Exiting lockdown with a stronger board

With important ethical dilemmas needing to be resolved in the coming days and weeks, determining the best way to ease the lockdown will require boards to strengthen their ability to make good decisions and think about whether they just want to go back to doing things how they did before or proactively use the disruption to transform the business.

If you’d told most companies before the crisis that they had to get everyone working from home by the end of the following week, the reaction would be that it wasn’t possible. Yet it has been achieved.

Although uncertainty relating to the future can result in fear, it can also generate optimism. We are now at a point where businesses are being given the freedom to reinvent themselves and think creatively about the future. Astute executive teams will use this as an opportunity to tackle existing problems and do things differently and better - from allowing workers much more flexibility and tackling inefficient supply chains, to setting more ambitious environmental targets and increasing diversity on the board.

In many cases, existing problems have also been brought to the fore by the crisis. Perhaps decisions that should have been made before weren’t made, the thinking isn’t agile enough, or the right people, and maybe even the right CEO, isn’t in place.

Although it would be easy to use the crisis as an excuse to continue in that situation, smart boards are addressing problems head-on and even looking for the opportunities the crisis presents for the board and organisation it represents to emerge even stronger.

Easing lockdown to create a better ‘normal’ will inevitably give rise to tensions as entrepreneurial-minded directors strive to get on with taking action, while those who are more risk-averse find themselves inclined to hold back for more information to base decisions on.

Critical to managing these tensions is encouraging directors to consider and commit to collective values that allow them to operate effectively as a unitary board, and increasing the tempo of decision-making, without compromising processes for considering risk and testing assumptions.

It also requires ensuring the right people are doing the right roles and that everyone has a clear and shared understanding of those roles. These are important elements of good corporate governance at the best of times, but particularly important for exiting the crisis in a stronger position.

For more information on using the six elements of corporate governance to exit coronavirus, you can download Bvalco’s special guide to exiting coronavirus with a stronger board.

Alison Gill is a business psychologist and CEO of Bvalco, a board review consultancy

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