Create and believe in the future – INSEAD Professor Nathan Furr

By Liselotte Engstam, IDP-C, NED and Chair, Communication, IDN Board

Now more than ever, leaders and boards need to take charge and help create a new and better future.

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity not a threat“ –  Steve Jobs

We were fortunate to discuss leaders & boards roles for corporate renewal with INSEAD Professor Nathan Furr, even prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the following pandemic crisis.  What truly strikes you when you listen to the podcast is how well he described the needed actions and leadership treats, that is in even more demand now, that will bring companies into a better future.

Transformation may be one of the hardest things leaders are called to do. By transformation, we mean seeing the possible, valuable futures for your organization and then successfully overcome the barriers to create that future” explains Professor Nathan Furr

You find the interview in podcast form with Professor Nathan Furr  here.

Nathan outlined an excellent and relevant process for leaders and board members to follow to ensure they lead the way, which is fully relevant for most companies going forward from the current crisis and the pandemic. The process entails:

  • Envisioning the future
  • Break the bottlenecks
  • Navigating the unknown

Envisioning the future

To envision the future, leaders and boards need to break out of the ordinary and IMAGINE what is possible. Take the time (fence the time for the board and leaders), ensure INSIGHTS (bring forward insights about the trends from technology, political, geographical and demographical changes) and ensure IMAGINATION (help the organization to explore a valuable future for both the organization and its’ stakeholders).

This need to be closely followed by creating a way to BELIEVE in the future (create narratives on how the future will look, and find ways to tell it in an engaging way). There are many ways and tools to do this, some are described in Nathan Furr’s book Leading Transformation, (Harvard Business School Press, 2018), based on years of research and client engagements, with some examples shared in the podcast episode including such novel ways as working with Science Fiction!

Nathan also points out that the process is as relevant for individuals as for organizations.

A great question posed by Nathan to consider is

What stories motivate you to take action?”

Break the bottlenecks

Breaking the bottlenecks is both an internal and an external process. In many ways it is closely related to culture and the way that processes have been fermented in organizations with little flexibility to change even when needed.

Consider revisiting decisions maps both formal and informal, but also look into the language and adapt closely to your company (“Are you an engineering company or a design company?). How have you aligned incentives, or even better, taken care and protected your change agents?

Navigating the unknown

Navigating the unknown is about prototyping the future. You need to construct as best you can an artifact trail from the future and backwards, and try to map them out in as tangible actionable steps as possible. You also need metrics, so you know what outcome you are trying to get, and measure the progress. And to ensure that you have bias for action, and start acting today. Get going and make sure you allow for experimentation, as not all insights and solutions will be there from the beginning.

Keep your eyes on

Professor Nathan Furr believes there are many organizations to get inspired by.

He points out Amazon as one example, for the reason that innovation is about, people, process and philosophy, and that Amazon have ´managed to implement both impressive culture as well as governance structure to make innovation happen. This means that they are not dependent on individual top leaders for either facilitating new ideas, nor for evaluating the ideas.

Nathan also points to Pepsi, which through their purpose and sustainability focus has managed to start their shift to healthy foods.

Roles of boards and leaders

We discussed specifically the roles of board members and leaders. Nathan’s view is that the role of boards and leaders are very important, as they need to give the guidance and help the organizations to see further, get outside of their short term mindset and operational issues.

Nathan believes boards and leaders need to help push the organization by asking:

What else is possible? Where else can we go?”

Boards and leaders need to know that there are new toolkits for innovation, to innovate in a digital world is different, and that you can get more innovation with higher throughput of valuable ideas to a lower cost.

Advice to Board Members and Leaders

Nathan believes all leaders need to be a bit more of a Chief Experimenter. To help create the environment in the organization where you can discover and nurture new opportunities. And to do the same for yourself.

Where in your own environment can you discover and test new insights?”

Learn more

Read the books published by Professor Nathan Furr:

Innovation Capital (Harvard Business Review Press, 2019),

Leading Transformation, (Harvard Business School Press, 2018),

The Innovator’s Method (Harvard Business School Press, 2014) and

Nail It then Scale It: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation (NISI Institute, 2011).

 

You can also read related articles authored by Professor Furr

Growing resilience in uncertain times (INSEAD Knowledge 06/20)

Looking to boost innovation – partner with a startup (HBR 05/20)

Innovation Capital the secret ingredient behind the worlds most innovative leaders (Forbes 09/18)

 

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre Executive Director Sonia Tatar shares insights on Corporate Governance Paradigm Shift.

This blog was originally posted here

The Evolution of Trust in the Era of Stakeholder Capitalism

By Beatriz Pessoa de Araujo and Julia Hayhoe

Enduring and sustainable corporate success hinges on trust. But trust is hard won and easily lost. This series of articles will explore the evolving “Trust Continuum” and how organizations can meet new expectations in the era of stakeholder capitalism [1]—not only of their shareholders and investors but all stakeholders—and build long-term trust based on purposeful, transparent and consistent actions and interactions.

We will examine global governance and the rule of law, the changing face of leadership, ethical technology and more in this series—uncovering the strategies that will enable corporations to become and remain trusted organizations. The purpose of business in society has not changed—the creation of wealth and job opportunities and making things or providing services people need. What is changing is the “how”.

In this post, we explore the evolution of trust in the seven years since Baker McKenzie’s last report on the state of trust in business. We find that efforts to build trust have continued, but the challenge today is greater and more complex as companies try to respond to the new demands of a complex ecosystem of customers, employees, shareholders, regulators and society at large, as well as externalities such as climate change and the ever changing political landscape.

In an environment where activism comes from all stakeholders, each with high expectations from boards and leadership, not only is trust a timeless concept, it is a continuum—where constant adaptation is a must for a corporation to build and retain its trust coefficient.

In Brief Way Forward
Trust will determine long-term sustainable commercial success. There are established links between trust, business performance and customer and employee loyalty. If trust is not already on your board agenda, ensure that it is now.
We are operating in the era of stakeholder capitalism in which society demands more from corporations and awards valuable trust based on actions and promises met. Whether your corporation is appropriately balancing the needs for a broader set of its stakeholders will determine the strength of its license to operate. Understanding your stakeholder ecosystem and meeting their expectations is critical.
Acting in accordance with business values and reporting transparently on performance underpins trust. Values are not a static set of promises. Ensuring they are aligned to organizational purpose, integrated into decision-making, reflected in compatible actions and that performance is transparently reported are the most effective ways for corporations to build trust.
Corporations need new strategies and systems to embed values, measure and report on matters of trust. Leaders need to look beyond the balance sheet and demonstrate a good governance framework, effective decision-making in the boardroom and across the organization and progress in their stakeholder engagement and action.

Why trust will determine success

Trust matters today more than ever before. In the era of fake news, online animus and political polarization, trust is the lens through which people make decisions about what they believe in and value. Research has also proven the connection between trust and commercial success—the most trusted organizations experience better financial performance [2] and build particularly loyal customer bases [3] and workforces. [4] Trust is currency—valuable, measurable and actionable.

In this environment, society is demanding more from corporations, leaders and investors on critical issues such as the climate emergency and rising global inequality, and its members award their trust based on whether companies are “doing the right” thing at this critical moment. This is the new contract of trust with business—its license to operate—and has given rise to the notion of stakeholder capitalism, in which organizational purpose balances the interests of customers, employees and communities with those of investors and shareholders. As people are using their voices, capital and the law to advocate for more ethical and inclusive business practices, they are pushing corporations to be more transparent as to how they honor their commitments. We have clearly moved from an era of words to one in which supporting actions are essential.

From implementing environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes and bringing clean energy to communities in need, [5] to creating inclusive workplaces and helping people to overcome barriers to economic opportunity, [6] corporations are seeking to deliver for a broader set of stakeholders. Similarly, the world’s largest corporations have rallied around a shared responsibility to people and planet as well as profit in the Davos manifesto and Business Round Table. [7] At the same time, guidance is shifting to legislation on issues including sustainability, pay, diversity and climate risk and opportunity reporting, as can be seen for example in the form of a “Green New Deal”. Yet indicators show that trust in business remains elusive. [8]

Turning values into trust

Business decisions and actions are increasingly visible through reporting obligations and via social media, making it easy to be called out for inconsistency and thereby eroding valuable trust. Society now demands that corporations play a positive leading role in addressing critical issues. The significant task for businesses in the coming decades will be to employ new strategies to embed values, measure and report on matters of trust. With trust and a strong supporting corporate culture, businesses can better balance the demands of all relevant stakeholders, including shareholders and investors.

An essential step for demonstrating consistency and transparency will be developing robust internal and external “logic”—a way of demonstrating how decisions are taken and clear lines of responsibility that aligns governance, employees, customers, technology and regulation. This is where corporate values become cultural and systematic norms—where consistent action and transparent reporting will be key to retaining and building trust. Leaders will need to look beyond the balance sheet to measure and demonstrate how they are progressing in their stakeholder engagement and action. This means deciding how to measure, collect and understand key nonfinancial data. Values-driven assets can include corporate culture, D&I measures, executive pay, and environment, social and governance (ESG) indicators. These and others are all potentially valuable assets that should be considered for inclusion in corporate reporting. Encouraging statements have also been issued by investors, indicating that these items will also be valued by them when they consider which companies to invest in and exit.

The way corporations are currently structured and organized can make this difficult to achieve. Ensuring corporate purpose, values and standards are integrated across large multi-national workforces, complex supply chains, vast networks of subsidiaries and outsourced interests—and that these are reflected in compatible actions, interactions and decisions—is perhaps the greatest challenge businesses face in relation to trust. While accomplishing this may create legal and reputational vulnerability for corporations, today’s radically transparent and rapid social media world mean that simply complying is not enough—how compliance is achieved is equally important. With aligned and effective governance, leadership, employee engagement and ethical sourcing alongside “green” investment decisions and responsible tax policy, business purpose will become an applied enterprise, not a static set of promises.

What’s next for trust?

Trust is no longer static or singular and there remain real challenges and practical considerations to retaining and building trust. Among the important questions we will explore in this series are:

How can non-listed companies build a higher governance standard for themselves to support values-driven action—in the absence of the strict frameworks that govern listed organizations?

As workforces, processes and interactions are increasingly augmented by technology, can they assure its ethical code? What is the changing face of leadership needed for the future success of the corporation?

Do incentives align with expected behaviors?

How can businesses effectively assess what if any risks and opportunities climate change brings for their organization?

As organizations balance shifts in globalization and protectionist trends with the rise of stakeholder capitalism, how can they establish practical global corporate governance frameworks which allow them to become more responsible and at the same time more nimble and efficient?

The organizations that survive and thrive sustainably in the long-term will be those that tackle these complex questions head on and seek to understand and operationalize trust: The Trust Continuum.

The financial imperative to do so is clear—trust translates into long term sustainable financial performance. But the societal imperative is also strong—companies’ license to operate is contingent on securing the trust of all their stakeholders, both internal and external.

Beatriz Pessoa de Araujo IDP-C is a partner and Julia Hayhoe is Chief Strategy Officer at Baker McKenzie. This post is based on their Baker McKenzie memorandum which can be found here, and has also been published by The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

Endnotes

1 Davos Manifesto, 2020 (go back)

2 Harvard Business Review, 2016 (go back)

3 Edelman Trust Barometer, 2019 (go back)

4 Edelman Trust Barometer, 2019 (go back)

5 Ikea Foundation, 2018 (go back)

6 LinkedIn, 2019 (go back)

7 World Economic Forum, 2020 (go back)

8 Edelman Trust Barometer, 2019 (go back)

Board Governance during a Crisis

By Joergen Jakobsen IDP-C

When a company is facing a crisis the board leadership is put to the test. The actions of the board can be critical for how successful a company will emerge from a crisis – or if they will be able to emerge at all. Writing this blog during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic this is more evident than ever. In this blog I will examine the top 3 priorities a board need to focus on during times of crisis.

Framing of the crisis and its phases appropriately

As a company finds themselves in a crisis having a material impact on the company the risk of losing sight of appropriate governance is real for many companies. When facing a crisis, it is helpful for the board to break down the crisis into 3 key phases in order to frame the crisis with different time horizons allowing for appropriate options to be considered in the various phases. These 3 phases are:

1. The crisis phase

During this phase the frame is typically short term and relative narrow in scope.  The key consideration is about how to protect the company, the people and its key assets. It is about damage control, prevention of major harm to the company and its stakeholders – and maybe even about the survival of the company. This is often talked about as the Business Contingency Plan for the company.

2. The recovery phase

In this phase the frame becomes wider and more mid-term in. The focus turns to how the company will emerge from the crisis. In this phase a range of tactical options will typically be evaluated in the context of how the underlying market environment starts to improve. This is often talked about as the Recovery Plan for the company.

3. The New Normal

It is important to think about the post-crisis environment as a different market environment compared to the pre-crisis environment. The market conditions and the customer requirements might have changed. The competitive landscape might have changed. The stakeholder expectations might have changed. Thus, the frame required to plan for the New Normal must be wider and a new Strategic Plan is required for the company.

Although it is helpful to think about the 3 phases as different in frame and scope it is important for boards to have an overall view of the planning and decision framework required to bring the company from the crisis situation into the New Normal given the decisions made in prior phases can impact optionality of future phases.

Focus on what matters most during the 3 phases of the crisis

The objective of the board is to govern the company by setting the frame for the future of the company within which the CEO and the executive team will define and execute the strategy under the review and approval of the board. The role of the board is to preserve and enhance the value of the company as seen by both shareholders and other stakeholders while minimizing the risk. In this light let us evaluate the key governance priorities of the board pertaining to the 3 phases:

1. The board’s key focus during the crisis phase

The key priority in this phase relates to value preservation and risk mitigation to minimize the impact of the crisis on the company. Thus, the key areas of focus relate to organizational and financial resilience:

  1. Establish scenario planning to determine the worst-case scenario of the crisis. Establish a Business Contingency Plan to ensure the company can withstand the worst-case.
  2. Review organizational resilience and experience in handling a business crisis at the anticipated level. This includes review of the experience of the executive team and the board and if required involve external resources to address deficiencies. It also includes review of the company’s work processes to effectively handle the nature of the crisis.
  3. Review the financial resilience required to handle the crisis. Assess capital requirements related to the worst-case scenario and if required increase the company’s liquidity.
  4. Review the potential crisis impact to strategic customers and partners and determine how to mitigate this risk.
  5. Increase communication frequency to the employees and key stakeholders to ensure their understanding and buy-in for decisions made.

During the depth of the crisis the board often brings a key value in being less consumed in the day-to-day operational challenges than the executive team. They often bring perspectives and experience from how other companies and other industries handle the crisis which can prove valuable. Also, during this phase the board should increase their meeting frequency to ensure decisions are made in a timely manner.

2. The board’s key focus during the recovery phase

Pending the context of the crisis this phase might have a high degree of uncertainty as timing and nature of the recovery might be difficult to predict. Thus, it is important to stay agile and adjust the recovery plan as required. The key priorities by the board would be:

  1. Evaluate the probable scenarios and strategic business recovery options provided by the executive team against the company’s ability to execute. Challenge the board to ensure various scenarios and recovery options are presented before deciding on the best plan forward.
  2. Review the compensation plans to ensure it is aligned to the new business realities striking the optimal balance between motivation of the organization and the reduced business level.
  3. Ensure the executive team defines and reviews changes required to align the organization and the operational business processes required for the business recovery plan.
  4. Review and update the financial plan and ensure adequate capital is available and allocated to make the plan successful.
  5. Communicate the business recovery plan to the organization as well as key stakeholders to ensure their support and understanding of their role to execute the plan.

3. The board’s priorities preparing for the New Normal

As the company emerges from the crisis it will be facing a New Normal. Customer behaviors and expectation might have changed from the impact of the crisis. Competition might have changed and potentially consolidated. Business processes and associated technologies might have evolved during the crisis. In addition, stakeholder expectations or legal requirements might have changed. In short, the New Normal phase might look very different from the business environment experienced prior to the crisis.

With the above in mind the board should undertake the following activities to ensure the company is well positioned for the New Normal:

  1. The board should review and if required update the overall frame and vision of the company.
  2. Request the CEO and the executive team to develop strategy options aligned to the updated frame and vision for the company and aligned to the New Normal as well as the internal capabilities of the company. The board should review and approve the new strategic plan and its KPIs and empower the executive team to execute the strategic plan.
  3. Evaluate the profile of the CEO and the execution team in order to ensure the leadership has the adequate experience to carry out the new strategy of the company.
  4. Update the risk assessment framework of the company and define risk mitigation actions as required to ensure the risk of the company is managed at the adequate level. Ensure learning and experiences from the crisis are captured.
  5. Communicate the updated strategy to the organization and key stakeholders to ensure support and alignment to the new plan.
  6. Revert to a normal cadence and format for board meetings to manage the overall governance to the company and support of the CEO and the executive team.

Having appropriate board governance processes in place

In summary, it is critical for the board to adapt and contextualize their governance practice during a crisis situation. However, the fundamentals of good board governance continue to be critically important and should be in place before a crisis develops. Good board governance includes aspects like having a diverse and active board, understanding of the roles between the board and the executive leadership team, and having in place a strong board culture and processes to optimize the effectiveness of the board – which will be put to the test during a period of crisis.

First published on LinkedIn on 25 May 2020.

Joergen Jakobsen, IDP-C is a board member, business advisor and consultant leveraging more than 30 years of experience from multiple large global technology vendors. His consulting practice is mainly focused on board advisory, business performance management, leverage of partner eco-systems for profitable growth, and optimizing organizational and individual performance in a culturally diverse environment.

Talent on the Board Agenda, before and during the crisis

Webinar with Helen Pitcher OBE, IDP-C and Mary Sue Rogers IDP-C on 18 May 2020

Talent has never been a more important topic for the Board.  The focus on talent at the Board level is evolving, and many Boards demonstrate best practice while others still see it as more of a reporting and compliance activity.

At its heart, it cuts to the sustainability of the business.  Gone are the days when the Board examined a Nine Box matrix once a year to review the succession pipeline and rarely did these processes yield talent fit for the future as they were looking at replacing “like for like” in many instances not looking at the changing landscape of skills requirements.  Often people were placed in these boxes because they were good “Number 2’s” and made their bosses life easy!

The Financial Reporting Council – whilst a UK Code – covers many international businesses and is usually regarded as best practice governance throughout the world now requires Boards to know the talent in their organisation and the skills required for the Board to be fit for purpose.

COVID-19 has thrown up its own challenges with talent both for the future and for the immediate if sadly a key member of the team falls victim to the virus has led to emergency measures to identify who can step into these roles.  It is also highlighting a need for different skills and the leadership capability to steer the organisation through a remote and distributed leadership lens.

The webinar held on 18 May 2020, facilitated by Liselotte Engstam and Hagen Schweinitz, IDN Board members, and delivered by Helen Pitcher OBE, IDN President and Mary Sue Rogers explored the issue of Talent, the Board’s focus and the myriad of challenge it creates.  Practical guidance was given as to how to approach this and excellent questions were posed by the 80 plus people signed up for this lively and interactive session.

Topics discussed included:

  • The type of company and size of the Board will drive how the talent agenda is addressed. For those of us that are passionate about this topic, we will have achieved success when the HR Committee, Nominations Committee, Remuneration committee, or whatever it might be called,  has a level of standardisation and focus equal to the Audit and Risk Committee.
  • Every company’s governance process should have oversight into key talent topics beyond just executive remuneration and CEO recruitment.
  • Having an annual Board cadence around topics such as strategic talent needs, succession, employee development, engagement, culture, and specific workforce challenges such as recruitment and retention is best practice.
  • Boards should also have a way to educate themselves on the key talent trends – topics such as “gig workers”, robotics and AI, career development, and performance management.

By Helen Pitcher OBE, IDP-C, IDN President, Non-Executive Director, Chair Board Committees, and Mary Sue Rogers, Non-Executive Board Director, Committee Chair, IDP-C.

What can boards do to handle the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Webinar with PwC Singapore – 31 March 2020

On Tuesday 31 March 2020, the INSEAD Director Network held a topical webinar for its members on “What can boards do to handle the Coronavirus Pandemic”.

The webinar was facilitated by Liselotte Hägertz Engstam (IDN Board Member, Non-Executive Director & Chair at Listed & Private Companies), introduced by Karen Loon (IDN Board Member and Non-Executive Director), and featured guest presenters, See Hong-Pek and Marc Philipp of PwC Singapore, and with Q and A support by Gerard Forlin QC.

In her introduction, Karen Loon noted that COVID-19 is a wicked problem which globally is impacting all our lives personally and well as professionally. A challenge for all of us is dealing with the rapid change – how do we move from our fear zone (anxiety and ambivalence) to a learning zone, and ultimately a growth zone where we embrace this opportunity.   She also shared her experiences of both some short-term challenges of boards (especially helping people, business continuity and clients), as well as some medium term potential focus areas, and concluded that it is during these fluid times that it is important that we all leverage our networks for diverse ideas and perspectives.

Three waves of response

SEE Hong-Pek of PwC Singapore highlighted three potential scenarios (contained, pandemic with hot spots, and uncontrolled pandemic) concerning the evolution of the crisis which need to be taken into consideration by companies which will have different impacts on organisations.

Companies are likely to go through three different waves (mobile – immediate; stabilise – medium term; and strategise – long term) as they learn to adapt and accept the new “norm”.

Supply chain challenges

Marc Philipp of PwC South East Asian Consulting outlined some of the external and internal challenges which companies which PwC works with have experienced in relation to their supply chains.  These have included external (unpredictable demand; supply disruption; economy uncertainty; contractual challenge), and internal issues (production/internal supply, workforce limitations; financial and regulatory issues; operational issues).  An example of a challenge for some companies was to be able to manage the increase in demand for products in China after some restrictions were lifted.

He also suggested eight questions which boards could be asking in relation to their business continuity plans, operational risk assessment, scenario planning, alternative sourcing, risk assessment across supply chain tiers, critical supply chain data, temporary inventory and evaluation processes, and product redesign/material certification resources.

IDN members also raised questions, particularly in relation to legal matters including global legislation, work from home legal employer duties, data protection, and potential litigation.  The speakers all agreed that good communication with all stakeholders is vital, and that that board members play a key role in supporting the mental wellbeing of the people in our organisations, particularly CEOs.

INSEAD IDN will be arranging more webinars on managing during the crisis for our members in the next few months so do watch out for them!

SEE Hong Pek – Partner, Business Resilience, PwC Singapore  specialises in assurance and management consulting services in the areas of information technology, data privacy and business controls.  

Marc Philipp, Partner & Management Consulting Leader, PwC South East Asia Consulting has significant experience in corporate strategy, operating model design and digital supply chain transformation across Asia Pacific.

Managing the Board in a time of Crisis

with Herman DAEMS, Chairman of the Board of BNP Paribas Fortis

Webinar with IDN Belgium Alumni – 13 May 2020

IDN Belgium invited the IDN Belgium network to listen to a speech on “Managing the Board in time of Crisis” with Herman DAEMS, Chairman of the Board of BNP Paribas Fortis.  This webinar, moderated by Xavier BEDORET IDP-C, was attended by approximately 40 participants.

We began by raising the question of the priority to be given to short term vs. long term issues.  Short-term topics undoubtedly include concerns about liquidity and solvency.

Secondly, is the widespread crisis a threat to the independence of our company? Or is it an opportunity to consolidate another player?  Is the composition of the board, and in particular the diversity of profiles, a success factor?  We are thinking not only of gender diversity, but also diversity of expertise in the field of digitalization and e-transactions.  The quality of the relationship with the CEO and the executive team is essential.  The teams must be close and aligned. Sometimes the chairman needs to manage tensions at the top.

In the longer term, we will have to measure the impact of the crisis on the value chain.

The speaker concluded by saying “our companies will be called upon by society to play a different role”.

By IDN Belgium Ambassador, Xavier BEDORET