Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Board of Director as “Problem-Definer”

The point is, framing the right problem is equally or even more important than solving it.

The corporate board is one of the most important leadership pillars in modern businesses. In today's work environment, change is happening at a more rapid pace, no one will have all answers, it is important to both frame the right questions and answers them smoothly. At the board level, directorship effectiveness is based on strategy oversight, performance monitoring, and policy making. Often framing the right problems is critical to building the digital board reputation as the insightful “problem-definer,” and invaluable digital mastermind.

The board’s insightful view to identifying the problem: Boards oversee business strategy and fundamentally, the strategy is about diagnosing business problems, making choices, and taking actions to achieve well-defined goals. Thus, board directors should have sharp eyes to identify problems and unique insight to pinpoint the root causes. Because problem-solving is about seeing a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem, not just the band-aid approach to fixing the symptom. The BoDs as “Problem-Definer” should understand what is exactly wrong, out of balance, stagnation, etc., the exact description of the problem, and how to frame the right problems for solving. Otherwise, fixing the wrong cause of a problem is creating more gaps and lead to even more serious problems later on. Asking good and pertinent questions is critical for governing changes so the directors would have to be able to quickly assess top crucial business issues. To be a good problem-definer, BoDs need to gain deep insight into how things work just by analyzing the aggregates, not necessary to dive into the details. Board Directors need to understand the difference between being a director and the operator of the business. To avoid micromanagement, boards are more as problem-definer than the direct problem-solving because they often delegate the well-defined problems to management for solving them or implementing solutions to tailor varying circumstances.

The board’s outlier view to defining problems: Framing the right question more often needs to step back or get out of the box, in order to look at the problem from the different angle or understand the issues holistically. Thus, corporate boards bring the outlier’s view and often have the multidisciplinary understanding of crucial business problems, mainly at the strategic level. Generally speaking, there are three questions on what is a problem: (a) Is there a deviation from the set expectation? (b) Is the cause unknown? © Do we need to know the cause to take meaningful action? “Fixing business problems" is usually difficult, part of the difficulty is that businesses often try to use decision-making processes to define the problem, and in doing so often fail to really define the problem, the problem then just becomes the output of decision-making processes. Thus, board directors have the privilege to bring the outlier's view for analyzing problems more objectively and dispassionately in order to frame the right problems or brainstorm potential solutions. Directors need to be able to guide senior management team through effective questioning, coaching, advising, defining and making the assessment of the business problems at the strategic level, as well as monitoring the process for business problem-solving accordingly.

The board directors with emotional excellence can become better problem solvers: As leaders, it is vital that you develop and maintain emotional competence skills if you are to be effective for either being a problem-definer or problem-solving, otherwise, more often you are a problem-creator. For those who are trying to define or solve problems, they may find the problems evolving as they try different solutions. Emotional Brilliance comes because of balance, not extremes of any kind.  It is easy for us to observe how other people become emotionally charged and reactive to problems/challenges. At the board level, there are many complex problems need to be handled properly. It takes critical thinking to frame the right problem and empathetic thinking to address the correct need. The need to present emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems management. A digital-ready board has the advantage of pulling enough resources and pushing the business model of technology, trustworthiness, integrating multi-disciplinary methodology to approach problems via multi-facet way technically, scientifically and culturally. Business is not run on emotion, running a high-performance board, not an emotional board is the prerequisite to digitize boardroom and improve board maturity.

Good boards advise and get all those fundamentals right. The point is, framing the right problem is equally or even more important than solving it. In a world of well-defined problems, board directors are required to exercise leadership influence over volatility, manage uncertainty, simplify complexity, resolve ambiguity, and direct the organization to the long-term prosperity.


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