We live in interesting times. The pace of change is accelerating. Markets are being disrupted. Customer preferences and needs are evolving rapidly. Businesses are striving to be agile in responding and adapting to this environment—and, of course, COVID-19 and its continuing economic, political, social and technological aftershocks, all add to the challenge.

For public companies, public agencies, co-operatives and non-profits, the pressures and demands just keep growing.

What is it that leading boards are doing to ensure that they are responding with the level of performance demanded by their shareholders and stakeholders? What could we learn from and what could we do with such insight? For certain, the status quo is not a solution.

If there was ever a time when organizations needed a high-performing board of directors, that moment is now.

In individuals, high performance is distinguished by certain traits. The list typically includes things like clarity, discipline, self-confidence and resilience.

But what are the hallmarks of today’s high-performing boards? Or, to put it another way, imagine your task is to build a Canadian board of directors from scratch—one equipped to govern, help drive organizational success, and create and sustain value in a business, social and political environment defined by accelerating change. What traits do you most want that board to have?

In late 2019 and the first half of 2020, we conducted in-depth interviews with more than 30 of Canada’s leading board chairs and consulted select executives—50 plus hours of recorded interviews—to discuss emerging governance priorities and how they are responding to the challenges of the day. The COVID-19 pandemic hit as we were well into that work. While hugely disruptive, it has subsequently proved to be an affirming use case of the principles, practices and insights gathered in those interviews and which now make up the substance of this report….

The above text is a preview reprinted with permission from the report’s Opening Remarks. I wrote the full report’s first draft, under Tony Gaffney’s direction. It and companion material can be viewed and downloaded here.

Full citation is as follows:

Tony Gaffney, High Performance in the Boardroom: an exclusive report on contemporary best practices of high-performing boards in a time of accelerating change.

Key project collaborators: