Governance Forum Roundup: Strategy, Engagement, and Innovation in Board Governance

This year’s Annual Governance Forum looked different than in previous years. Attendees weren’t brought together for the normal one-day, in-person gathering. Instead, CSAE launched its first-ever virtual event with three engaging, collaborative sessions spread over three weeks and led by Dr. David Weiss.

The series was based on Dr. Weiss’ bestselling book Innovative Intelligence. Each week, Dr. Weiss addressed a critical question about how to define the role of the board in strategic planning processes. He shared his insights into how board members can think about their roles in building strategy and how they can collaborate with senior management along the way. This can help them contribute greater value to the board’s strategy and future direction and nurture organizational resilience and success.

Some key takeaways we wanted to highlight include:

  1. Engage in contingency scenario planning to de-risk the organization and develop an innovation plan.
  2. Be “nose-in,” “hands-out” on leadership, culture, and organizational practices.
  3. Maximize board engagement by leveraging everyone’s unique talents and perspectives.

Takeaway #1: Contingency Scenario Planning  

As Dr. Weiss emphasized, establishing a strong contingency scenario plan is an important step to take in aligning your board around a clear future direction while being ready to adapt if circumstances change. Take COVID-19 as an example. Developing contingency plans around unforeseen events such as this can give you the tools you need to adapt quickly and soften negative impacts like declines in membership, staff layoffs, and the inability to hold in-person events and conferences.

When it comes to implementing your contingency scenario plans, Dr. Weiss recommends starting with identifying the baseline scenario, the event that has the greatest likelihood of occurring. From there, your teams can go on to identify remaining plausible challenges and hurdles. Identifying them early and having set strategies in place can help you maintain business continuity if those situations arise.

From delivering virtual events to transitioning to online learning and engaging your members, this four-part on-demand webinar series can help guide your association through its digital transformation.

Takeaway #2: The “Nose-in,” “Hands-Out” Approach  

The “nose-in,” “hands-out” approach was another valuable insight Dr. Weiss shared with us throughout the series. The “nose-in” part refers to the board’s responsibility to find (or “sniff out”) risks and opportunities that could have positive or negative effects on the business. “Hands-out” means they set the stage by identifying those risks and opportunities before bowing out so the executives can determine how to tackle them. This formula, Dr. Weiss says, can help foster and increase innovation.

Takeaway #3: Broader Board Engagement

One of the last topics Dr. Weiss spoke on was the important role the board can play in creating a culture of innovation. The board can model it by leveraging the diverse talents of its teams and working collaboratively to gain insights from one another to discover new solutions. By setting this standard, the board can encourage the executive team to follow suit and provide the opportunity for increased dialogue and engagement.

Though attendees weren’t able to get together in person, the format we’ve become used to, everyone walked away from three great sessions full of valuable discussions, collaborations, and best practices they can put to work right now. D2L was proud to be part of CSAE’s first virtual Annual Governance Forum, and we’re looking forward to more online opportunities for growth and development to come.

Here at D2L, we’re on a mission to change the way the world learns, with our award-winning learning platform, Brightspace. We work with associations throughout Canada and around the world to help them take their learning online and build engaging experiences for their members. If you want to find out how your association can make the move, check out our blog: 6 Tips for Transitioning Your Association from In-Person to Online Learning.

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