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I just completed reading "Corporate Concinnity in the Board Room: 10 Imperatives to Drive High Performing Companies" by Nancy Falls published by Greenleaf Book Group Press (www.gbgpress.com).

For sure you will learn two items in this book.  First, concinnity is a real word and can be used in a sentence. According to most references including the first page of the book, concinnity is the skillful and harmonious arrangement or fitting together of the different parts of something.

Second, you will learn everything and more about Nancy Falls who shamelessly distributes factoids, and sometimes a number of times, in every chapter.  One might even begin to think that the book is like the many premiums given away (like pens, mouse pads etc.) to promote Nancy Falls.  

The good news about Corporate Concinnity is there are some interesting points applied with references to nonprofits and for-profits alike that could be used by any consultant, board chair, board member and CEO.  As noted in the title, Nancy proposes that there are 10 "imperatives" if followed will increase the effectiveness of a corporate board and in turn, increase the performance of a corporation.  One core principle is that corporate boards do indeed matter with the potential to have both a negative and positive impact on a corporation.  Ms. Falls offers two definitions in her introduction worthy of note to frame the book's topics.

Leadership is the process of utilizing appropriate "hard" skills and "soft" skills to influence people in driving toward stated company goals.

Corporate Governance is the framework through which a board of directors helps a company meet its goals and objectives while simultaneously ensuring that it meets is obligations to multiple stakeholders.  It is also the system of rules, practices, and processes by which a company is directed and controlled.

The 10 imperatives include (as translated by me): 

1. Board members and staff must be very clear about who is responsible for what and when and how and recognize when to change the rules they have created to adapt to corporate needs.

2. The number, diversity and tenure and size of a board matters and decisions on these matters is informed by external as much as internal factors.  Getting right is the challenge that requires maintaining inquiry

3. Recruit the right people, again, being sensitive to corporate needs, particularly business cycles, and external elements (remember Jim Collins?)

4. Stakeholders matter in decision making

5. Information matters but what matters equally is understanding what and how much to be effective in making decisions as well as who to ask and when

6. Be mindful of culture when trying to make change

7. Something about compensation that I didn't really grasp the importance of

8. Executive coaches are the perfect answer to addressing CEO developmental needs - not the board -- the board is too close and has another role  (these felt like an overt pitch by Ms. Falls to hire her).

9.Succession planning for CEO's and board members is essential for the long range wellness of a corporation

10. Wisdom is the lifeblood of a successful board and corporation.  The three components of wisdom: cognition, reflection and, compassion.

Are these really the right imperatives to drive high performing companies?  I'm not 100% sure they are but I think there's enough fodder to work from to certainly increase performance, especially of the board.  While Corporate Concinnity is a bit too prescriptive for my taste (versus more evidence driven for each point) there are lessons for consideration.  Also, Ms. Falls is inclusive of nonprofits and that is helpful and she connects the content well with her examples but I would wonder that it might have been more effective to do one Corporate Concinnity for for-profits and another for non-profits.  I believe there are nuances that have been overlooked.  

Still, there are gems like: the stakeholder analyses graph (not new concept but helpfully presented); a topic grid for planning board meeting agendas; an overly complex chart on organizational stage of development (could be significantly simplified but has interesting content); an uber-detailed board skills matirx that includes a very helpful list of functional skills; and, somewhat helpful snippets on a huge number of matters.  

Ms. Falls has written and include-all definitive prescriptive missive on corporate governance which is worth picking-up and reviewing aloud by the board governance committee.  One would hope that despite all the governance literature out in the world, this lens could add value.

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