This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are used for visitor analysis, others are essential to making our site function properly and improve the user experience. By using this site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Click Accept to consent and dismiss this message or Deny to leave this website. Read our Privacy Statement for more.
The Board is not a Team- with Neil Britten


"The Board is not a team" Discussion with Neil Britten, Britten Coyne Partners


Characteristics of (effective) teams:

  • Directly accountable for outcomes
  • Clearly defined (single) goal – predefined or self-defined
  • Mix of talents and skills which collectively support achievement of that goal
  • Single leader
  • Clear structure and roles (goal keeper mostly defends)
  • Suppression of personal goals / agenda demanded in pursuit of the team goal
  • Shared information
  • Open and clear communication
  • Cohesiveness is considered a premium (not a team player)
  • Group think may be a positive decision making mode – knowing what your team members will do
  • Longevity tends to be a positive demographic regarding effectiveness, as long as other attributes not diminished


Common characteristics of boards:

  • Indirectly accountable for many outcomes
  • Multiple, conflicting goals – externally defined or self-defined, e.g. long- term vs short term; risk vs reward; shareholders interests vs employees interests
  • Diversity is valued (but frequently exhibit industry and member-experience homogeneity)
  • Single chair / combined chair CEO
  • CEO accountable for short term results (CEO tenures)
  • Chair accountable for effective board; board accountable to stakeholders; board accountable for long term success
  • May have clear structure, e.g. sub-committees but all directors remain accountable for whole enterprise (“goalkeeper” must attack and defend equally)
  • Directors retain individual accountability
  • Information asymmetry at best / suppression at worst
  • Communication strongly influenced by CEO style and Chair style
  • Longevity (especially with homogeneity) is negatively correlated with effectiveness
  • Cohesiveness, especially in the absence of cognitive conflict, tends to group think – self-censorship and pressuring deviant thinkers to conform to majority opinions


If not teams then what?

  • Elite, episodic, decision making groups that face complex tasks pertaining to strategic issue processing
  • The output of boards is purely cognitive in nature
  • Groups which must positively harness cognitive conflict – “critical and investigative interaction processes”
  • A group where some attributes shared with effective teams (Knowledge/skill; Effort norms; cohesiveness) but has critical difference in the role and contribution of Cognitive Conflict – impact on core task of boards regarding strategic decision making and risk
  • A board that looks and feels like a great team is probably an ineffective board




Neil Britten, Britten Coyne Partners,