Thursday, July 26, 2018

Is your Board too Backward-looking

Leadership or directorship is about setting directions and inspiring changes.

Digital means the increasing speed of changes, the exponential growth of information, hyperconnectivity, and always-on business dynamic. How successful organizations can handle continuous digital disruptions depends on how capable the board and business management can lead effectively across the ever-changing environment and how fast people can adapt to changes. When change does not meet the shareholders' expectation, the boardroom will feel the pain. The BoDs need to make an objective assessment of their own performance, changeability, and maturity: Is the board too backward-looking, compliance-driven, or internal focus? And how to build the high-performance digital board with a clear vision to drive progressive change effortlessly?

Do not steer your business vehicle by watching the rear mirror only: Most board directors are top seasoned executives with decades of working experience in the industry (industries). They can bring the enriched knowledge to the table, share their success stories and lessons learned, and have a solid grasp on what has been tried before and analyze why some initiatives didn't succeed. The past is in view allows us to recognize possible conflicts that could approach from where we have been. The issue is that the rear mirror only cannot steer the business vehicle moving forward. the board needs to spend more time looking forward. If you focus too long, too much on the past, you will not be prepared to react when potential obstacles enter your path ahead. The board needs to be engaged at the most senior levels to help influence and shape the business of the future. Even for the senior leaders at the board level, the humble attitude is critical to be the guardian of the business. The board of directors needs to continue updating their knowledge and be open-minded to the different viewpoints. Keep their focus in the direction of the destination and only glance at the past necessarily to stay aware of where you have been. There is so much in the world we do not know nor understand and because of that limitation, we need to choose to continue to think, learn, grow and empower people to learn and grow too. The digital BoDs’ challenge is how you move the ‘needle’ forward, and really mind the multitude of digital gaps to accelerate your organization’s digital transformation.

Shape the vision, not just a hindsight: The hindsight from the rear mirror is the tool to make sure we understand where we are, any immediate gaps or dangers that make the forward view unrealistic. But the most important thing is to look ahead and move forward by shaping a clear vision by zooming into the future. The vision thing needs to be the frequent topic in the boardroom, not just the hindsight. The corporate board should play the directorial role confidently by scrutinizing both vision and strategy effectively. More specifically, vision is how to zoom into the future and shape a synthetic view of “looking forward,” and “looking behind,” “looking beyond,” and “looking around.” Visionary leaders see possibilities before others, but they also need to tackle great challenges with grand consequences over long time spans. They need to educate themselves by hearing different views about the organization, its environment & digital ecosystem, strategic alternatives and clarify the business vision on how to move the business forward steadfastly.

See what is behind us, but not at the cost of losing our visibility forward: Forward-looking board can look into an unknown future and attempt to define the landscape with its risks and opportunities. No longer are boards sitting in a room and just voting on various policies for business compliance or chatting about the golden days in their past. There is no question that business performance is the priority for boards. Past performance doesn't assure future success. For the majority of the time, the board agenda should be focused on the performance progress toward the future goals, targets, schedules., etc. Leading forward is extremely difficult nowadays, change is happening at a more rapid pace, see what is behind, but do not lose the focus for moving forward. Effective change leadership at the board level is highly influential and methodical, fail to climb the learning curve can be the big pitfall to lead forward. Digital is the age of innovation, innovation leads to future performance, the further-looking board should envision, participate, and encourage to cultivate the culture of innovation.

Leadership or directorship is about setting directions and inspiring changes; when necessary, break down the old rules, and establish digital principles and landscapes. The forward-looking view of the organization is to determine what the future needs to look like, what the digitalization must look like; and how to expand the lens for capturing the big picture. The digitalization is a long-term journey; to move up the organizational maturity level, businesses from the board level must shift their mentality from backward-looking to forward-thinking; from compliance-driven to performance oriented, and from transactional mode to transformational mode.

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