A Boards Role in Strategy

An Interview with Jim Brown

Michael Barrick (00:00)
What’s the role of the board when it comes to strategy and who’s in charge? Is it the CEO or is it the board? We’ll tackle that very question on this upcoming episode. Hi, this is Michael Banner, founder of Board Director, the board portal for high performance forming boards. We recently asked Jim Brown (of Strive!)not that Jim Brown (of the Cleveland Browns).

Jim Brown, the author of The Imperfect Board Member. In my interview with Jim, he explains who’s in charge of strategy and how to get the board and the CEO to work together. Let’s go. So Jim, who is in charge of strategy, the CEO or the board?

Jim Brown (00:37)
Well, let’s remind ourselves that we call these groups boards of directors, meaning they are supposed to be given direction and there is nothing more central to that function than creating a strategic plan. Sadly, I would say that lots of organizations don’t have the board do very much in this regard. It’s more likely that the CEO, the executive director, and the management team has put together a strategy, made a PowerPoint presentation to the board and asked for their approval of that plan. And I argue that this is missing the real value that a board can offer. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the senior management team must be fully engaged and fully owning the outcome of a strategic planning conversation. But if they don’t involve the directors who bring hopefully diverse perspective and experience and a kind of a larger look overview of the whole organization, then they’re missing some real value. So, goodness, taking time to think ahead, look at what’s most important. Figure out why this organization is even existing. What must it do? These are all crucial questions for board and senior management to answer together.

Michael Barrick (02:11)
Okay. How do we leverage that diverse perspective and experience from that 10,000 foot advantage point?

Jim Brown (02:17)
I would suggest that an early stage. So let’s say that the fiscal year is the calendar year, as you were suggesting, January, starting a new fiscal year for the organization. Well, a plan needs to be in place for January. So back in May or June, it would be really wonderful if the board plus senior management would have what I call a blue sky dark clouds session. And what I mean by that is that they would take time, in fact, that they would be assigned to do some pre work before they come together to think about wild ideas of what might be possible in five years and ten years and 20 years.

Jim Brown (03:04)
Big things. Wow. Imagine if money wasn’t an object. Imagine if we could hire the best people and they would be happy to work with us. What might we do in the world? What difference that’s the blue sky part. Then what about the dark clouds? What are some patterns that we are seeing that could impact us? What are some trends that we might be noticing in other industries that haven’t touched our sector yet? But it could. And this is where things like, wow, changes in the economy, what’s going on with China and global trade and how might that affect our organization? What’s going on with the MeToo movement and the whole gender conflict that’s happening? Is that an opportunity for us? Is that something that we need to be more careful to manage? These are the kinds of things that need to get aired so that there’s just a bigger view of what’s possible and what might be a problem that early framing should lead to. Okay, here are three things that we need to learn more about as opportunities. Here are say three things that are potential problems that we need to learn about and those would be assigned to I suggest the management team to do a bunch of leg work and come back for a September meeting where we continue the conversation more into a planning for the future, but in a one to five year zone rather than ten and 20.

Before Setting Strategy…Do This First

Your Board of Directors need to do this before you develop your annual strategy. The first step your board needs to do is to define the central idea of your company. You see the central idea is the DNA of your company. It’s your north star, it’s your guiding light.

Components of a central idea are:
1) Mission Statement 2) Vision Statement 3) Core Values Statement

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