Note: We’re excited to be launching an interview series on the blog called “Directors’ Forum.”
This section will feature various board members and thought leaders who offer their “hot takes” and brief perspectives on an array of board trends and governance topics.
For today’s Directors’ Forum, we held a Q&A session with Praxonomy’s Non-Executive Director (NED), Alan Hewitt.
Alan has been a NED at Praxonomy for the past 3 years. Prior to that, he worked for IBM for 30 years, with the last 10 as a Partner in the Global IBM Consulting Business. He has worked as an independent business consultant with many companies across multiple sectors and countries. He is a Fellow of both the IET and BCS, and a Chartered Engineer.
In this interview, Alan shares his thoughts on the key lessons learned as a director from the global pandemic and the key priorities boards must focus on post-crisis.
As a director, what are the lessons you’ve learned from the disruption caused by the pandemic?
Alan: COVID-19 has made everyone think again about their business model and how they operate as a board. It has reminded all of us not to assume anything about markets, supply chains, and organisational structures as they have been demonstrated to change almost overnight. The pandemic has had an effect on all of the above that are unlikely to prove temporary. New models and ways of working are emerging.
Let’s talk about the impact of the crisis in the boardroom. How has this affected board dynamics and culture?
Alan: The pandemic has had two conflicting implications: 1.) a need to review more urgently and frequently how markets are changing and your company’s ability to rapidly reshape itself to cope with those changes 2.) the fact that boards couldn’t meet in the traditional way face to face and react fast enough.
The first has been a wake up call that we need to build flexibility into everything that we do, and the second presents the need to continue with board business regardless of where you are physically located.
What pandemic-era board practices/processes/mindsets would you like to be made permanent?
Alan: The pandemic has demonstrated that you don’t need to be physically in the same location to operate and that technology can, if applied correctly, make you even more efficient and effective than you were before. The reduction in travel time has resulted in making it easier to schedule meetings as an hour’s slot can be found where half a day would prove difficult. It has also resulted in better communication to and within boards again through the adoption of technology.
As companies think about the long-term and countries open up, what should be key priorities for boards to focus on?
Alan: Building resilience into your organisation, making it flexible to adapt to changing circumstances, and, as we move to a more digital environment, make sure that it is secure. As with all change, there will be challenges but also opportunities. Those companies able to react fastest will be the winners.