Sunday, June 5, 2016

Digitize Boardroom: A Professional Board

"Thinking professionally" is the first step in building a high-performance digital board.

The corporate board plays an important role in strategy advising, governance oversight, leadership exemplifying, culture tune setting, talent management influencing. The contemporary board also moves from the industrial mode to digital mode: from emotional to effective, from monitoring to participating; from controlling to information savvy. More specifically, how to run a professional board?

Professional Thinking: Corporate board spends significant time in making strategic decisions and crafting policies. Therefore, the board professionalism is fundamentally based on how BoDs think before how they act. Do they have decision-making wisdom based on synthesizing thought processes to make sound judgments? Are they critical enough to diagnose the problems, and find strategy defects or potential business risks? Are they creative enough to bring alternative solutions to the table? Can they avoid “Group Thinking” syndrome? Group thinking is often caused by the homogeneous team setting: From the industry study, group polarization means that a group of people can make a more extreme decision than an individual. There is good and bad judgment. Every board decision is particular to the objectives, circumstances and - as seems in this case - board dynamics. Applying deep insight and rubber stamping are such counter-propositions. A professional board should embrace cognitive differences and complementary capability & expertise, not just see diversity through the lens of conventional wisdom, in order to set good policies and make effective decisions. All of these require thinking, requiring asking questions - the most powerful tool of a Director is the capacity to frame and ask good questions. The BoD’s mindfulness is based on vision, insight, and multidimensional intelligence.

Professional knowledge: With the abundance of information and shortened knowledge cycle, having subject-matter experts with updated knowledge in each domain dramatically increases the board’s effectiveness, learning agility and high professionalism. A professional board as a top leadership team can set a clear digital tone by providing in-depth knowledge, diversity of thought regarding culture, economics, geopolitics, competition, technology, demographics, innovation, and environmental perspectives. Digital BoDs must become information-savvy, they must have a clear vision of what they need to know, how the information provided pertains to the strategic plan, and what they are going to do with that information. The digital Board is responsible for ensuring an appropriate mix of skills, knowledge, and experience are present or available for it to fulfill its functions, and Boards should proactively look for people who have cognitive difference or unique strength as part of the mix of Board skills, for business growth and embrace business trends such as digitalization and globalization.

Professional processes and methodologies to practice board duties: The main point of the digitizing boardroom is all about innovating the digital culture, leveraging the latest technology and tools, fine-tuning the optimized processes to build a high-performance digital board. If a Board is to fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities to its stakeholders, it needs to take a professional and systematic approach for assessing strategy, prioritizing agendas, advising strategy, overseeing risks and keeping track of business performance via efficient technological tools. BoDs might not always participate in developing business strategy, but the Board needs to determine suitability, adequacy, viability, sustainability of the organization, etc in advance.

A professional board is not only about filling with cool-headed, high-professional and high-intelligent BoDs, but also about tuning the structured and intelligent processes to digitize boardroom in a radical way via optimizing its decision-making capacity, inspiring a culture of innovation, and improving its overall effectiveness, agility, and maturity.


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