This article summarizes findings relating to the conduct of directors and boards from a continuing investigation into why some companies are so much more effective than others at key activities such as business development, building relationships and creating and exploiting know‐how.
The research program ranks companies in terms of the outcomes they achieve in the areas examined and compares the most and least effective to isolate critical success factors and distinguish between successful/winning and unsuccessful/losing approaches.
The findings of the investigation suggest the performance of many companies depends primarily upon what their boards actually do and how their members behave rather than formal governance considerations such as a board's committee structure.
Effective boards adopt particular approaches and can behave very differently from their less successful peers, for example when communicating with various groups of stakeholders. Many boards would make a more significant contribution to the growth and development of their companies if they understood and adopted the approaches of more effective boards. A key element of good corporate governance is to achieve an appropriate balance between a number of critical factors, for example performance today and the capability to compete and win in the future.
In comparison with what could be achieved if more “winning approaches” were adopted many boards are failing to deliver and could do much better. Many appear to be rubber‐stamping rather than shaping things to come, picking over the past rather than creating the future.
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