Monday, October 16, 2017

Board Directors as the Digital Provocateur

Board directors as digital provocateurs need to play multiple roles well, as a policymaker, as an innovator, as a business critic or as a change agent.

Digital transformation represents a break from the past, with a high level of impact and complexity. In order to lead today’s hyper-connected digital organizations with the hyper-diverse workforce, board directors should become the digital provocateur to drive changes and set the leadership tone for digital transformation; and the board composition should be synchronized with the digital perspective of the business, to advance its leadership maturity.

Digital mastermind: The corporate board as the advising role is responsible to steer the organization in the right direction and provides an “outside-in” view of the business via multidimensional lenses to oversee and advise business strategy. Under today’s “VUCA” business dynamic, It is challenging, and board directors must gain an in-depth understanding of the organization and its eco-environment in order to become the digital mastermind and a credible actor in the strategic dialogues. The fast-paced changes and overwhelming growth of information bring both significant opportunities for business growth and unprecedented risks businesses have to face. Thus, the board’s strategic oversight and business insight become even more critical. The board directors are the “mastermind” behind the digital transformation. The BoD also needs to gain a deeper understanding of the enterprise in order to be a credible actor in the strategic dialogue. Board directors are policymakers as well, they can co-develop the digital vision and recommend comprehensive digital playbooks with updated digital principles and next practices to guide the business through digital transformation.

Business critics: Digital boards should become more performance driven rather than compliance focus. The board directors as the business critics can provide excellent feedback which gives the top management accurate information to improve; great questions to self-aware; and keen insight to gain an in-depth understanding of the digital ecosystem. Therefore, critical thinking and strategic thinking capability are important for business directors as the business critic, who can provide excellent feedback which gives the top management invaluable advice to improve management effectiveness. The board directors are critical thinkers who can make constructive criticism about business strategies, identify blind spots and pinpoint potential pitfalls. Further, asking good and pertinent questions are critical for governing changes so that the board directors would have to be able to quickly assess any numbers and facts they are given, against applicable benchmarks and detect relevant hints for further questioning or confirmation.

Change leadership: With change as digital new normal, every business leader needs to become the change leader including board directors. Because change management is an interdependent ecosystem that includes many business factors such as, the company goals, policies, internal control requirements, customer experience improvements/customer satisfaction, etc., all should be synchronized without compromising the need for any item. Change cannot be just another thing that needs to be accomplished. It has to be woven into communication, process, and action of the organization. The corporate board sets policies and monitor business change performance. The well-setting policies and procedures for managing changes should help to track key processes, and expenditure of time, money, or energy, and every assignment of resources directly relate back to the "Why," to ensure changes. Board directors as change agents need to gain deep insight into how things work just by analyzing the aggregates, not necessary to dive into all the details.

Board directors as digital provocateurs need to play multiple roles well, as a policymaker, as an innovator, as a business critic or as a change agent. Digital boards are diverse and innovative, because at every level of organizations today, we need the different perspective, the multitude of insights, dynamic knowledge, and alternative ways to solve emergent and old challenging problems. No one will have all answers, the corporate board should practice collective leadership to enforce collaboration and foster innovation.


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