Board Member development: Board Member learning and attributes of experienced Board Members
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This research uses a grounded theory approach to explore the term ‘experienced Board Member’ with research into the learning experiences which bridge the gap between an inexperienced Board Member and an experienced Board Member. The purpose of this research is to identify repeatable/reportable patterns which could be utilised and developed to improve Board Member learning. Data is derived from interviews with nine (current and past) New Zealand Board Members. A common set of attributes of an experienced Board Member emerged from the study. The linking theme of the attributes is that they support the process of reaching a quality agreement or decision. The results of this study suggest that an experienced Board Member is perceived to be a Board Member who contributes to achieving a quality agreement and decision, using attributes associated with: • Contribution to Board processes • Understanding and Knowledge (governance and business acumen) • Internal Drivers • Making Hard Decisions. Formative Board Member learning is associated with developing self confidence, understanding what content is perceived to be (or not to be) relevant, understanding the Boardroom protocols and processes, and understanding the responsibility of the role. The primary mechanism in Board Member learning is observation. Board Member learning was most often the development of tacit understanding through observing events internal to the Board. Learning events for Board Members are likely to arise as part of the dismissal/departure of the CEO or from internal Board dissension. The results also indicate that current NZ Board Members are unlikely to have had any formal preparation for the Board Member role, and learning for the role is likely to be ad-hoc and vicarious. This research suggests that the successful development of experienced Board Members will require a fundamental change in the perception and practice of Board Member development within organisations and at Board level. A Capability and Maturity Model is presented as a framework for assessing an organisation’s capability and maturity in terms of the development of its Board Members. This study builds on corporate governance theory by identifying attributes considered indicative of an experienced Board Member. This study adds to Learning Organisation and Knowledge theories by providing examples and comment on the place of Communities of Practice, and knowledge development within the development of Board Member experience.