Sunday April 20, 2014

Think Big

NACD Directorship strives to bring directors the best in instructional storytelling, exemplified with this issue’s interview with Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman.

Each issue of NACD Directorship takes shape under the guidance of a spirited editorial team that includes colleagues Jeff Cunningham, the founder of this magazine, and Alexandra R. Lajoux, NACD’s chief knowledge officer. Ideas for potential articles—who will write, on what topic and from what angle, what the visual elements will be and how many pages should be devoted to the storytelling—are among myriad details covered in our weekly story meetings, and are invariably followed by debate within the real and virtual halls of NACD as what is conceived begins to take shape into what ultimately is delivered to our readers.

Judy Warner

This issue’s cover story on Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman represents a milestone for this process. Speaking at a recent NACD Chicago chapter event was the chief of one of the best-known and most recognizable companies, whose machines have helped to build much of the world’s infrastructure and rebuild after catastrophic events both natural and man-made over the last 100-plus years. Just a year ago, Oberhelman, a 36-year veteran of the company he now leads, was named chairman in addition to his chief executive duties. He details how succession and executive leadership development occurred and how he approached transforming the strategy of the company, the board’s role in both intensive processes, and how that strategy is communicated to Cat’s some 150,000 employees in offices and on construction sites around the world. The new strategy required a culture change, and painful decisions—including reducing the ranks of officers by 20 percent and middle management by 17 percent— were necessary. As Oberhelman tells it, “Those two single moves got everybody sitting up in their chair, and then we started talking about a key piece of our new strategy, which was accountability and personal ownership for results.”

How it was done? Why it was done? These are some of the issues Oberhelman speaks to. It is the kind of personal and instructional storytelling about the boardroom that only NACD Directorship can bring to readers. Please let me know what you think.

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