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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beacon or Gadabout - What's the Board Done This Time?

Have you ever watched ants?  Industrious little creatures in reaching their goal (how can they get into that sealed container?), the 'ant-path' to arrive there is fascinating.  As singles and in small groups, the ant-path is halting and confused - sometime this way, sometimes that way, sometimes back the way they came ... helter skelter with no clear path or rationale.  When in a group, the ant-path is never a straight line to the goal, but a march in a wavering column - meandering single file in a general direction.  No shortest distance from A to B for these guys.

This week Alan Weiss wrote his thoughts about Hewlett-Packard’s Board being human - excusing them for serial mistakes which have taken the firm, known for innovative and superior products, such as calculators (still have my 12C bought in early 1980's) and printers, on a confusing get & purge spree that has driven the stock price to almost nothing.

To me this is a good reminder that boards have a group dynamic going on which can make them drift from the vision and mission into some pretty rough turf for no apparent gain.  The HP Board is mimicking an 'ant-path' approach to moving the company forward, which puts HP in play and can allow Oracle to swoop in to get EDS for a song and finance it by selling off the other HP units to eager buyers. Of course there are plenty of examples of boardroom miscalculations which have crippled or sunk organizations. 

We as leaders, whether in a board capacity or as a key player in our firm, can learn from such examples and determine how an action (and its inherent risks) supports the vision and mission - or why the vision and mission needs an update or overhaul to support it.  A beacon sheds light and offers direction, while a gadabout is founded on whimsey and offers confusion - which leads to a brighter future?

Have you been faced with the question: 'What's the Board Done This Time?'

 
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