For many directors, December is a time of reflection. It’s the end of the calendar year, and for many, time to close the book on the company and prepare for the future. But how?
We know that directors are currently placing emphasis on strategy, corporate performance and risk—the top three concerns, according to the NACD Public Company Governance Survey highlighted in this issue. So what is the best way to work with management to develop strategy, enhance performance and mitigate risk going forward?
In his popular song, “Imagine,” John Lennon asks us to suppose for a moment that there are “no countries,” as well as “no religions” and even “no possessions.” As a patriot, a man of faith and a capitalist, I don’t share his enthusiasm for this scenario, but I do like the main point of the song. From time to time, we need to sweep away all the major givens and ask ourselves, “What if…?”
Here are some “imaginings” that directors may find useful.
- Imagine that your board really understood the full strategic implications of your company’s IT.
- Imagine that you spent most of your board time in discussion, rather than reviewing reports.
- Imagine that shareholders knew and appreciated what your committees are doing.
- Imagine that your executive sessions got to the bottom of every thorny issue.
- Imagine that directors could exercise a reasonable degree of skepticism without eroding trust.
- Imagine that directors from different countries could learn universal lessons from one another.
These are just a few of my imaginings. I encourage you to create your own. After all, it’s often said that the most important thing a corporate director can do—other than to select the right CEO—is to ask good questions. This should include the questions we ask ourselves about the way things are and how they can be.
Kenneth Daly is president and CEO of the National Association of Corporate Directors.