It sometimes takes a change of environment to remind us that we don’t hold the mortgage on many of the prickly challenges we face in our board rooms, that they’re actually perennials, pretty much prevalent across the globe.
It’s also a refreshing moment when it occurs – and I was fortunate enough to again experience it just a few weeks back while visiting Thailand to host a number of in-house sessions with boards of some of the country’s largest and most respected companies.
I was with a Thai cement giant, we were chatting about developments in the manufacture of cement and it suddenly dawned on each and every board member that they were probably failing in perhaps their most elementary responsibility – that of concentrating on and putting in place strategies to secure the organisation’s future.
It was a seminal moment as I asked the board whether they’d been aware of recent advances in cement technology that allow for the production of a cement that does not emit CO2 , is therefore so much better for the environment and will ultimately allow us to construct buildings that help rather than hamper our sensitive world.
The answer was a categorical ‘no’.
I then asked whether investing in this technology would not only provide them with a competitive advantage but support their admirable corporate social responsibility credentials – and this time the response was a resounding ‘yes’.
You could have heard the proverbial pin drop as they reflected on the situation and appreciated that to safeguard the organisation’s existence and future, they needed to have their collective fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in the greater external environment and within their specific sector. They also needed to understand how it could negatively impact on – or even destroy – the very fabric of the company…and what they could do to avert such a scenario.
In short, the board was again reminded of its principal function.
As I said earlier, this board is no orphan. It’s in good company, with boards the world over grappling with how to ensure that they find the time needed to devote to strategy.
For younger companies, it tends to be easier as it’s part of their creation and growth, but as they get older and more successful, there’s a real danger of complacency and hubris creeping in.
After all, they rationalise, we have time-honoured practices and processes that have consistently delivered… and there’s no reason why they won’t remain fabulous forever more.
So how do good boards go about it?
Well, they make strategy front and centre of the agenda for all meetings. But more than that, they assign reading material and research to specific board members, as well as charge management with getting hold of certain information and presenting it to the board.
And they look beyond the confines of the company, periodically inviting external experts and futurists to address the board.
In short, all good boards make strategy central to their thinking.
Until next time,