Looking at this painting. We are the girl on the left, crying as we mumble something and somewhere between “never” and “erm six months ago…?”. The Covid pandemic has forced all companies to look seriously at how to address the impact of several lockdowns on revenues, staff requirements, office space and all elements that would reduce the scaring on bottom lines. Many have now moved – at least in terms of where their vision is focused – to the medium to long term and above the horizon of fire-fighting the effects of the pandemic.
This is also a chance for the Board to drag out the blocks of marble and granite from the basement on which they had etched their good intentions of being a linked-up company and give marks out of ten for its SMARTness. Any business scoring 6 is doing well. Any getting 8 are probably lying.
But this is a good time to create something that goes beyond being a dry husk of best endeavours to consider ways to make the process more inclusive and relevant to the business rather than just an onerous task that produces sighs of relief when done. As a director of a small business, we discuss our business all the time and probably like many with a couple of directors, we tend to allow the wind to move us rather than sticking too long to a path in order to let our plans play out. Having worked with PLCs and other large companies, I am always amazed how many board reports are produced. These are usually as much use as Belgian signposts which appear after motorway turn-offs rather than before. By the time a report is written, its relevance has passed.
Perhaps it is time to question if the format of a company Board and how it functions is actually fit for purpose. If the Business Plan is a hymn sheet that nobody follows once the dots are on the staves, then perhaps there is a new way of producing something that is useful rather than a distraction whilst still fulfilling a company’s reporting legal obligations. Then we can all be a bit like the boy in blue in the picture, confidently delivering his plans for the company’s future prosperity to a table of soon-to-be redundant Roundheads.
Image: ‘When did you last see your father?’ 19th century painting by W. F. Yeames, shows a Royalist family who have been captured by the enemy. The boy is being questioned about the whereabouts of his father by a panel of Parliamentarians.