Adding ‘foresight’ to ‘oversight’ responsibilities – Part 1

KPMG’s respected 2016 Global CEO Outlook landed on my desk not that long ago and while it’s packed with interesting information, perhaps most striking was the finding that close on half of all global CEOs expect their companies to transform into a significantly different entity in the next three years.

Of course, this presents opportunities, along with challenges and even threats, the most significant challenge for boards being trying to navigate between their ongoing ‘oversight’ or supervisory role and their increasing responsibility to provide ‘foresight’ when it comes to expectation and likelihood in a murky future littered with unknowns.

That’s where strategy, that perennial that must forever and a day be on the board’s agenda, comes in…and, with it, being visionary. And we know that the more diverse a board is in its make-up, the more visionary its strategy is likely to be and, in turn, the more prepared and successful the company can expect to be.

So before we even look to tackle the many and varied external challenges and potential threats, boards need to address a significant challenge within – that of gathering ‘cleverness’ from as diverse a group as possible.

While we said earlier that the future is encumbered with unknowns, the top executives who contributed to KPMG’s outlook did identify a number of trends they believe should be on boardroom agendas. I’d like to share just some of these trends over this blog and the one to follow, starting with what these CEOs called ‘the internet of things and risk management’.

Other trends they believe are forcing themselves onto the boardroom agendas of 2016 include the likes of going beyond the race for market share, thinking about the unthinkable, setting the right tone at the top, engaging employees with the mission, managing activist shareholders, strategy, and competing for talent.

On the internet of things and risk management, I don’t think I’m being unkind when I say that the average board member is not completely at home or up to speed when it comes to the digital age. But as it’s the age we live in and need to be across, it’s advisable to invite a very good chief information officer to give a presentation, explaining in language that the average non-technical board member can comprehend, precisely what’s happening in technology and where it’s heading.

The second trend, the rising importance of customer support, ties in with the internet thrust as much of it is being driven by social media, so while the techno-geeks are dumbing down their presentations for board members, it would be good for them to touch on the social media phenomenon and what it means for your company and its relationship with its lifeblood – the customer.

Going beyond the race for market share is an interesting trend as it reinforces the universal truth that there’s only so much market for any given product or service. It’s a finite thing, so we can only grow our share, even if we’re Leviathan-like and gobble it all up ourselves, until there’s nothing left.

To go beyond that and continue to grow requires new thinking, taking something we have and fashioning it, adapting and finessing it to the point where it meets a demand and thereby opens up another market.

That’s all for now, but do tune in next week for the conclusion to our ‘foresight’ and ‘oversight’ discussion.

Until next time,

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