Recruiting for a 'visionary board': how to evaluate your next board slate.

Author:Susan Angele, Susan Stautberg

Directors, if your company isn't the one that's disrupting its industry today, you are the one who is being disrupted.

In 1960, the average age of an S&P 500 company was 60 years; today it's less than 15. And of the nearly 1,300 CEOs who participated in KPMG's 2015 Global CEO Survey, almost one-third said they expected their companies to be transformed into a significantly different entity within the next three years. The pace of change is less evolution than it is revolution.

Staying ahead of these changes--in markets, supply chains, customer expectations, geopolitical realities, and more --requires corporate directors to excel at both the sprint and the marathon. While boards need to be nimble and responsive to immediate concerns and meet quarterly demands, the true test of a board is how well it performs in the long term. What does it take to meet the endurance test, and guide the company into the future? How does a board develop the forward-thinking "muscle" to set up the company for unforeseen challenges down the road?

The best boards today aim to be not just responsive, but visionary. To identify what a visionary board looks like and how to become one, the WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) Foundation teamed up with KPMG's Board Leadership Center to study the practices of boards that are providing not only oversight and insight, but foresight. Drawing from a diverse, global group of corporate directors and board advisors serving on the WCD Thought Leadership Commission, WCD and KPMG developed their findings into a report. Seeing Far and Seeing Wide: Moving Toward a Visionary Board. This report captures insights from the Commissioners' decades of experience in board service across continents, industries, and company types.

One of the key themes that emerged from the Thought Leadership Commission's discussions was the call for greater diversity in director slates. A visionary board is by definition a diverse board--and this means diversity in expertise, industry, geography, gender, ethnicity, and age. Board nominating committees have an important role in opening the board to the different perspectives needed to govern the company's strategic direction and face pressing business realities.

As institutional and activist investors grow in influence, for example, would the company benefit from a director who looks at the company from this point of view? Will someone who understands government, or someone with a background in health care, bring a...

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