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Directors in action: when governance is tested

By Cate Jolley

Had we been asked in Christmas 2019 whether our organisations could function with the majority of employees working remotely from home, many may have answered differently from what we now know is achievable. The combined efforts of purposeful leadership, skilled senior management and loyal employees (with a rapid uptake of technology), have showcased how business can be done differently. As organisations pivot their strategic planning further to prepare for post COVID-19 business, greater innovation is likely to be seen.

Not as visible is the call to action to boards and their directors during this turbulent crisis period. Widely recognised as the most rigorous challenge of our generation, certainly since the Second World War, the robust governance of the board, united and collective director skills, experience and performance has perhaps never been more tested. Considering most independent directors in Australia are appointed on multiple boards, the exponential impact of the pressure felt by directors during the past two months is undeniable.

Some of the more visible immediate governance impacts that chairs will be considering, alongside ongoing compliance requirements, include:

  • virtual technology and the implications for AGMs
  • expertise in risk management, scenario planning, innovation and strategic communications—and whether short-term committees may be suitable to assist
  • cohesive information management to respond to rapidly evolving and unprecedented legislative changes
  • revised or new polices
  • support of senior management through change management, while clearly retaining separate oversight
  • balancing ‘at hand’ critical organisational issues with long-term objectives.

The value of high-performance governance has never been clearer. Invaluable lessons are being learnt that will identify new and perhaps lacking critical director skills, shape future governance and share insights to aspiring future directors about the significance of the role and responsibilities of a director.

The team at Effective Governance acknowledge and congratulate the enormous efforts and contributions directors, chairs and boards collectively continue to invest in supporting organisations and their employees navigate through this turbulent period and beyond.

We are here to support you.