We are delighted to announce the appointment of John Brackenbury as our newest Criticaleye Associate. John is the founder and Chairman of Avanti Communications plc, an AIM listed organisation, which he demerged from Avanti Screenmedia. He was also founder and Chairman of Pubmaster (3,500 pubs) which was sold in 2003 to Punch Taverns. We are pleased to welcome John to Criticaleye.

Our High Performing Board Series has been focused on finding the perfect mix, experience and personalities to get the ideal board. We looked at how to appraise the board and non-execs, and on the diverse skill sets, and ideas needed to get the most out of the business.  This week we are exploring how to align this ‘ideal’ board to organisational strategy. How do you marry a board to the company’s strategy and how do you invigorate the board when strategy is shifting?

The boardroom is tasked not only with the governance of the organisation and executives, but also with external focus and getting the best out of NEDs.  The breadth of knowledge provided by the board serves as the directional force of the organisation but as the course changes different skills may be needed.

As strategy changes or organisations enter into the next phase, it may be necessary to change the board to reflect the additional knowledge needed. As we come out of the seasons of discontent, many organisations are looking to refresh their strategies, either through merger and acquisitions or other opportunities.

John Allkins, who serves on the boards of both private and public organisations says: "As some companies emerge from the rubble of the recession they are faced with a new reality of a post recessionary business environment where for one thing debt is not going to be as plentiful or cheap as before. They will need to evolve their strategy and that's a good time for checking with the top team, both executive and non-executive whether they feel they have the right skills to start again, if that's what is required. Some won’t want to rebuild something they have already created, others won’t want to work in a more cash constrained environment. That's where a good chairman will guide and sometimes have to make the difficult call and sometimes even call time on his or her chairmanship."

Engagement of board to a new strategy and to the organisation is vital to a well run business. Nicky Bicket, Managing Director, Strategic Thinking Group comments: “Doing things right today (operations and tactics) and doing the right things for tomorrow (strategy) is a tricky balance to strike. Boards nowadays have to get this right. It's a case of 'both/and' and not 'either/or'. Companies require board members with a deep sense of commitment to the core values of the business to have half a chance of doing what all their stakeholders require of them in both the short- and long-term. Most boards tend to get mired in the tactical, operational and worse, political, aspects of the business forgetting that their real purpose is to ensure the sustainability and growth of their company for the long-term within the bounds of the organisation's core values. I would be interested to find out how many board members can actually repeat the values of their companies, let alone agree on what they mean in practice.”

Most will agree that making a wide-ranging board change is not the best idea. Slow incremental changes produce less upheaval to the business and allow for continuity.  Karina Robinson, who co-leads the board practice at search firm Saxton Bampfylde, gives some advice: "The ability to adapt strategy rapidly to an ever changing business panorama is key. Board membership, however, cannot change quickly. For this reason, board members need to be chosen with care to ensure they have a wide enough array of skills to contribute even as the business changes."

If you would like further information on today’s topic please look at the Insights page of the website. In the Criticaleye Community Article The Curious Role of the NED, we look at what is needed to get the highly coveted role of non-executive director. Also, in last month’s AIM CEO Breakfast, the group explored what is needed from a board of an AIM-listed organisation.

Please get in touch if you have any comments about the issues in today's update.

I hope to see you soon,