- 09 Sep 2009
- Working Papers
Chief executives and regulators have been blamed for the current economic crisis, but in some ways what is surprising is that boards have generally escaped notice. Clearly the experience of corporate boards in the downturn has not been explored. To understand what transpired in the boardrooms of complex companies, and to offer a prescription to improve board effectiveness, eight senior faculty members of the HBS Corporate Governance Initiative talked with 45 prominent directors about what has happened to their companies and why. These directors, who serve on the boards of financial institutions and other complex companies, were asked two broad questions: How well did their boards function before the recession? And, what do they believe should be improved as they look to the future?
This white paper [PDF] first explains how the interviewees characterize the strengths of their boards, then examines in depth six areas in which they identified shortcomings or needs for improvement: 1) clarifying the board's role; 2) acquiring better information and deeper knowledge of the company; 3) maintaining a sound relationship with management; 4) providing oversight of company strategy; 5) assuring management development and succession; 6) improving risk management. Finally, the paper discusses two issues that appeared not to trouble the interviewees but that the public feels are important: executive compensation and the relationship between the board and shareholders. This paper was written by Jay Lorsch with the assistance of Joseph Bower, Clayton Rose, and Suraj Srinivasan. The interviews were conducted by Joseph Bower, Srikant Datar, Raymond Gilmartin, Stephen Kaufman, Rakesh Khurana, Jay Lorsch, and Clayton Rose. Read More