For many years on boards, my use of the admonition to never let a good crisis go to waste was often met with understanding, acknowledgement, enthusiasm … and then reluctance.
Change is hard. People are slow to change if they don’t see a burning platform. Boards did not really understand why we did things a certain way because we had always done them that way.
Besides, it worked … until it didn’t.
I only recently discovered that the phrase Never let a good crisis go to waste originated with Winston Churchill. He was a great wartime leader, but his track record in peacetime was less successful.
The same thing could apply to some of today’s boards and CEOs – those without the agility, responsiveness, and vision to re-imagine the future as we plan to emerge, at some point, from these uncertain times.
The other day, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo posed an interesting question during his daily briefing. He asked,
“Why do we say we’re going to re-open? Instead, why not reimagine how we do things? Use and plan for change that normally we could never do without this situation.”
How ready is your board to have that kind of conversation – one that requires foresight and imagination? If not now, when?
I see some things emerging:
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns said it best,
“We don’t want to go back to normal. We want to be better than we were.”
It’s important for leaders to appreciate that each board director has their own lens through which they view the world, and their own careers and life experiences that influence their opinions and recommendations. This diversity provides great value to the board and to the organization. Still, have some empathy for the Board Chair who must channel these diverse views and keep everyone aligned with the organization’s core purpose.
And by the way, is that core purpose still intact?
Savvy directors are curious about what the future could look like if the organization aspires to be better than before. But reimagining the future is not indulging in fantasy. It also requires thinking about the art of what’s possible.
And so, savvy directors articulate their views within a process that brings everybody along in the discussion. They ensure both the Board Chair and CEO are fully engaged in the process. They work hard to ensure the emerging consensus supports a clear burning platform for change.
To build a foundation for these discussions about a willed future, savvy directors focus on four key areas: people, finance, strategy and risk. I refer to these collectively as The Savvy Director’s Focus.
Here are some key questions that savvy directors might ask within these four focus areas:
Building this foundation allows our boards to get to the fundamental question: “How would we reimagine this organization if we were starting it now?”
Here are some recent links you may find helpful:
Leave a comment below to get in on the conversation.
Scott Baldwin is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of DirectorPrep.com – an online hub with hundreds of guideline questions and resources to help prepare for your next board meeting.
Share Your Insight: In your view, what considerations should be included when reimagining the future of your organization post-pandemic?