Why good boards fail: part 4

Each month, Jan Bladen, takes us through one of the top 10 reasons good boards fail and how to improve your chances of survival



Principle 4: Poor decisions

Board members are responsible for making decisions in the best interest of the organisation, while safeguarding corporate assets and organisational funds. Regular poor decision making is symptomatic of a dysfunctional board. These board characteristics, and recommended actions, include the following:

Wrong size

The chairman should consider altering the board size by either requesting the nominations committee to initiate the selection and appointment processes or taking appropriate steps to retire directors.

Insufficient range of expertise

The chairman should consider requesting the nominations committee to initiate a study of the personal skills, knowledge, and attributes required by the board. When carried out properly, this can easily identify skill gaps on the board and paint the profile of the next board member to join the board.

Inadequate information

The chairman should ask the company secretary and executive to remedy the situation.

Inadequate debates, few overt disagreements or differences of opinion

The chairman should consider encouraging non-executive directors to be more independent, challenging and critical in their behaviour at board meetings. It’s a valued skill set to be able to disagree, without being disagreeable.

Decisions are made by small inner groups outside of the board

The chairman should consider reviewing the statement of reserved powers.

Few reviews to see if the decisions were correct

The chairman should consider initiating a regular review of the board’s  material decisions.

Failure to identify the risks

The chairman should consider initiating a regular review of the organisation’s risk profile.

In all the cases highlighted above, remedying board dysfunction is the chairman’s responsibility, since the chairman has ultimate responsibility for managing all aspects of board meetings.

Source: Corporate Governance Board Leadership “Dysfunctional Boards” | The International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group

Jan Bladen is managing partner of Governance Creed