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7.5 Creating a Strategy-Focused Board

Fostering a strategic mind-set on the board is difficult and takes time. It requires rethinking its composition, how it approaches its responsibilities, and the way it interacts with management to help develop a strategic vision, although that must originate with the CEO. Progressive CEOs, for their part, must be able to articulate a clear strategy and have the personal confidence to build board teams that include experts who may be far more skilled in certain industry and operational areas than the CEOs themselves are.This section is based on Nadler (2004)., Carey and Patsalos-Fox (2006).

Rather than immediately seeking a deeper involvement in the strategy development process, it may be useful to ask boards to first seek a more effective balance between short- and long-term considerations in their oversight. As part of first step, they should identify and agree on a core set of metrics reflecting a balance that is tailored to the specifics of a company’s industry, maturity, culture, and current situation. In turn, management should be asked to draw up a set of long-term strategy options that the board can test and challenge. Management then can develop a detailed plan for the board’s final approval.

Ideally, this process unfolds over several board meetings and allows board members to probe specific strategic issues—does the company really have the ability to execute in a particular area, for example, and has it analyzed different options to enter the markets it wants to compete in? Finally, the board can play an important role in monitoring the progress of the plan and any changes in risk it involves. While the board can be selective in its focus on details, management must deal with all aspects of the strategic plan. Once accepted, the strategy can be expected to evolve over time, and therefore will require an ongoing dialogue between the board and management.