Championing excellence

Thursday, 20 November 2014

John H C Colvin

    John H C Colvin explains how Company Directors’ new Centre for Governance Excellence and Innovation will facilitate a greater understanding of the theory and practice of governance.

    One of our proudest achievements at Company Directors has been the fact that we have become a vocal and respected voice in public debate. Our views on important issues have influenced legislative reform at both the federal and state level, and are also widely sought by others who wish to be properly informed about governance matters.

    This success is the result of the reasoned thinking and substantive research that we consistently apply to our policy work and also to our educational initiatives. We are reluctant to participate in debate about a particular issue unless we can back our position with real intellectual rigour. We also endeavour to research the very best work of others in this regard.

    We considered it important that this thinking be brought into the public eye and therefore, we launched our new Centre for Governance Excellence and Innovation in October.

    The centre is best described as a library of material that is freely available to our members, other stakeholders and the general public via a dedicated section of our website. It contains the very best information about the external factors that impact boardroom practice, as well as guides to sharpen this and also content that focuses on directors’ roles in driving organisational performance.

    More information about the centre can be found on page 59 and I encourage all members to explore the contents of the site and to refer to it whenever questions arise in their mind, or simply as a means to keep abreast of thought leadership in the governance sphere.

    Governance practice

    The overarching aim is to provide a centre that can provide the necessary content to facilitate a free flow of ideas about the practice of governance and the impact it has on organisational performance. This is an impact that ultimately boosts economic growth, investment and helps create more security and jobs for Australians.

    Importantly, the centre will contain not just our own ideas but also the work of other stakeholders that meets the criteria we have set for material to be considered for inclusion on the website. We recognise that proper debate must be vigorous by including a divergence of views that may influence the final solution to a particular issue.

    I would invite others who can demonstrate their academic or professional credentials to submit material for consideration for inclusion in the centre. We will establish an advisory panel that can assist with the selection of content, providing an objective filter to the process.

    The content of the centre will be updated monthly, allowing for an abundance of thought-provoking research and ideas to be expressed within it.

    Over time, we hope that the centre will be at the forefront of people’s minds when they wish to know anything about governance, becoming a known source of high-quality content that can be used to inform opinion and provide a basis for decision-making.

    The need for such a centre is highlighted by the wide range and complexity of issues in the governance field. Too often, public comment about these issues is limited to “sound grabs” that play to ideological bias or populist politics by failing to convey the real detail of a given topic.

    We have, for example, in recent times contributed to complicated debates about director liability laws, the regulation of litigation funders and the future of the so-called “100 member rule” that has allowed small groups of shareholders to call general meetings of companies.

    Our proposal for an Honest and Reasonable Director Defence to be included in the Corporations Act is another example of the detailed work that we undertake on your behalf.

    Influencing reform

    We have in many instances been successful in influencing reform or educating others, and this is in no small part because of our hard-earned reputation as an organisation that will bring a thought-out position to the table that could help shape a final position or reform, even if it does not contain all the eventual answers to an issue.

    We also constantly look for better ways to help educate our members about their role as directors, fine-tuning our educational courses, introducing new courses and organising events with the best speakers available.

    Advocating for change is often a lengthy road, regardless of the topic at hand. Education, too, is a continuous process that demands constant updating of the best thinking and an eager mind.

    Both exercises require patience, a willingness to listen to others and an ability to challenge conventional wisdom and, of course, one’s own biases. I am confident that our new Centre for Governance Excellence and Innovation will facilitate a greater understanding of the theory and practice of governance. I also hope that you will take full advantage of it.

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