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Adapting to a Volatile Environment: 8 Things Boards Can Do Now

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The recent whirlwind of legislative and regulatory activity has made it obvious that boards must be ready to adapt to a constantly changing business environment. As boards react to the new regulations and restrictions, I’ve crafted a list of eight things boards can do now.

Boards can:

  1. Focus on the business, especially during this time of economic stress and volatility
  2. Evaluate engagement with stockowners to find ways to improve two-way communications with an emphasis on new technologies and methodologies
  3. Focus on corporate board member education—the amount and nature
  4. Re-visit board governance processes—especially those that will enhance efficiency and effectiveness—and find ways to increase time for dialogue
  5. Look to NACD for information about the progress of the almost 300 new rules that will be required to implement the Dodd-Frank Act and make comments to regulators and others
  6. Look at board/committee evaluations with a critical eye towards possible improvements
  7. Focus on board composition and requisite stockowner communications
  8. Join NACD’s Leading the Way Initiative so we can amplify and advocate your good work

NACD Insight & Analysis for September 17, 2010

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Recently, interim CEOs have found themselves in the media spotlight.

This week, the Fortune magazine article “Should CEO be a Team Job?” notes that interim CEOs could be found at companies such as Borders, Sara Lee, and GM, while the boards searched for appropriate replacements. Though an interim CEO may be part of an “emergency” succession plan, boards must prepare to fill leadership roles when needed. Three to five years before a CEO transition is expected, the board should begin to develop long-term succession plans.

CEO Succession Planning - NACD According to the 2010 NACD Public Company Governance Survey (available Oct. 2010), most boards have taken the necessary steps to prepare for an abrupt CEO departure:

  • 70% include development of internal candidates
  • 69% include plans to replace the CEO in an emergency
  • 57% include long-term succession planning (three to five years before an expected transition)
  • 21% include engagement of an executive search firm to identify external candidates

To continually ensure that the current leadership is meeting the needs of the company, directors should engage in CEO succession planning. Well-timed transitions to new leadership enhance long-term shareholder confidence and value.

Shareholders Feedback in a Board Evaluation

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Not surprisingly, some of our full board members are truly Leading the Way in this new shareholder environment. They have asked us to design a questionnaire for their largest shareholders to complete as part of the board evaluation process we’re doing for them. They are interested in knowing how fellow board members, senior staff, and shareholders all view their performance as a board and if each of those groups has suggestions/input for the board to improve its performance. They have asked to do this “off-cycle” from the shareholder meeting so they can receive the information and take whatever actions they consider to be productive.