Thursday, July 13, 2017

The “Talk the Walk” in the Boardroom: How to Communicate Well and Make Good Policies

Perhaps at the senior leadership level such as boards, "Talk the walk" is more crucial than "Walk the Talk," for making good policies, to shape modern mindsets and encourage good behaviors.

The purpose of the board of directors is to direct the organization in the right direction and monitor its performance. The modern digital board has many responsibilities, such as leadership advising, strategy oversight, governance practices, performance monitor, and resource provision. The board directors as senior directorial roles have both privilege and responsibility to “talk the walk,” communicate thoroughly via multiple channels, abstract the insight from the variety of experiences, multidisciplinary knowledge and all sorts of feedback, set digital principles and make good policies to guide digital transformation smoothly.


The digital principles are like the compass to guide through the business: The principles as a compass will guide all levels of the organization to operate more like the human body operates with the cells (employees) and organs (functions) of the organization being able to make a decision in a very organic relationship with its environment, to achieve common goals. Unlike restricted rules fitting in certain time frame or circumstances, principles are general guidelines, intended to be enduring and seldom amended, that inform and support the way in which an organization sets about fulfilling its vision and mission. The well-defined principles unify, not divide, they are like the light to guide you over, not like the hand to push you through. As principles provide a guideline of harmonizing decision-making across a distributed organization. In particular, they are a key element in a successful strategy governance.


The well-defined principles and good policies make good things easy to do, bad things hard to do: Generally speaking, the policy is a set of principles for decision making or guidelines to shape collective mindset, attitude, and drive behaviors. There are some organizations out there that have a plethora of policies and many of them are nothing more than that, just a policy. The good policies are not “shelfware,” but the “shareware,” all parties should benefit from following them, to make the working environment more open and fairer. What do positive policies look like in action? They look like making the right things easy to do by everyone and the wrong things hard to do by everyone because everyone is on the same playing field despite differences in roles/job titles. There is often a difference between what organizations say and what organizations do -the discrepancy between “talk the talk, and walk the walk.” Thus, corporate governance has a responsibility to set the right set of principles for shaping the collective enterprise mindset, attitude, and influence behavior. And the corporate board should also have the high-level intelligence and capability to “talk the walk,” guide the organization in the right direction to run a high mature digital business.

The style of the principle should be brief and recognizable: The digital principle is philosophy, based on your business vision and strategy. Normally the common bond between departments, business units, divisions, and branches are strategic goals and objectives. Principles allow many people across the business functions to individually make their own decisions to run in the same direction to meet the same objectives in a rapid manner. Defining principles are both science and art, hence, the policy makers such as board directors should have abstract thinking skills, multi-dimensional intelligence, interdisciplinary understanding, and creative communication skills to convey the accurate insight via the brief messages. The definition of the principle describes "what" the principle means in the language understood by all stakeholders. The motivation describes "why" the principle is important to achieving the organizational strategy. And the implications describe "how" the principle changes behavior. Principles underpin governance, and governance follows principles. Principles provide a more robust foundation that makes it possible to straightforwardly derive solution-level governance and ensure the effectiveness of the management practices.


Great boards develop the fair set of digital principles, accelerate the business performance, and improve organizational maturity. The standards or specific rule in a specific domain can change without changing the principle. How capable the board can “talk the walk,” directly impacts on how effective the organization can walk the talk. In the end, policy-making not about models and theories, slogans or the business cliche, it’s about people being willing to be held accountable, following the good policy for their own benefit, and make the workplace more productive, innovative and inspiring, to reach the digital vision via achieving the common business objectives or the individual career goals. That is the power of directors and the beauty of the digital transformation.


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