Chief Scientist Alan Finkel used his experience as Monash U chancellor for some of his advice on future-proofing boards, in a new speech on corporate governance.
* boards should write their own charters of behaviour; “to capture the expectations for confidentiality, courtesy.” Dr Finkel said he learned this as the university board dealt with “a significant redundancy package.” With staff-elected board members representing their constituencies, it was “terribly awkward” to discuss redundancies. A charter could, “maximise trust and transparency.”
* present reports to the board as narratives with the details in separate papers. At Monash, “this worked a charm,” avoid the temptation to include more than is necessary, just because it is easy to do so, he says.
* talk to managers. As Monash chancellor, Dr Finkel met annually with each dean, “it gave me an expanded perspective that I shared with the vice chancellor and deepened my understanding of the challenges and opportunities for the university.
Above all, do the whole job, “if you just focus on governance, you’re an auditor. If you just focus on guidance, you’re a life coach. If you achieve both, you’re a future-proof director.”