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How two-tier boards can be more effective

Pieter-Jan Bezemer (based at Queensland University of Technology, School of Accountancy, Brisbane, Australia)
Stefan Peij (based at Inholland University, Lectorate Boards & Governance, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Laura de Kruijs (VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Gregory Maassen (USAID/ACED, Aqaba, Jordan)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 28 January 2014




This study seeks to explore how non-executive directors address governance problems on Dutch two-tier boards. Within this board model, challenges might be particularly difficult to address due to the formal separation of management boards' decision-management from supervisory boards' decision-control roles.


Semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire among non-executive directors provide unique insights into three major challenges in the boardrooms of two-tier boards in The Netherlands.


The study indicates that non-executive directors mainly experience challenges in three areas: the ability to ask management critical questions, information asymmetries between the management and supervisory boards and the management of the relationship between individual executive and non-executive directors. The qualitative in-depth analysis reveals the complexity of the contributing factors to problems in the boardroom and the range of process and social interventions non-executive directors use to address boardroom issues with management and the organization of the board.

Practical implications

While policy makers have been largely occupied with the “right” board composition, the results highlight the importance of adequately addressing operational challenges in the boardroom. The results emphasize the importance of a better understanding of board processes and the need of non-executive directors to carefully manage relationships in and around the boardroom.


Whereas most studies have focussed on regulatory initiatives to improve the functioning of boards (e.g. the independence of the board), this study explores how non-executive directors attempt to enhance the effectiveness of boards on which they serve.



Received 6 February 2013 Revised 7 April 2013 Accepted 14 May 2013


Bezemer, P.-J., Peij, S., de Kruijs, L. and Maassen, G. (2014), "How two-tier boards can be more effective", Corporate Governance, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 15-31.



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