Every new generation faces a different set of barriers to communication. In the early twentieth century, businesses relied on telegrams, the mail, and primitive phone networks, which meant maintaining regular communications with people in other parts of the world was timely and expensive. As technology improved, the obstacles shifted: now, the biggest problem most boards face is not the time lag between sending and receiving messages, or the high costs of long-distance telecommunications, but the difficulties of working productively and closely with people you may see only once a year.
Modern boards of directors are often spread across countries and around the globe, which can give rise to unique problems. Here are four ways that boards can remain effective and engaged despite the challenges of 21st-century communications.
1. Work Remotely
On one level, to say that boards need to work remotely is simply to state the obvious: if boards are to get anything done, they need to be in regular contact, which means video-chatting, emailing, and setting up regular conference calls. But to embrace working remotely as an active strategy requires boards to really think about which tasks are easier to do from a distance, and which require intensive face-time. For example, it may well be the case that large amounts of business that was traditionally considered to be part of the quarterly board meeting might more effectively be managed before the meeting begins.
2. Make In-Person Meetings Count
Not all board work can be done remotely, and it is unlikely that any development in electronic communications can ever really replace the chemistry that happens in a face-to-face meeting. But face-to-face meetings can be costly, with board members traveling long distances and in many cases requiring accommodations when they arrive. This can be a major financial strain for smaller businesses and not-for-profit organizations.
This is why it is important to get as much of the routine work as possible done remotely so that when your board does gather to meet in person, you can focus your energies on the more important tasks of visioning and planning.
3. Take Advantage Of Modern Communication Tools
With so many boards facing the same challenges, perhaps it isn’t surprising that entrepreneurs have developed tools specifically designed to help boards communicate and network better. The latest board meeting management software allows boards of directors to send and receive documents through a secure portal, which also provides them with the ability to discuss, annotate, and work on agendas, reports, memos, and the other data they need to effectively discharge their duties.
4. Foster Horizontal Communications
Especially in the case of boards that may have directors based in many different cities or countries, encouraging directors to practice horizontal communication can help them develop initiative and become more engaged. If some of your directors are grouped in one geographic region, find a way to foster collegiality among them so that they feel empowered to tackle problems they can collectively address.
The Internet has irrevocably changed the way boards organize, meet, and conduct business, and while this has made many aspects of board governance easier, it has also brought new challenges. Ensuring your board remains effective in spite of the geographic distance between members requires a comprehensive communication strategy. But by thinking tactically about remote work, making in-person meetings count, adopting new tech solutions, and encouraging horizontal communications, your board can easily overcome the challenges of 21st-century communications.
More on this topic: What You Need to Know About 5G