The role of the board of directors beyond the COVID-19 crisis

by ecoDa's Education Committee

The role of the board of directors beyond the COVID-19 crisis

COVID-19 is reminding the World that governments as corporate boards should be prepared to anticipate and counter the "unknow unknows", whether these are related to global recessions or financial crises, global trade frictions or geopolitical conflicts, natural disasters or pandemics.

Experience in crisis management and in-depth understanding of risk governance are critical board competences. Early recognition of crises and updated training in crisis management provide the foundation for boards and management in making fast and relevant decisions that strengthen the company's resilience capabilities and accelerates the path back towards growth and value creation.

It is the responsibility of the board of directors to organize decision making processes where knowledge, data and imagination about the future guides concurrently the short-term actions and the long-term direction going forward. Never before has the role of boards been more important. Never before has the the value of board education been more eminent.

In times of crisis, the attempt is certainly insularity and the management of the immediate. The lasting solutions will however come from the capacity of companies to co-create and act in a network mode. The governance of networks, platforms with different organization structures that can facilitate open innovation is certainly a topic of tomorrow. 

The importance of drawing inspiration from others is crucial.  Director training, seminars and conferences offer many opportunities to broaden horizons and learn from best practice solutions found in similar or even distant sectors. This is why our institutes of directors adapt to this demand and design novel content and learning methodologies like blended training solutions based on sharing information.

In the COVID-19 situation, the skyline has narrowed. 

The boards need to take a long-term view while acting fast to secure the sustainability of operations: 

- Help management tackle the current crisis: How does the crisis develop and how long does it last? How solid is our liquidity and capital resources and how can it be strengthened?  How can we help employees, customers, business partners and the community?

- Take a mid and long-term view and behave as effective board directors: How threatened is our business foundation and model and how can we anticipate, adapt and change the current situation? How redesign our vision and mission? How capture the fundamental shifts in corporate and societal purpose? How ethics will remain a fundamental driving force while priorities have shifted? How communicate on value creation and the changing balance of powers? How reinvent the strategy and make sure the organization takes the lead in innovation in times of crisis? How set the direction for the future supply chain in a world of de-globalization? How redefine the relationship with executive management and account for new topics elevated at board level like safety and health across the organization or cyber security? 

Innovative strategy, risk management and crisis management have reached new dimensions with COVID-19.

Companies that will survive the crisis will quickly need to broaden their fields of vision and concretely consider how to ensure lasting resilience.