Holiday break a chance to get perspective on our purpose

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
There is nothing like committing your opinion to paper to make the phone ring, writes Trish Oakley.

From Elon Musk to data, board interactions and evaluations, legislative change and climate change, personal values to people, we have canvassed a number of governance themes in this year’s Director Dialogue column.

But with mere days to go until Christmas, the promise of exchanging foot prisons for jandals is just around the corner and with that, the prospect of time under the shade of a tree with a book and quiet time to reflect.

So as I close the door on 2021, some of the things that will occupy my mind over summer include the following:

The tragedy of the horizon. A phrase coined by the Bank of England’s governor and an excellent statement to focus oneself on climate change. Hope in Hell: A Decade to Confront the Climate Emergency by Jonathon Porritt is on my reading list this year.

No matter where in the cycle you are, from starting out or measuring your footprint through to off-setting and in-setting programmes at scale with net-zero certification, this summer I encourage you to consume content on the topic and the United Nations sustainable development goals generally, so you can comfortably contribute to the conversation on what your entity’s commitment to sustainability is and the direction you want to take.

Technology. A 10-letter word with deep and wide meaning. Each week, Azeem Azhar pops into my inbox. His interest lies in how societies and the political economy will change under the force of rapidly accelerating technologies. Recently published, his book Exponential has also hit my reading list. As I digest his thinking, I will be considering not only the practical applications of technologies, but also the question of ethics.

What are the consequences of the changing construct of society as organisations embrace new digital versions of their operating models?

Computer code may challenge the dominance of law in regulating human behaviour. Existing practice may not be suitable for the virtual worlds heading our way.

Legal minds and regulators will no doubt respond, but as the hype increases around us and investment and collaboration occurs, (think Weta’s purchase by Unity), it is good to have clarity in one’s own mind of not just the potential, but also the considerations.

And as we learn by doing, I will trade the book, organise my avatar and crypto and dip my toes into some virtual world, try to understand its bullish property market and perhaps experience a virtual event or two to see what the hype is all about. I might see you there.

Of course with technology, hand in hand are data governance and culture alongside cyber security. We all want to be storytellers using our entities’ data. That is the fun part, painting the big picture, but it is the robust discussion of associated data governance frameworks (where we will keep our ethics in check) that will carry significance as we progress further at pace in the new year.

Security-wise, the recent Log4j global security issue kept IT departments busy right at year end as systems and applications were widely checked to ensure no incursions or attempts thereof.

Indeed I was asked for a list of non-standard items or software that I routinely use. It reminded me that we are all in this together and in my opinion, every director now needs a degree of technical literacy to manage themselves and know what questions to ask.

Bad actors are unlikely to take a break over the festive season so I am grateful that a colleague donated me a book dedicated to the questions directors need to consider around cyber security and technology governance. Indeed the Institute of Directors’ 2021 cyber risk practice guide, with its five core principles to help boards understand and approach cybersecurity, was one of the top three resources for the year. Download your copy if you haven’t already.

Of course holidays are a time for fun and hopefully enable time to indulge in your favourite shows carefully curated on your list. No doubt Netflix will occupy some of my time and it was its chief executive, Reed Hastings, who described its biggest competitor as sleep (sound familiar?).

A great reminder that when it comes to strategy and direction, governors cannot afford to have a traditional view of their competitive environment. Taking trends and data points of the day and considering how this will intersect with your organisation’s, stakeholders’, employees’ and customers’ needs inside a predefined budget envelope requires sustained commitment and a focus on the why not the how.

There is nothing like time without distractions to think about purpose. Not just your entity’s purpose but your own and why you so freely give your time and expertise to the organisations you serve. What is your why? What is your entity’s why?

I believe purpose-led workforces, where equality is foundational, values are genuine and the whole person considered, will fare well inside a hot employer market.

As to your own why, understanding your motivations, doing a stocktake on your pathway and training priorities for the period ahead is just common sense.

Finally, holidays are about people, time with loved ones to reconnect and recharge. But time too with people who differ from your daily walk of life. This facilitates different perspectives and insights about today’s world and helps develop wide horizons.

Governance too is about people and horizons, and for us at the Institute of Directors, it has been a busy and productive year with our 10,000th member joining.

We have seen significant appetite for training and development and access to governance resources to support members at all levels in the journey. Visit our website and see some member perspectives on why good governance matters to them and then share your own view with us.

And when you return, reluctantly trading the jandals in, take some time at your first meeting of the year to share what you considered under the shade of a tree and what governance themes you think deserve prioritisation in the year ahead.

 - Trish Oakley is chairwoman of the Otago-Southland branch of the Institute of Directors (IOD). This article is opinion only and not intended as governance advice. IOD is the professional body for directors and is at the heart of New Zealand’s governance community.

Comments

The Odt, is a great paper and source of the real happenings in NZ.
Thank you for allowing me to voice my opinion and comment on your articles.
Unlike the Stuff organisation, you cannot question or criticise this Government. They have a lot of questions to answer.
Merry Xmas odt, and all staff.

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