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  • What Boards should think about in 2017This time of the year is generally an appropriate time for the Board and senior management to review its strategic plan. The purpose of this review is to assess whether events of the past 12 months have impacted on the performance of the organisation to the extent that priorities for the new year should be amended or expanded to cater for the circumstances at hand. In this article, we identify 5 key areas that should be exercising the minds of board members as they prepare to welcome the “year of the rooster”

    Firstly, a critical review of “what have we learnt from this year’s activities“ is always a good place to start. Whilst what happened in the past is not necessarily an accurate predicator of what will happen in the future, we most certainly can learn from both our successes and failures and factor in such learnings into our decision making processes in the new year. More importantly, we are looking for systemic issues rather than one off occurrences and trying to identify early warning signals that may help us in our endeavours to practice good governance on a continuous basis.

    The “usual suspect”: Sustainability and relevance are issues that should never be far from our thinking. The ever present demand by stakeholders to “do more with less” does not appear to be going away; therefore we have to continually strive to refine our business model so we can continue to deliver on our Mission without compromise of our values and principles. Sustainability has to be at the forefront of our thinking and we must continually test the market to satisfy ourselves that we are achieving this goal.

    The “new entrants”: Cyber security and Crisis management – are we prepared in the event of either of these eventuating?
    Cyber security – it would seem that there are people out there intent on a new form of ”highway robbery“ – the incidence of identity theft, deliberate system crashes, raids on databases and corporate computer systems, and deliberate attacks on personal computers for the purpose of extracting financial reward appear in our mainstream media on a weekly if not daily basis. The attacks are becoming more sophisticated, the risks greater and we seem to playing catch up on an ongoing basis. How you manage these new phenomena is dependent on a range of issues, including your own risk assessment, internal capability and available resources, however a simple but effective means is to have a robust back up system and make sure it is followed to the letter, no exceptions. At the very least, the Board should include Cyber Security in its strategic planning process and annual agenda for review and take expert advice when available.
    Crisis management: we spoke about this in detail in the last edition and reference should be made to that article for a detailed approach on how to develop and implement a plan to manage a crisis in your organisation. Suffice to say, doing nothing or not being prepared is not an option. The Board should ask the question and then satisfy itself that the proposed plan is a suitable response and would withstand the “reasonable man” assessment after the event. The adverse consequences of not being prepared are considerable at the social, economic, political and personal levels – we may not be able to stop a crisis from happening, but we can and must take control after the event and the Board must be at the front line leading under these circumstances.

    The “not so new, but still learning about entrant”: social media – the power of social media is demonstrated to us on a daily basis. Our insatiable appetite for news, whether it is fact or fiction, is fed by the general population’s access to and use of smart phones and the internet. Whether it be Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SMS or whatever (and I am sure there are so many more than that), social media provides a platform for opinion, commentary and feedback, good and bad, fact or fiction and organisations cannot ignore its presence and its power. How we manage this rapidly developing communication medium is a matter for board consideration and leadership - and if you don’t understand it yourself, engage someone who does and can educate you individually and collectively as a Board. 

    In summary, undoubtedly 2017 will present its usual challenges around sustainability, resource management and the alignment of people and organisation goals. In addition, as our world evolves, so does the type and quantum of new challenges that are presented to us, such as cyber security and social media. One thing however remains constant – if we apply the principles and practices of good governance and strive for excellence in all that we do, then we give ourselves the best chance of success – good luck in all that you do in 2017.

    Mark Schultz