(Western Mail (Wales) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A variety of views add value to a board ; A new networking group, the Non-Executive Director Forum, launches in Cardiff tomorrow. Guest speaker at the event is Mel Wombwell, head of leadership and culture at business advisory specialists Grant Thornton, who says choosing the right non-executive director can give any business a new appetite for growth
AS A non-executive director I know that you can pick up a lot of clues about the organisations you are working with as soon as you enter their building.
Are there businesses you visit where your heart sinks as soon as you cross the threshold? In some companies you can hear whether there is a buzz about them, or not. People chat to each other in the lift or corridors, or not. You quickly build up a picture just from what you see, hear and sense, sometimes even before you have met the board members.
Before exploring what the board of a high-growth company looks like, let's see what's going on with companies in decline, and those experiencing modest growth. The differences are clear. Two researchers, Jackson and Tosti, have spent time researching and understanding what high-growth businesses have in common. They discovered that there are typically three types of business: Declining organisations that are so busy firefighting that they make no time for strategic planning, or thinking about their future; Companies achieving modest growth that consistently make time to do some strategic planning, even when things are really busy; High- growth companies that supplement the logical planning with creative behaviours.
High-growth organisations took the time to formulate a strategic plan, just like those in the second category, but their measures were not just fiscal, they were clarified using a balanced scorecard approach.
They would then ask: If this is our plan and these are our timescales, what are we going to absolutely need to value in our people and how are we going to need to behave in order to achieve the plan in the outline timescales? Boards set the focus, direction and tone of an organisation. To ensure that an organisation places equal emphasis on all of the above areas, the boards of high-growth businesses need to stay obsessively focused on debating, researching and finding exciting answers to the following questions: What is our vision for the future? A stretching, clear and compelling big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG) that serves as a unifying focal point for the business, with challenging timescales.
What is our purpose? Why do we exist and what problems do we solve for our customers? What strategies do we need to put in place to achieve our BHAG in the timescales we have set? What will we need to value in our people to achieve these strategies and our BHAG? How are we and our people going to need to consistently behave to ensure we have the culture to attract, develop and retain the people we need to guarantee our vision and goals are achieved? What are we going to need to measure with regard to our people, clients, new business won and operational effectiveness to drive the above agenda and ensure all aspects are operating in harmony? Most boards get distracted by operational, tactical and compliance issues rather than focussing on the areas outlined above. In order for a board to have the appetite and capability to really find great answers to the above questions, it needs to attract non-executive directors from diverse backgrounds with different views on how success can be achieved. In fact, the more diverse the views are, the better the answers will be.
So search for people from different backgrounds, with different views on life, young and old, male and female, and from all around the world.
People who are confident and passionate, who "feel" as well as think, who care about the culture and style of doing business as much as the planning and activity that is done. Then you will have the kind of board that the companies of the future need.
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