As a Board member, are you stifling your organisation's agility?

You may be a member of the main Board of a business, public or third sector organisation or a member of a Programme Board leading change within an organisation. Have you asked yourself recently whether your Board is operating with agility?

When we explore agility in organisations we look for:

  • An actionable strategy
  • The right products and services with the organisation wrapped around them (and their customers)
  • Delivery of change without any drama i.e. incremental and prioritised change based on value
  • Governance system that makes the best use of data and utilises the right artefacts to support good decision-making to reinforce an agile environment.

This is all very well but what about Board agility? It would be easy to dismiss the change required within Boards simply by saying “Boards have to advocate for, direct and assure their programme or organisation in a way that aligns with, and reinforces, agility” but this is not particularly helpful because it doesn't get into the "How?".

So, let’s be more specific. Here is just a few questions that Board members can ask themselves:

Do I know what I don’t know? Has the organisation taken the time to educate me on the changes required to align the Board to an agile organisation or programme? If I have been well informed, am I adapting in my role to embrace the new way of doing things?  Boards play a critical role in creating the right conditions for success for organisations and programmes. If the organisation/programme team and Board are not aligned then the Board becomes a barrier to success rather than an enabler.

Do I have the right to govern an agile organisation? You may have the authority and even the legal right but this is a more personal question to every Board member about their own (and also their collective) credibility to govern an agile organisation. Do I have the understanding and capability to match the demands of an agile organisation and am I adapting quickly enough?

Am I a good advocate for our customers? Organisations that operate with agility have their customers at the heart of their operations. To do this demands an understanding of your customers borne out of extensive listening, engagement and co-design of new products and services.  As a Board member, am I close enough to these activities and our customers?

Do I understand exactly how change is being delivered by the organisation or the programme? This isn’t just about understanding agile tools and techniques, it is about understanding the different roles (and delegated authorities) and the new interactions required between the Board and the individuals fulfilling these roles. The critical question is “Can I help the organisation and Board to adapt our governance to match the new order of things?” It is important that Boards don’t manage agile organisations or programmes using waterfall artefacts, metrics or role descriptions.  

A final thought ...

Do I have the right capabilities and experience to add value? It is critical that all Board members examine their personal capabilities and then the broader Board collective capability. 

  • Does the Board have sufficient digital knowledge (not simply enough knowledge to challenge privacy and security issues but knowledge that aids and informs the adoption of new technology)? 
  • Is there experience of managing an organisation through significant change using Agile? 
  • Does the Board have the expertise to support the organisation to understand and leverage its data and information assets?

So, a lot of questions for Board members. We have a diagnostic that helps Boards assess their current effectiveness and then plan the necessary changes to keep the Board relevant and contemporary. Drop me an email if you would like to know more or if you would like o share your thoughts – I would love to hear from you.

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