Is Your Board A Strategic Asset?
In today’s complex and rapidly changing world, boards are under increasing pressure to be effective. A board that is a strategic asset has the critical skills, expertise and dedication to advise the company on a range of relevant subjects, and provides a competitive advantage by contributing proactively to the company’s successful operation and growth.
Yet, without clear expectations, policies, practices and timely information, board members may struggle, and the board may actually be a drag on the company.
To enhance your board’s performance, here are eight questions to uncover the critical areas where it may be falling short of performing as a strategic asset:
- Does the board composition reflect a diverse mix of relevant industry and functional expertise as well as temperaments that blend together productively?
- Have governance policies been defined, including clear expectations of the board?
- Does the board have mechanisms, such as term limits, that provide for the orderly refreshment of board membership?
- Has the board agreed on a short list of substantive topics on which it will focus?
- Does the company have a well-considered strategic plan, updated regularly, that anticipates and addresses risks and opportunities?
- Does the board debate critical issues vigorously and coalesce around decisions?
- Does the board have an effective committee structure, populated by members with the expertise and commitment to do the committees’ work?
- Does the board evaluate its performance regularly and strive for continuous improvement?
The answers to these questions may suggest that it’s time to take steps to enhance board performance. Discuss the issue with the board chair and establish a path to make your board a strategic asset. Board members want to help the companies they serve, while also providing proper oversight; yet, sometimes the company – or other board members – make it difficult to do so.
For optimal results, engage a trusted advisor whose credentials include solid experience working with and on boards, and the discretion, objectivity, expertise and cultural fit to work with your board.
Serving on a well-functioning board is a privilege. A responsible board will appreciate the opportunity to enhance its performance, as much as you will appreciate your board becoming – and remaining – a strategic asset.
Susan Powell Byrd is Chief Executive of consulting firm Westover Strategy, Inc.