LFP195 – How The Changing World (esp. Tech) Is Changing The Nature of Boards w/Patrick Dunne, Four-Time Board Author

In this show Patrick Dunne joins us to discuss how Boards changed in the 80s/90s/00s as a prelude to the significant shifts in Boards happening, and needing to happen, today. As the world changes massively and as tech changes only-ever accelerate how does this change what Boards are required to do, how they do it and what kind of people you now need on Boards.

Patrick has written four books on aspects of the Board over the past 30years and in 2021 the second edition of his magnum opus (426pp): “Boards: A Practical Perspective” (Amazon.co.uk link) was released. His principal executive career was 26yrs at 3i starting in 1985 and rising to the operating committee

Patrick Chairs board consultancy Boardelta and the charities EY Foundation and ESSA – Education Sub Saharan Africa. He is a Trustee of the Chartered Management Institute, a Visiting Professor at Cranfield and the Founder of Warwick in Africa.

Topics discussed on the show include:

  • a unique intro topic: “hanging out with murders and rapists in a prison”
  • education around conflict-avoidance (a great training for Chairing Boards :-D)
  • the importance of the mellowing of age when it comes to Boards – the move from thinking one knows it all to knowing one actually knows very little and hence listening more
  • Patrick’s career
  • being on the 2002 Higgs review of Boards
  • training Boards
  • creating ESSA – Education In Sub-Saharan Africa as well as consultancy Board Delta
  • why Patrick wrote four books on Boards..
  • “we are moving from a maps world to a satnav world when it comes to decision-making on Boards” … ie less ritualistic, big annual set piece, nearer-time, more engaged with data
  • digital changes driving this [Patrick’s article in re on LinkedIn]
  • “are Boards as data-savvy as they should be?” – interview process around Boards never includes one’s ability around data yet the information age is all about data
  • running “data-savvy workshops” [Patrick’s article on data savvy Boards]
  • the 1980s pre-codification Board – many more Chair/CEOs combined, NEDs put in much less time, much less data at meetings, lower level of expectations and accountability then compared to now, lack of such stark media attention
  • compare length of FTSE Annual Report and Accounts now to then
  • 1990s introduced a much greater focus on remuneration as a result of privatisations leading to increased public focus on executive remuneration, a greater focus on internationalisation and practices elsewhere
  • “the main purpose of the modern Board is strategy, the right resources and governance; it’s not just governance”
  • “…it is also to provide a balance of oversight and support”
  • example of Private Equity world in focusing on the Board’s need to add-value rather than just “do governance”
  • 2000s – the explosion of technology and the internet affecting all businesses
  • this changed not just the ways the Board operates but the skills the Board members needed to have
  • are modern Boards appropriately staffed given the huge change in business climate caused by Tech?
  • the rise of Next Gen Boards – example of the EY foundation
  • many serious players now have next-gen Boards
  • the Goldilocks zone of the Venn diagram overlap between Executives Role and Boards role – not too much, not too little – handling this
  • how this applies to tech
  • the nucleus Board
  • how the philosophy of the Board relates to the philosophy of the Company – underlying issues not entirely thought through and evident in tugs in different directions
  • particular challenges in FS in getting real diversity of thought if regulators insist they all come from a similar background
  • practical key advice to a new founder
    1. have a high degree of self-awareness about what you have in the exec-team and what you might be missing at this moment
    2. think in phases – eg what will you need from Board in this phase, maybe a year or a bit longer and build so you can build upon it
    3. the key thing get a really good Chairman as quickly as you can
  • how to seduce a good Chairman
  • Chairmen who like and who dislike mentoring new founders as well as Chairing a Board
  • flag-waving for ESSA – challenges with education in SSAfrica

And much much more 🙂

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