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When Does the Board Get Involved in "Vision"?

One difficult challenge facing conscientious new CEOs (especially successor CEOs) is to conceptualize and pull together a strong vision for the business. They know that a clearly articulated vision can focus, motivate and energize the organization. Board members have a curious dual role in vision development: To encourage vision resolution and to keep thinking flexible. How well directors manage that contradiction can help CEOs feel less pressure to "have it all figured out" too quickly. Once a CEO has pulled together his/her thinking, is deeply committed to it, and has shifted to execution, questions or doubts raised later by board members become irritants rather than help.

How can boards make a contribution to vision while CEO thinking is still flexible? We have a couple of suggestions:

  • The board can ask for the current draft version of the emerging vision statement at each meeting. At least they'll be able to feel the pace toward resolution.
  • One or more of the independent directors can periodically lunch with the CEO to ascertain what new insights are occurring, and to test out the new thinking before it becomes too settled and is communicated to the organization.

Hopefully the relationship between the CEO and the board will make vision development a constructive, interactive process.

 

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