Ageing Corporations

by Bronwyn

We are at a period of time where certain corporations have been in existence for several decades. Some may even be heading towards a century. With age comes wisdom but with it also comes some inherent problems. Learning from the past supports wisdom going forward. Sometimes wisdom and opportunities to learn are not practiced because this also requires thinking about what changes need to be made to implement the wisdom gained. With ageing comes a propensity to take less risks, however the very nature of growing a business is about being creative and taking risks. If you look back at the beginning of the corporation then you will see it started with someone taking a risk and being creative in the approach they took.

Growing a business, which means the same as staying in business, requires always being open and creative. It means taking a real look at what is going on and observing the market. In some corporations, ageing has left the corporation bound up in rules and systems, trying to minimise risk. Overtime boards begin to take control of the corporation. They employ CEO’s who are compliance or systems experts. More controls are implemented until the corporation is so rigid and bound up that it cannot be flexible and meet market demands.

Employing a CEO who is flexible, entrepreneurial, creative and open to taking risks means handing over trust and responsibility allowing this person the freedom to grow the business. Instead what we see today is  greater control thus setting the CEO up to fail.

It is time for us to think back to how many corporations began, with an idea, a plan and many risks. It required really knowing your market and having your finger on the pulse. It required flexibility. These things cannot be done from the board room. They are done at the coal face. The corporations of the future are not run by board rooms but by having a strong vision, allowing the CEO to achieve it and by supporting the CEO to achieve. Boards should put in place realistic ways to track progress. They should use the time they spend together to learn from the past, apply this learning and allocate time to change in preparation for the next step. Each board member, including the CEO, should be evolving, growing  all the time. This will flow on throughout the corporation, energising and invigorating it. With this comes growth.