Case Studies

Board Effectiveness Evaluation / Fortune 100 energy business


The Challenge


Our client was a global FTSE 20 energy business. It was growing strongly, and consistently outperforming its peer group. Whilst previousinternal reviews had suggested that the Board was operating well, the Chairman was keen to bring an independent and objective assessment of how it could improve its effectiveness further.


Our Approach


We started by holding a series of background discussions with the Chairman, Senior Independent Director and CEO, both to deepen our understanding of the business and its key challenges and also to tailor our evaluation so that it focused in particular on the most important issues and concerns.

We then had detailed one-to-one discussions with each of the Directors, in which we explored their perspectives on issues including: the Board’s size and collective capabilities against those required; the time allocated; how well the Board understood the business and the effectiveness of both induction processes and the regular supply of information; how Board and Committee meetings operated; and the dynamics between the Chairman and CEO, and the Non-Executives and Executive team.

We also discussed how well the Board delivered against its five major tasks: shaping strategy, monitoring performance, succession planning, managing key stakeholders and providing stewardship.

Based on these inputs, we developed a detailed report laying out our findings and recommendations. This report synthesised the key observations and perceptions Board members had, provided our insights on how well the Board was delivering against its key priorities, highlighted key areas for improvement and proposed possible actions.

We first discussed this with the Chairman and Senior Independent Director together, and then sent the report to the Board, before facilitating a Board discussion of the findings that led to the agreement of a concrete action plan.

Key areas where changes were agreed included: deepening the Board’s involvement in succession planning and talent mapping; agreeing specific profiles for future Non-Executive Director appointments; and to increase the informal interactions between Non-Executives and Executives.


The Outcome


The Board have now implemented these changes and are now proving even more effective in their leadership of the business, which continues to go from strength to strength.

Board Effectiveness Evaluation / FTSE 100 financial services business


The Challenge


Our client was an international FTSE 100 financial services business. It had a strong and experienced management team, supported by a stable Board, who had together brought the business out of a crisis period and established it as a consistently top quartile performer. Nevertheless, the Board had never had an external review of its effectiveness and the Chairman was keen to get objective counsel on how its contributions could be further improved given the future challenges faced.


Our Approach


We started by gaining input from the Chairman and the CEO on what they saw as the major challenges faced by the business and the Board, and proposed a tailored set of key questions to enable detailed exploration of their most important issues and concerns. We then had detailed one-to-one discussions with each of the Directors, in which we explored their perspectives on issues including: the Board’s role in the future in supporting the business; its collective capabilities against those required; how well the Board understood the business and the effectiveness of both formal and informal information flows; how the Board spent its time across different activities and how well this compared to its priorities; how well Board and Committee meetings operated and the key behavioural dynamics; the relationships between the Chairman and CEO, and the Non-Executives and Executive team; and how well the Board delivered against its five major tasks of shaping strategy, monitoring performance, succession planning, managing key stakeholders and providing stewardship. Finally, we gathered feedback on the strengths and development areas for each Director.

Based on these interviews, we developed a detailed report laying out our findings and recommendations. This synthesised the key findings from our discussions, provided our insights on how well the Board was delivering against its key priorities, highlighted key areas for improvement and proposed possible actions. We first discussed this with the Chairman and the CEO, and then sent the report to the Board, before facilitating a Board discussion of the findings that led to the agreement of a concrete action plan. Key agreed changes included: developing and kicking off a comprehensive Board succession plan; introducing the role of Senior Independent Director; regularising NED-only dinners; formalising and strengthening the review process for both the Chairman and CEO; and expanding the degree of informal interaction between Non-Executives and Executives. Each Director also received a personal development plan from the Chairman, based on our input.


The Outcome


These changes were implemented and have further strengthened the Board’s effectiveness, through a carefully sequenced programme of Non-Executive Director replacement and the development of an even more open and robust Board culture.

Management Assessments / Fortune 100 consumer goods business


The Challenge


Our client was a FTSE 30 multinational consumer goods business. The Board were keen to consider the quality of the succession pipeline to the Executive Committee and asked us to provide an independent, externally benchmarked assessment of 30 leading candidates for future promotion to the top team.


Our Approach


We started by agreeing with the Chairman, CEO and CHRO exactly how we would conduct the assessments and agreed a model based on depth two-hour interviews, supplemented by selective internal references. We also explored the general leadership competencies that were desired of senior leaders in the business, to supplement the specific functional capabilities that different roles required. We finally briefed the candidates on the process and asked them to prepare a structured CV ahead of our interviews with them.

We then interviewed each candidate, with two of our partners involved in each session, and explored their career histories and track records as well as their leadership style through competency-based questioning, to form a preliminary view on the candidate’s strengths and development needs as well as on how well they benchmarked against the best external peers. We also took up the internal references to add colour and further perspective to our judgements. We used these insights to prepare 2-3 page reports on each individual, laying out in clear language our judgement on their distinctive strengths, their key areas of development and their overall calibration.

These individual reports were then shared with the Board, CEO and CHRO, before then being discussed with each candidate as a key input to their future development plans. We also developed a synthesised set of observations on the overall quality of the succession bench as well as on common themes in terms of strengths and weaknesses across that management population, which was discussed both the Board and the Executive Committee.


The Outcome


The Board have now implemented these changes and are now proving even more effective in their leadership of the business, which continues to go from strength to strength.

Succession Planning / Major international industrial group


The Challenge


Our client was a major global industrial group, headquartered in Switzerland. Their successful and long-serving Chief Executive was two years away from retirement and the Board wanted to ensure that they had visibility of the best of both the internal candidates and the external market before making a decision on succession.


Our Approach


Our approach involved two parallel processes. Firstly, we met with 15 of the ‘next generation’ of the group’s leaders for c.2 hours each, discussing their career to date and ambitions for the future. The output of this was a report on each which highlighted their strengths, weaknesses and development potential. This report was shared with each of the participants and enabled the Board and CEO to understand better their internal talent pool, both individually and collectively. On the basis of these reports and existing internal assessments of their capabilities, a number of the participants were promoted to the Group Executive Committee over the next year, and the Board took a much more active role in executive succession and the talent pipeline.

In parallel with this, we conducted a global search of the external market to identify and approach the best candidates. At this exploratory stage our client’s name was not mentioned; however, we were able to go back to our client with a realistic sense of the available external market and to discuss the trade-offs against the internal candidates.

There was then a pause in the process whilst the Board familiarised themselves with the internal candidates, who were now member of the Executive Committee, and reflected on the nature of the strategic and commercial challenges that would face the new Chief Executive.

After nearly a year the process restarted, with us approaching both new external candidates and recontacting those whom we had met before. The outcome of this was a longlist of external candidates, all of whom were firmly interested and potentially available. This was done discreetly, without any noise in either the investor world or the company itself.


The Outcome


The Nominations Committee chose to meet five external candidates, who came from five different countries and three continents, alongside the lead internal candidate. This was then reduced to two candidates who were met by the wider Board, from whom one emerged as the unanimous choice. The thorough nature of the process gave the Board the confidence to appoint the first ever outsider as Chief Executive in the group’s 100 year history.

 

Organisational Consulting / Private Equity Firm


The Challenge


Our client was a global FTSE 20 energy business. It was growing strongly, and consistently outperforming its peer group. Whilst previousinternal reviews had suggested that the Board was operating well, the Chairman was keen to bring an independent and objective assessment of how it could improve its effectiveness further.

 

Our Approach


We started by holding a series of background discussions with the Chairman, Senior Independent Director and CEO, both to deepen our understanding of the business and its key challenges and also to tailor our evaluation so that it focused in particular on the most important issues and concerns.

We then had detailed one-to-one discussions with each of the Directors, in which we explored their perspectives on issues including: the Board’s size and collective capabilities against those required; the time allocated; how well the Board understood the business and the effectiveness of both induction processes and the regular supply of information; how Board and Committee meetings operated; and the dynamics between the Chairman and CEO, and the Non-Executives and Executive team.

We also discussed how well the Board delivered against its five major tasks: shaping strategy, monitoring performance, succession planning, managing key stakeholders and providing stewardship.

Based on these inputs, we developed a detailed report laying out our findings and recommendations. This report synthesised the key observations and perceptions Board members had, provided our insights on how well the Board was delivering against its key priorities, highlighted key areas for improvement and proposed possible actions.

We first discussed this with the Chairman and Senior Independent Director together, and then sent the report to the Board, before facilitating a Board discussion of the findings that led to the agreement of a concrete action plan.

Key areas where changes were agreed included: deepening the Board’s involvement in succession planning and talent mapping; agreeing specific profiles for future Non-Executive Director appointments; and to increase the informal interactions between Non-Executives and Executives.


The Outcome


The Board have now implemented these changes and are now proving even more effective in their leadership of the business, which continues to go from strength to strength.

 

Talent Mapping / FTSE 100 financial services business


The Challenge


Our client was a FTSE 100 financial services organisation. As part of rigorous succession planning, the Board wanted to identify individuals outside the organisation for top team roles where there was no credible internal successor, as well as to explore ‘best in class’ individuals from competitor organisations in other areas as a means of helping to benchmark their own talent as well as to keep an eye on outstanding talent in the industry globally. They therefore asked us to undertake an external talent mapping programme.

 

Our Approach


We started by developing role specifications for each of the positions in order to clarify the skills and level of experience required. These took into account not only existing imperatives but also any future requirements in light of Group strategy.

We then identified on a global basis target companies where the best qualified candidates might be found. The type of organisation varied in order to take account of the business area or function where they were strongest. For each position, significant sourcing and referencing was undertaken to identify the most promising talent. For each individual, authoritative information was then developed on their career history and current responsibilities and we met with them on a general basis to assess their capabilities and future potential; and their career agenda. All of this was undertaken confidentially without revealing the identity of our client.

 


The Outcome


The resulting report – scrutinised and approved by the Board – is updated on a six-monthly basis to link in with the Board’s deliberations on its on-going talent review process.