Inside the Boardroom: Governance by Directors and Trustees

NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW  

396 words

Title: Inside the Boardroom: Governance by Directors and Trustees;  
by William G. Bowen; John Wiley & Sons; ISBN 0-471-02501-1;  
Hardcover,  204 pages; $49.50

Reviewer: A. T. Connellan, "The author has produced a lucid and 
literate, scholarly crafted guide for a pragmatic, professional 
approach to governance. It should be required reading for those 
currently serving, or contemplating board service to any organization."

A resource course for board members

Up to now, the definitive volume on the art of governance has been 
the highly regarded 1992 volume, Boardroom Renaissance by 
James Gillies. Like many others, who have served as a 
trustee or director on the Boards of both for-profit and non-profit 
organizations, I benefited from Dr. Gillies' wisdom at the time and 
continued the search for additional material that would guide and 
assist. Here is the reward. 

Inside the Boardroom should be required reading for those currently 
serving, or contemplating service to either type of organization. Dr. 
Bowen has drawn on the advice and assistance of a peer group 
that spans the international community of business, educational, 
and charitable organizations. 

During the past three decades William G. Bowen has served as 
director or trustee of a number of notable non-profit and business 
organizations, including Princeton University, the Smithsonian 
Institution, American Express, Merck and NCR. 

This is a lucid and literate, scholarly crafted guide for a pragmatic, 
professional approach to governance. It is well annotated, and is 
supported by an extensive bibliography. His recommendations for 
the lessons to be learned from each form of organization, and the 
rules to be followed for the most effective board structure were 
gained through hard-won experience. 

He stresses collegiality, the encouragement of constructive dissidents, 
and support for those with courage and the will to act. There are 
warnings to avoid "self perpetuating,... an undistinguished status 
quo,... passive,... rice bowl directors, ... seat warmers,... publicity 
seeking professional activists, or...when individuals join boards 
to`make a splash' or advance a personal agenda," and points 
out that "Boredom is the price of eternal vigilance." 
                                             
I'm thankful for his attention to the essential matters of director 
compensation, term of service, frequency of meetings, and other 
rarely discussed but equally important subjects. In particular 
Appendixes: A; Presumptive Norms and B; Capsule Profiles of 
Selected Organizations, are the icing on the cake. 

From time to time I've puzzled at the way otherwise intelligent people 
would come to a board meeting, hang up their hats, coats, and brains 
outside, enter the meeting and commit the most outrageous sins 
against common sense. They betray years of training and experience 
to err in ways that would be calamitous to their own businesses. 

May they either rot in hell or read and profit from this book. 


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