by Mark Chillingworth

Book review: The Effective Board

Dec 22, 2010
CareersConstruction and Engineering IndustryGovernment

The Effective Board – Building Individual and Board Success By Neville Bain and Roger Barker (Institute of Directors/Kogan Page)

CIOs are increasingly board-level operatorsin major companies and organisations. For the CIO who has come up through a traditional IT-led career route of code development, business analysis, project management, architecture and on to the C-level IT roles it can be a frightening environment.

But help is at hand. The Effective Board – Building Individual and Board Success is published by the Institute of Directors (IoD) which, as an organisation whose membership has included the great and the good of British industry over the last hundred years, knows a thing or two about board-level politics.

Founded in 1903, the IoD is now a global organisation with 44,000 members that has reached beyond its Pall Mall, London origins. The organisation aims to raise the standards of corporate directors by improving the skills and knowledge of ?board-level management through its wide range of literature and events.

In recent years the number of CIOs joining the IoD seems to have increased. Those that use the organisation find not only its information valuable, but draw deeply from its networking opportunities as well as benefiting from its physical locations which provide CIOs who are on the road a comfortable and professional hub from which to work from or stage meetings.

CIOs who are members of the IoD tell CIO UK they find the organisation useful for broadening their business knowledge and vocabulary. The CIO community is unique in its strong ability to collaborate, so the IoD allows CIOs to get away from their core community and embed themselves in one that is purely about the business.

The Effective Boardis not a text for the CIO joining the board of an organisation, rather this 284-page tome is a Haynes Manual for building a new board. But for the rising CIO suddenly expected to attend board meetings there is a wealth of information here. A read of this book, which offers a brisk introduction to the role of the board and how to ensure it delivers, will prepare the CIO for any eventuality and in fact will probably put you ahead of many other members in terms of what to expect from board meetings.

Authors Neville Bain and Roger Barker have delivered a very up-to-date-text which covers many of the recent big business stories such as the misadventures of Bernie Madoff and the collapse of Lehman Brothers which resulted in the credit crisis, economic slow-down and now many of the world’s governments having excessive debt. Bain has been chairman of the IoD since April 2006. He has considerable business and board-level experience from his time as finance director of Cadbury Schweppes, Royal Mail and business travel leaders Hogg Robinson. This is Bain’s fifth book. Barker is a trained economist and is an advisor to the European Union.

There are strong case studies and the book is littered with box-out examples that help you navigate the text as well as offering fast reference points to refer to as and when needed. But this isn’t just an academic analysis of the role of the board of directors, the book is choc-full of references and examples from the business world and all the major companies are here; Asda, BAE, Balfour Beatty, Cadbury, Department of Health, DuPont and ITV, to name but a few.

You won’t find this a page-turning epic that will change the way you think about the world and your organisation, but if your role now demands that you spend time at the boardroom table, this will be a useful addition to your office library. It is a reference book that will prove useful time and time again.