NEDs – Do we all need to transform ?
There’s a seismic shift going on in companies large and small across the globe. Bricks and mortar are being replaced by pixelated inventory, paper trails become email audits and assets sit in a data centre rather than a warehouse. A ‘digital first ‘ strategy is increasingly centre stage in most boardrooms and the demands to understand the operational, financial and reputational risk associated with change and investment has become critical. So what if you are a seasoned Non-Executive and feeling slight discomfort to mild panic as to the impact and implications of this change? Can I keep up and stay ahead and how do I remain contemporary and able to add value to Boardroom debate and how deep a knowledge do I ned to have? Here are some suggestions:
As a Non-Executive, you will have more time ( providing your portfolio is not too crowded ) to explore, investigate and learn the new world. Look at it as a project – read, research and attend seminars, network events and forums where you gain insight into how companies and investors are thinking. This means outside your sector too – look at real innovative models that will help you challenge your tried and trusted experience.
Ensure you meet and learn from young consumers, employees and professional advisers. Reverse mentoring is now quite common in organisations and for a Non-Executive, you will need to forge some relationships inside your companies but also outside ( and we don’t just mean your children and grandchildren although they can be quite helpful ! ) to really help with understanding the psychology of their business minds.
In-depth induction and continuous development as a Non-Executive is required and so do ask and insist on exploring this at interview – too many companies are still shy of involving new Non-Executive involvement in their businesses. Seek out the new projects/ innovators in the business. Although there are clear lines of governance these days we still need our Non-Executives to fully appreciate the pace and challenge.
‘ How I can value to The Board ‘ is a question all Non-Executives ask. It will however not just be about bringing your Board skills and experience anymore but how your knowledge and insight into how the new business world is shaping where the real value will be. Companies may have a specialised Digital NED on Board but it will be broad-based commercial acumen and perspective and the ability to support the Board as a whole in navigating change and transformation in this exciting but scary digital world.