5 Board Effectiveness Questions Inspired by Apple

February 10, 2014

As the world's most admired company, Apple has continued to sit in the spotlight through success, challenge and change. Over the past few years, we have watched carefully to see how the company would manage through one of the highest profile CEO succession transitions in history.

We were curious if Tim Cook and the leadership team could maintain flawless continuity with new product innovation. We pondered the implications of new leadership and how the culture might change. And we wondered how Apple's evolution might impact not only the brand promise and organizational purpose but our own lives. 

Leadership. Innovation. Culture. Purpose. Where does it all begin?  

It just might be with the board. 

A recent Fast Company article questioned the evolution of Apple's board, specifically relating to diversity. This was a thought-provoking piece, not only because the issue of women on boards and diversity is an important topic, but also because it pushes us to think more deeply about the role and importance of boards. 

For many, Apple has been a great source of inspiration. What is most fascinating is that Apple must now learn from itself. If the board of the most admired company in the world needs pressure from major shareholders to evolve and advance, we know that the idea of board effectiveness is real and increasingly important. 

Here are five questions for boards to think about, discuss, and take meaningful action on. 

  1. What unique value do we bring to the organization, beyond a basic governance obligation? 
  2. Does our board help guide and exemplify the company's culture, values and brand in everything we do?
  3. How are we creating a healthy board dynamic and open environment that encourages constructive debate and new thinking?
  4. Do we take time to reflect on and talk about our role, effectiveness and impact as a board based on where the company is in its life cycle?
  5. How deliberate are we about challenging outdated behaviours and practices and investing in board development? 

If boards are going to continue to evolve in a way that adds meaningful value to organizations, it might just be time to think different.

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