How should Boards prepare to engage in transformation conversations
Once the right CEO is in place and has taken full accountability for the effort, Boards should focus on getting themselves ready for the transformation journey.
Two topics have a significant impact on the quality of board members’ contributions in transformation conversations: experience with successful transformations and fluency on new technologies and their potential applications.
Experience with successful transformations
For starters, Governance Committees must ensure they have executives in their ranks with experience leading successful transformations (please note that turnarounds are not transformations). If they don’t, they need to actively (and quickly) recruit for that. Transformation is an apprenticeship and thus, while studying will help, it won’t replace real life experiences from accomplished leaders. Ideally, you would want at least one or two board members with extensive transformation expertise to guide the conversations.
Once the Governance Committee secures the necessary expertise, it must start helping the other members get educated on the topic so that they can actively join in the discussions. In conjunction with the perspective and experiences they bring, board members can use this new knowledge to better understand what should be happening at different transformation phases and to help identify additional questions to ask.
A great way to start is by learning about the Continuous Transformation framework I’ve developed to drive successful transformations. Attending transformation workshops specifically designed with board members in mind, as well as reading other relevant articles (you can find more here), is also useful. Boards can leverage these resources to inform their conversations and decide when it is time for a more involved intervention in the transformation effort based on what they see and hear from the CEO and executive team.
Fluency on new technologies and potential applications
Boards also need to become proficient in new technologies and their applications. The fact that some board members have never had to deal with them is no excuse; there is no shortage of primers on the topic, whether that be from reading books, watching videos from amazing experts, or listening to podcasts. As board members start their learning journey, Boards should also consider participating in workshops showcasing new technologies (e.g., IoT, AI, blockchain, etc.) to spark ideas into the art of possible. I recently attended one hosted by the Singularity University and was impressed with the lineup of speakers and the richness of the discussions.
No one knows yet how new technologies will change the way companies operate, and having experienced executives from your Board actively involved in these conversations will be extremely valuable to the CEO and executive team.
Boards can (and should) provide significant value to help steer the transformation journey, but doing so requires adding new members with extensive transformation experience and preparing all board members ahead of the most critical conversations.