As part of its podcast series, Dorset Growth Hub invited me to discuss the role that boards – and corporate governance more generally – can play in smaller businesses. Theorists often talk about how boards play two contradictory roles: “service” – providing insights and access to key resources – and “control” – stopping a runaway executive.
But from my own board experience, I’ve seen how hard it is to separate the two. Let’s think about how serving on a board is like driving a car, I suggested, and then asked: “Why do they put brakes on cars?” Here’s the answer!
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Philosophy of Management seems to think so. My somewhat unconventional article will be appearing in the journal.
- Nordberg, D. (2020). Art in corporate governance: A Deweyan perspective on board experience. Philosophy of Management, doi: 10.1007/s40926-020-00152-y. (See manuscript version at SSRN.)
It uses the pragmatist philosopher John Dewey’s 1934 treatise on aesthetics to examine the motivation of company directors, reinterpreting empirical studies and examining the lived experience of the author. It also raises the question of what ugly corporate governance might consist in.Its starting point is the artwork displayed on the walls of two boardrooms, one a FTSE100 corporation, the other a social care charity…
Rebecca Booth and I have collaborated on a paper just published by the International Journal of Disclosure and Governance, about how corporate directors feel about an important policy direction in corporate governance. Board evaluation has been around for quite a while, and since 2010 in the UK, the code has recommended that large listed companies use external evaluators at least one year in three. Rebecca and I found out what directors who had been through the process thought about how well the process of external evaluation worked, and indeed how it worked. The results point to a need to professionalise the practice as it spreads from large listed companies to smaller firms, non-profits, and other organisation types.
Charities don’t have “owners”. Nor do corporations, if you consider how limited shareholder rights are, compared with owning a car or a pair of shoes. Yet the experience of board work at charities has left me with a sense of ownership – psychological ownership – that arose before I was even invited to join the board. In a new article at Management Research Review, I explore this feeling of attachment, and how it differs profoundly from the sort of “stewardship” now expected of institutional investors in listed companies. See also https://ssrn.com/abstract=3699330