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Systems: What does a board of directors do?

[Anil Dash]

"I realize that most people who've never been in the boardroom have a lot of questions (and often, anxieties) about what happens on a board, so I wanted to share a very subjective view of what I've seen and learned over the years."

This is great, and jibes with my experiences both being on boards and supporting them as a part of various organizations.

The most functional boards I've seen do what Anil describes here: they're pre-briefed and are ready to have a substantive discussion in a way that pushes the organization forward. Board meetings have a heavy reporting component, for sure, but the discussion and working sessions are always the most meaningful component.

This is also often true, and a challenge:

"I believe in the structure of a board (usually along with some separate advisors) to help an organization reach its fullest potential, in much the same way as I believe in governments having separate branches with separate forms of accountability and appointment. In practice, having nearly all-powerful executives select the membership of the organization that's meant to hold them accountable tends to fail just as badly in business or non-profits as it does in governments."

The board meetings I've attended that are the most robust and open to discussion and genuine debate have also been the ones attached to the most successful companies. I don't think it's quite causation, but rather two things that come from a particularly pragmatic attitude towards running a business: one where outside perspectives and differences of opinion are a strength, not a threat.


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