Boardroom agility in turbulent governance seasons Kahumbya Bashige CDir, Investor Relations Manager, Shelter Afrique

Kahumbya Bashige CDir is a Tanzanian born woman with 20 years’ experience in the finance industry, a board directorship with CRDB Bank Burundi and a member of the IoD Council.

‘All things constant’ is an oft-used signature of expectations in projecting organisational vision and goals. In corporate leadership, the board holds the direction of this trajectory which, more often than not, remains predictable, all things remaining largely constant.

Never before in recent corporate history has this ‘all things constant’ predication been put to test like in the last three years with the global complexity brought about by Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The board’s fundamental role in any institution is to set and sustain the guiding vision and strategy, as well as holding management to account for its delivery while providing them with the necessary support and guidance.

Typically, a strategy will be formulated for five years and reviewed annually.

How then does a board steer the organization to successfully navigate the turbulence of unpredictable and volatile macro-economic and /or political environment?

Agility at the board level is sacrosanct in responding effectively to changes in the internal and external environment. An agile board will focus more on performance (forward looking) as opposed to conformance (backward looking). This approach increases the probability of the board to quickly adapt an appropriate and effective strategy in mitigating the fluid environment as well as eliciting compatible innovation towards the same.

 What key factors contribute to a board being agile?

  1. Diversity: The board should comprise of members with varied profiles in terms of gender, age, skill sets, sectorial experience and other relevant characteristics. This will enrich board room conversations and enhance critical thinking leading to better outcomes in problem solving and innovative solutions.
  2. Strong chair:  A chair’s main role is to provide leadership to the board, chiefly conducting of effective meetings through an inclusive approach which in turn encourages participation from all members.
  3. Annual board evaluations: Identify gaps and areas of improvement to lead to a better performing board.
  4. Upskilling directors: The governance world is ever evolving with emergence of novelties that demand new knowledge by leadership. It is important for directors to undergo continuous professional development to keep abreast of the emerging topics such as environmental social and governance (ESG) initiatives, technical and digital innovations, emerging corporate diversity and various others.
  5. A good understanding of the competitive environment to establish realistic and effective SWOTS.

An agile board is able to put in place the right management team who will in turn ensure the right processes/policies are in place to adapt to unforeseen changes.

Directors’ roles in an ever changing environment require urgency and quick decision making. This can only be achieved with a board that is equipped to react quickly: an agile board.

About the author

Kahumbya Bashige,

Governance and leadership expert

Kahumbya is a chartered director and a seasoned professional in governance, development finance, fundraising, commercial banking and corporate finance.

She is an elected member of the Council of the Institute of Directors, a body that acts in an oversight and advisory capacity of the Board to ensure the delivery of the objectives of the Institute. She is also an Independent Board Member and Chairperson of the Audit Committee of CRDB Bank Burundi S.A. She has extensive international experience having worked for four different multinational institutions namely Citibank, Deloitte and Touche, African Development Bank and Shelter Afrique.

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