Great Companies Deserve Great Boards; a CEO's Guide to the Boardroom
by Beverley Behan

ISBN: 0230113656 Publisher: Palmgrave MacMillan (2011)
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

Why do so many boards just comply with all the rules, get on politely and keep a watchful eye on management without ever leading them anywhere?

Does your board fall into that category? Even sometimes …?

Nobody could disagree with the title of this book. Great Companies Deserve Great Boards. The sad fact is, however, that many companies cannot be great because their boards just don't manage to add that little bit of extra strategic awareness that can make all the difference between a reasonable performance, in line with its peers, or an exemplary one, that far outstrips peers.

This book can help your board to make the jump from good to great. It is full of real life case studies that give positive examples of the actions and activities that will lift the contribution from conformance to performance and into elite board athleticism. My personal favourite is the story of the board of Ford and their deep dive into the process of designing and producing a new car; it involved a visit to the design centre, an overview of the process, education sessions on design, dinner with the designers and a morning at the test tracks driving each car in the new range and experiencing it as the intended purchasers would. Wow! That is a lot of board and management hours but it will enable a lot of creative thinking and allow the board to understand the process they oversee.

The book is full of first hand experiences and the insights from these are easily transferrable across industry sectors and geographic regions. It is like getting ten years' experience in one easy month of part time reading.

The book is well written, succinctly worded and beautifully edited. The voice of the author is clear, as are the voices of the various protagonists in the case studies. This adds an enticing and seductive tone to the work; it is like standing at a cocktail party on the outskirts of a group that is vigorously discussing a topic of interest — you just can't help but be drawn in!

As I am fond of quoting 'A mind expanded by an original thought will never regain its original dimensions'. A mind after reading this book will never be satisfied with anything but a valuable board. This book should be mandatory for all boards and their advisers.

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* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of  "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors",  Dilemmas, Dilemmas II: More Practical Case Studies for Company Directors (Volume 2),  "The Director's Dilemma",  "Presenting to Boards",  "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.