Conflict and the Current Governance Dilemmas

March 6, 2009 at 5:50 pm

meeting conflictInterestingly, whenever conflict is mentioned as it relates to business or more specifically the corporate boardroom it is always in the context of conflict resolution. It seems to be taken for granted that conflict is undesirable and resolution is always the goal.

Perhaps instead of universally determining that conflict is objectionable, conflict be calibrated so that what we can call “constructive conflict” is deemed as actually beneficial for a board and ultimately the business. Kathleen Eisenhardt, Jean Kahwajy and L.J. Bourgeois said it very well in their Harvard Business Review article entitled: “How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight” when they stated that “The absence of conflict is not harmony, it’s apathy.” They concluded in their research that provided that conflict does not turn interpersonal it can be useful for team members.
A Board of Directors can in certain ways be considered a team in that there is a shared fiduciary responsibility to the company on which they serve. As such, what I am calling constructive conflict or healthy disagreement or even vigorous questioning of the status quo should be encouraged and even celebrated. Board members should feel free to rigorously query management, reports and any data that is received. The boardroom should be an environment of open deliberation without personal criticism. It is only in this way that the organization can truly benefit from the wisdom, knowledge and insight of their board.


Entry filed under: Corporate Governance. Tags: , , , .

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