Improving performance through better board engagement. From McKinsey

The opening McKinsey Quarterly for this year is one of the best issues I’ve read in recent years. (All the pieces linked here require a free registration). One article talks about making time management an organizational matter rather than leaving it to individuals; another one covers six social media skills every leader needs; another addresses increasing the “meaning quotient” of work. But the central set of features this quarter is about improving performance through better board engagement. I highly recommend reading all five articles:

Bonus feature: the first modern organization chart (1855), a true class act by railroad engineer and manager Daniel McCallum. You can see the board of directors at the bottom of this exquisite tree.

The world's first organization chart

On elections

From Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a few thoughts on the 2009 Indian elections.

Parliamentary elections would be held at the end of April, and middle- and upper-class people, especially young people, were registering to vote in record numbers. Affluent, educated candidates were coming forward with platforms of radical change: accountability, transparency, e-governance. While independent India had been founded by high-born, well-educated men, by the twenty-first century few such types stood for elections, or voted in them, since the wealthy had extra-democratic means of securing their social and economic interests. Across India, poor people were the ones who took the vote seriously. It was the only real power they had.

What Makes an Exceptional Independent Non Executive Director? The Korn/Ferry Institute speaks out

A couple of quotes from a recent report by the Korn/Ferry Institute on the subject of independent Board directors. Good advice, among others, for Italian companies:

Technology. NEDs today must be aware of the profound impact technology is having on all areas of commerce around the world. This is true across all sectors, not simply consumer-led industries.  […]

NEDs also need to understand the commercial impact of social networks, digital media, e-commerce, mobile and other technologies. Online platforms are changing the way customers interact with brands and are therefore driving new business models. Understanding how they work is becoming essential to any boardroom discussion about corporate strategy. As new technological platforms and trends inevitably emerge, NEDs will also have to stay continually up to date and informed. One of the crucial effects of new technology, particularly social media, is that it shifts power into the hands of the consumer. If boards are to stay abreast of the nuances of digital communication platforms, they will need NEDs with specific knowledge and experience to help frame strategic discussion around these areas. […]

For instance, in the last year twenty-three percent of NEDs appointed to the boards of FTSE 350 retail companies had some form of online experience. This represents a marked increase from just five years ago when only seven percent of NEDs taking up board positions had such experience.