Inside the Boardroom: Governance by Directors and Trustees
NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW
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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