and engage management throughout strategy execution. Boards should challenge the fundamental assumptions on which the strategy rests—during periods of stability and steady profits, as well as times of disruption and emerging threats—and provide guidance to management as it considers alternative options.

“Full Range” Reading: 25+ NACD Deep Dives for 2015

February 5th, 2015 | By

Have you resolved to become even more proactive and knowledgeable as a director in 2015? I commend you!  As Dr. Reatha Clark King says in the annual Chairman’s letter, which appears in the January-February 2015 issue of NACD Directorship,

[S]trong boards should work with management to stay abreast of the full range of matters that may affect the success of companies. Today the emergence of significant issues on relatively short notice requires both management and boards to adapt more quickly.

To keep you current the first items on your reading list should surely be Directors Daily, NACD Directorship magazine, and the white papers and other timely content that flows from our Advisory Councils, NACD Directorship 2020® events, and many other educational programs.

But in addition to consulting these resources, consider making time for some of our deeper-dive publications, which provide extensive data and comprehensive guidance on key boardroom issues, both perennial and emerging. To help you locate the material that will be of most interest to you, here is a quick (at-a-glance) “catalog” of the most popular and most topical publications on the NACD bookshelves.

NACD’S ANNUAL SURVEYS. These studies cover governance trends among public, private, and nonprofit boards, as well as public-company director compensation. The facts and figures clearly presented here in charts, tables, and graphs—along with nuanced interpretation of the data collected—will enable you to benchmark your board’s practices against your peers’, no matter what size or type of organization you govern.

For more than 20 years, NACD has been tracking governance trends by industry and company size, from multibillion-dollar firms to those with under $50 million in revenues. Topics analyzed include board size, director hours, board priorities, committee variety, and specific practices for the oversight of risk and for CEO succession, to name just a few. While other fine organizations now support the effort to research board practices, NACD surveys are unparalleled in the scope of their topics and the size of respondent pools they cover.

BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION REPORTS. Our widely respected series of Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) reports is required reading for directors who want to increase their mastery of the many issues facing them. Every year, NACD invites a new and select group of prominent board leaders and subject-matter experts to gather for dialogue about an emerging issue. Chaired by well-known leaders in the business or legal community, the commissions produce authoritative reports that have been cited in legal cases (notably Brehm v. Eisner, 2000) and have even been called “prophetic” by Delaware Supreme Court Justice Jack Jacobs, speaking at the University of Delaware. The following links lead to the most recent editions of 13 of these unique and eminently useful reports.

HANDBOOKS. Last but not least, for a firmer grasp of director duties, you may wish to consider one or more of NACD’s definitive handbooks, which are authored by experts and focus on the “how to” of directorship.

And, coming soon, The Family Business Board, Vol. 2!

Happy reading!

Through the Boardroom Lens

July 25th, 2014 | By

Directors attending the recent NACD Directorship 2020® event in Denver, Colorado engaged in group discussions about how boards can anticipate and effectively respond to environmental and competitive disruptors in the marketplace.

The half-day symposium at the Ritz-Carlton on July 15 was the second of three NACD Directorship 2020 events this year addressing seven disruptive forces and their implications for the boardroom. Summaries of the Denver speakers’ main points are available here.

Following each speaker, directors developed key takeaways for boards. Those takeaways fell within the parameters of the five elements of effective board leadership defined at last year’s NACD Directorship 2020 forums: strategic board leadership and processes, boardroom dynamics and culture, information and awareness, board composition, and goals and metrics.

Environmental Disruptor Takeaways

Strategic Board Leadership and Processes

  • Crisis response plan. Ensure that the company has a contingency plan in place that takes into account a potential environmental crisis. The plan should include how the company will respond to disruptions in the supply chain and production cycle, as well as to employees, customers, and investors.

Boardroom Dynamics and Culture

  • Culture. Boardroom culture should reflect that directors are ready and willing to be held accountable for environmental or climatological issues that arise for the company.

Information and Awareness

  • Engagement. The company should have an established communications plan to use in response to requests from shareholders and stakeholders regarding environmental matters.

Goals and Metrics

  • Green metrics. Becoming a sustainability-focused company requires adopting a long-term commitment to the cause. The board can communicate that commitment by establishing environment-related performance metrics that align with the corporate strategy.

Competitive Disruptor Takeaways

Strategic Board Leadership and Processes

  • Board agenda. Set aside time on the board agenda to discuss forward-looking strategy, so that the board’s focus is not limited to reviewing the company’s past performance.

Boardroom Dynamics and Culture

  • Culture. Fostering innovation requires risk. The culture throughout the organization should support failure and risk taking within the company’s tolerances. Also invite outside experts—or “white space” teams—to help trigger new, innovative thoughts.

Board Composition

  • Composition. Board composition should reflect a diversity of thought and experience. Regardless of background, directors should be willing to ask probing questions and stay aware of marketplace trends.

Goals and metrics

  • Understanding the marketplace. Management should be able to answer who future competitors might be and what trends might gain traction.