Unawareness in the Boardroom

This is the third in a series of blogs about awareness to highlight Risk Awareness Week running online globally in October that I am presenting at. I’ve covered awareness from a safety perspective and from the perspective of an organisation responding to a sudden major business disruption. This week I am thinking about awareness in the boardroom.

Let’s face it, boardrooms are generally filled with intelligent, well-meaning, considered decision makers. Yet we all know boards don’t get every decision right. Have you considered why? Beyond the obvious which is things like unconscious bias and lack of diversity around the table.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for board members is unawareness. Being unaware of what is truly happening in the organisation. By definition as an oversight body, boards can’t be in the nitty gritty of everyday operations. The problem is that boards are ultimately accountable for what happens on their watch. Regulators can and have acted with gusto. And are more likely to than ever before following the revelations of the financial sector Royal Commission.

The question for board members is how to strike a balance between being strategic mentors and strong overseers. Corporations law offers the reasonable person test, however, that test is always being applied to person with a name like “Harry Hindsight”. And Harry is above average don’t you know. So board members do need to err on the side of overseers or risk plenty.

Here is one tip to follow based on my experience of working with board members. “Walk the shop floor” and talk to staff. The board members I have worked with and have most respect for have done exactly that. They seem to have a better feel for the tempo, the challenges, the beauty of an organisation. And of course they have a better feel of the culture. Just be careful of how much your floor walk may have been choreographed!