Organisations don't have DNA, people do

This is the text of a talk I gave at a workshop that I hosted at the IOD, London on 29 November 2017. A video of the talk is available here:

Yes, this talk is about board effectiveness and, yes, I am a board effectiveness consultant and indeed there is great interest in board effectiveness – just Google it and see.

But over the last 15 years, during which time I have worked with scores of main and operating boards, executive committees and function leadership teams, I have never, but never heard a director or team member express the slightest interest in board effectiveness as their number one priority.

No. Only one common frustration comes up again and again and I wonder if that’s what you’re seeing too, and it’s this:

Why can’t everyone on this board do what I want?

But no one says this out loud because everyone pretends boards are about business needs and not their needs. That’s why management-speak twists adjectives into nouns.

So, rather than saying “we need everyone on our board to be effective directors” we use distancing language and speak of “board effectiveness” as if it were a subject to be studied and not behaviour to be embraced.

This denial of reality means that many if not most boards are crucibles of frustration, hotbeds of conflict and what could be achieved, doesn’t get achieved.

But what if your board acknowledged reality, said the unsayable and acted accordingly? What if there were a process to so this, safely?

And have you considered the cost of everyone around the board table pretending to care about “the business” as if it were in another room and not about themselves who are in the room?

The cost of this systemic duplicity is huge because we know that although directors talk about acting in the interests of “the business” they act, once they leave the room, consciously or not in their own interests.

But since these personal needs are rarely expressed or acknowledged it means that all the energy of the board that could be focused on a shared purpose, isn’t.

And that must mean that the business is not only wasting a lot of money it is also losing out on opportunities.

Every director understands the principle of opportunity costs to the business as an entity but do they realise that they, personally, are often responsible for the business missing out on exciting and worthwhile opportunities because th