In times of great uncertainty – stay at your core. But act incrementally, think big and revolutionary.

The increased speed under uncertainty continues to dominate the boards’ agendas, as we learnt at the recent Digoshen Board Forum Exchange Webinar “Boards for Short and Long Term”. We at Digoshen run these exchanges with the objective to share examples and learnings connected to the unprecedented challenges practicing members are facing globally.

 

We discussed with the participants our joint experiences in the area, facilitated by Digoshen Impact Partners Pia Gideon, Peter Crow, Leif Fågelstedt, Anne Mieke Eggenkamp, Liselotte Engstam and Fernanda Torre.

We kicked off the webinar by tapping the insightful experience from the participating board members and chairs through a series of polls relating to the topic Boards for short and long term and of course in the light of the ongoing crisis.

We continued with a framing setting and sharing by Peter Crow on the topic, which was partly based on the article Navigating the pandemic in the boardroom, and broadened up and elaborated on by Peter.

The starting point for boards is to understand that crises have different characteristics from other types of problems. Much is unknown at the beginning, especially the scope, duration and potential impact of the crisis. What is more, the board cannot afford to use traditional analysis. Decisions need to be made at speed, based on currently available information. They also need to be reviewed, often, in the light of what is happening and new information.  Some decisions made earlier may need to be changed!

Helpful board capabilities include experience, wisdom and maturity—and heuristics to ‘learn as we go’.

The board also needs to consider both the short-term and longer-term. What is needed now (generally, to survive) and what is needed later (generally, to thrive after the crisis). Suggested points of enquiry, across six areas of the business are summarised in the following table:

 

 

We then deep dived and discussed further in the breakout rooms.

The first break out room with topic “Crises makes all go to short term focus, when is the right time to ensure long term is discussed as well?” Based on the poll and the insights shared, we identified a fragmented picture . The participants are facing different challenges depending on industry and geografi and customer segment. Based on the poll and the insights shared

But when it comes to strategy and planning for the future, most of the participant had a six month perspective with a focus on how to keep up revenues and how to find new revenue streams.

And some of the participants had also experiences from business that is not yet affected by the corona crisis.

Efficiency in governmental support also showed a scattered picture, where every country has developed, or not developed a process. And the banks who were mostly the distributors of funds, were found to be able to act on very different speed, with major impact on companies.

Finally it was also underlined, the importance to give the management support and a deep understanding for difficulties to handle the situation. The board and especially the chairperson have an important role to play, as a supporting partner or coach. It´s the time to show deep understanding and some empathy as a complement to controlling.

The second break out room had the topic “How do you ensure your short-term board decision’s are aligned with an adjusted long term ambition?”. To kickoff this discussion there was a pool of questions related to the alignment between short-term actions and long-term decisions, as seen in the images below.

In this exchange participants discussed the short-term decisions for boards and how, to a great extent, the covid-19 pandemic generates an uncertainty level that is “the new normal”. The main points discussed where:

  • Organizations have to take alternative revenues and we bring forward some long-term decision programs like digitalization of services. In other words, businesses are being pushed by the crisis to pick up latent ideas.
  • There is the need to have a very cohesive board with strong and vision and values , this helps in moments where the time frame has to change. Short term becomes long term and vice versa.
  • It is an important time for boards to keep cool and calm – there is an extended board roll and boards need to get involved and support leadership teams a bigger extent.
  • To most businesses there is a fall back a few years in terms of business volumes, as a consequence there is the need to scale down growth initiatives. Some market segments are badly hit, so businesses need to know which ones and cut on growth initiatives to those customers. A very good moment to be very customer centric!
  • There is a real challenge for board members sitting in different boards because some companies can be struggling, and some can be doing very well.The same person can sit in very different boards and needs to have thinking hats for all these contexts and companies.
  • Culture can be a challenge: how to keep people motivated when people are working from home, distant and feel defeated? How long time can one keep up the moral? How to keep staff motivated with lost profitability even the balance sheet is healthy?
  • And finally, there is a general boost in the different digitalization programs, since driving the business online is increasingly relevant. This translate into a business opportunity to push for the digitalization agenda.

We were also exploring all participants and where they get their energy to focus on long term and we found that it was majorly impacted by the leadership capability available.

Summary:

Regardless of the extent and impact of the crisis, boards need to support management more closely than normal, to ensure decisions are made promptly and resources are available when needed. Six things to keep in mind:

 

  1. Hold tight to the business vision/purpose. Measure all board decisions and management actions against this.
  2. Work step-by-step. It is far better to act incrementally, reviewing progress and making changes frequently.
  3. Make decisions quickly, based on best available information. Don’t waste time on detailed plans.
  4. Review decisions and actions often, based on new information. Changes may be needed!
  5. Don’t get sucked into the detail! Maintain a broader perspective.
  6. Keep looking forward, think holistically.

We are deeply grateful to our presenters and all our engaged participants, sharing invaluable lessons and giving each other emotional support during a time of high uncertainty.

Upcoming Exchange Webinars and Topics

The insights we learnt at this webinar also highlights the need for our next planned Digoshen Board Forum Exchange Webinar, on the topic “Effectively Managing Agile Board Work”, and will be held on May 11 at 8-9 AM CET, welcome to >> sign up here.

If you like to vote on upcoming topics we should discuss at upcoming Digoshen Board Forum Exchange Webinars, you can vote by distributing 100 points to the >> topics you are most interested in here.  

 If the upcoming time doesn’t fit, you can >> check out and pencil in the planned future dates.

You can also learn from experience at earlier Digoshen Exchange webinars >> here

You are welcome to connect with the >> Digoshen Impact Team.

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More about the article we used as pre-read here Navigating the Pandemic in the Boardroom

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