February 2011                                                                                                               Issue 7
  BoardWorks International

Welcome to Issue 7 of Board Works


Welcome to this first issue of 2011. Our thoughts are with the many readers and organisations affected by recent major natural disasters in Queensland and Christchurch, in particular. These events and the way communities have responded underline in so many ways the importance of good governance and effective organisational leadership.


In time it will be good to reflect particularly on the subject of governance-level risk management and what has been learned from recent tragedies but in this issue our subjects are rather more prosaic. We begin with a continuation of the issues of board presentations from Issue 6.  Is It Time to Kill Off Old Style Bullet Point Presentations? is an article with a focus on how we format and present information to the board via the 'presentation' mode. The time to substantially rethink how we do this is surely overdue.


We also take A Fresh Look at Minutes. The form and content of minutes is a subject that we are frequently asked about. While concern for having good minutes is admirable it is perhaps the case that boards do not spend enough time thinking about and agreeing what they expect from their minutes. This article is intended to be a catalyst for that discussion.


Arguably, the biggest challenge in organisational governance is not in defining roles and responsibilities and achieving compliance with 'best practice' procedures and the like. It is in understanding and developing the behavioural dimensions of boardroom performance to ensure there is effective collective leadership and accountability. Boardroom Behavioural Types is an article intended to help characterise a range of different boardroom behaviours and to highlight which behaviours help and which hinder.


Finally, in this issue we introduce some recent research on the implications of forcing chief executives from their jobs (Do Chief Executives Get Fired When They Should?). Boards frequently face pressures from external stakeholders, in particular, to axe their chief executives. As scapegoats chief executives are easy targets and we have seen a number of boards yield to the temptation to demonstrate they are on top of things in this way. This US research, while based on large commercial entities, has important lessons for a much wider range of organisations.



Good reading


Graeme Nahkies


In This Issue
Is It Time To Kill Off Old Style Bullet Point Presentations?
A Fresh Look at Minutes
Boardroom Behavioural Types
Do Chief Executives Get Fired When They Should?
Have your Say
 Is It Time To Kill Off Old Style Bullet Point Presentations?

Bullet points 

In the last issue of Board Works I discussed when presentations might be useful to a board ( Getting the Best Out Of Boardroom Presentations ). That prompted a discussion with one of my colleagues about the form of board presentations. He told me of having recently sat through a client's board meeting in which senior staff 'dumped' a series of detailed, bullet pointed PowerPoint slides on the board. Slides were filled entirely with letters and numerals - not a single visual element was used to help the board see connections, patterns and trends in the data. This ignores the essential 'overview' responsibilities of the board. It must be able to see the 'big picture'.  The slides were apparently so overloaded that the font sizes were too small to read off the screen. The slide deck was neither pre-circulated in hard copy nor even tabled at the meeting. To cap it all off, the presentation was mind numbingly boring, line after line, and slide after slide. Not only was the material poorly conceived and presented but, at some point you can be certain these executives are going to say to this board "but we gave you that 'information' in February".


Read and Print the full Article

A Fresh Look at Minutes


Minutes for Issue 7It is surprising how often the question of board minutes gets raised with us. Boards, individual directors and board support staff are equally likely to initiate an inquiry. This level of interest seems to reflect both variability in practice and the absence of agreement on what is 'best practice'. About that there appears to be some very strongly held (and opposing) views.  Consequently, in this issue it might be helpful to cover off some of the main aspects concerning the recording of minutes. Please note, however, that this commentary does not constitute legal advice. You should get specific legal; advice if there is any uncertainty.


Boardroom Behavioural Types

Behavioural types Issue 7

Despite having a good collection of individual CVs, many boards struggle to form or maintain a cohesive team. Apparently 'competent' or 'skilled' directors can struggle to make an impact at the board table while more poorly skilled colleagues can dominate the boardroom dialogue (albeit often in a negative way). The reasons for this contrast are worth exploring and appear to be primarily behavioural. Once in the boardroom, directors' behaviours seem to play as big a part in their individual effectiveness and contribution to aggregate board performance as do their skills or competencies.

Do Chief Executives Get Fired When They Should?
You're fired - Issue 7


The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has recently reported on the firing of under-performing chief executives. (1) This prompted some reflections of my own based on the hundreds of board/chief executive relationships my colleagues and I have observed over the years. Three conclusions came quickly to mind....


Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.

  - Laurence J. Peter, 1919 - 1990