Member David Earp Speaks: Convene the Board to Consolidate Strategy and Introduce New Members

The Challenge:

The case at hand was brought by a CEO who had recently recruited a first-rate, new board member and was seeking insight for a successful integration.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

Board meetings typically come with a pressure-cooked agenda in which the board has to discuss critical issues. It is important to ensure that a new board member has the opportunity to get a full understanding of the company’s situation (technology, finances, competitive landscape etc.), capabilities and strategic priorities. I have found that arranging a more informal, in-person strategy review meeting to include a generalized discussion around high-level corporate direction can be really helpful for the incoming board member; it also can be tremendously valuable for management and current board members to have the space to step back and take a look at the company with a perspective somewhat different than a typical board meeting. With reduced time pressure (a half day or even a day-long meeting is ideal) the board and management can get to know each other more easily and cultivate thinking around opportunities and strategy. When new board members are given a generalized perspective on current goals and issues within the company, I find they are better equipped to provide constructive suggestions for more specific matters in future board meetings.

In one board situation where I was the in-coming new board member, it was apparent that the board did not have a unified vision for the company, putting the CEO in a challenging position. As part of my introduction to the company, an all-day strategy meeting was held, with the broader management team joining the first half of the meeting to present an overview of the company’s activities, and after that the board discussed strategic direction with a relatively unstructured agenda. It turned out to be very productive, and the strategic review became an annual event. As that board has developed over the years, with some members stepping off and new members coming in, this approach has served as a terrific way to help new board members get up to speed, build strong relationships within the board and the company, and it has allowed for broad input, discussion and alignment around the company’s strategic direction.