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How to work with the Board and be effective at the top table

Bradley de Souza | Aug. 10, 2015
Over the years I've been fortunate enough to work with the most senior executives in an organisation. This often required me having to explain complex concepts to CEOs, senior management and other executives. Technology advances such as the Internet, Cloud computing, Mobility, etc., required careful and considered explanation. It was important to ensure that the potential of such technologies be fully understood by all those involved.

A number of years ago the mobile phone company, T-Mobile UK, introduced a new set of phone plans that some analysts suggested could take 3 years for other companies to compete with. I predicted 5 years given my inside knowledge of telephone and network systems. The new plans were so successful that T-Mobile had to reduce the incentives it offered to Sales staff as it couldn't cope with the demand. Even after five years, competitors to T-Mobile were unable to offer the same flexible plans.

Business agility in this example is often a function of the long term choices which determine competitiveness. Core systems usually end up being the limiting factor when responding to new competitive threats. It is doubly important therefore to have considered discussions around long term investments particularly when these systems form the backbone of the business.

When building the case for change, the Board should be focused core systems, long term investments and a vision for where the business is going to be over a longer period of time. It is only then that good, informed decisions can be made.

Keep it simple

Working with the Board of any company poses unique challenges.

Experience has taught me that it is all about communication. Working with individuals and working with a group needs to be driven by simple, effective and intelligent communication.

Apple has been an inspiration in this area. The company has focused on making its products and services simple, easy to use and intuitive. As more and more customers embrace these products, expectations of technology have grown. People now expect everything to work in the same, simple and intuitive way.

By the same token, senior stakeholders are no longer prepared to be held hostage by people who confuse with jargon, acronyms, or convoluted explanations.

 

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