Friday, October 29, 2010

The Mock Board

In law school, we have moot court where lawyers test themselves in a simulated courtroom environment.  In business school, we have business case studies that afford entrepreneurs the opportunity to evaluate real world scenarios and then discuss the issues and ramifications of alternative courses of action.  A “mock board” is another problem-based learning technique which allows the participants to focus on specific governance issues and to evaluate the collaborative decision-making process that exists in the boardroom.

A mock board setting is characterized by the following:

  • Instructor divides the class into groups representing diverse companies/disciplines.
- Provides a generic script to structure the approach to a “case study” problem.
- Facilitates the learning process by providing supportive research materials and/or analysis germane to the problem studied.
- Challenges the group presentation along with other class participants.

  • Participants take responsibility for their own group
- Define a few “key” roles required for collaboration: lead and scribe.
- Select from a menu of challenging, open-ended, loosely-defined and -structured “case study” problems.
- Organize and direct their specific approach to the learning process.
- Present and defend their positions in the classroom setting. 

The mock board decision-making context puts the participants in a simulated work and professional setting where they must define and defend policy, process and ethical challenges they face as they attempt to understand and resolve some key issue.

They work through learning strategies to discover the nature of the governance problem, the constraints and options for the problem’s resolution, input variables and the viewpoints involved. 

Through group collaboration, participants negotiate their way around the human, social and business complexities surrounding the problem. 

All members of the group are responsible for a collective search for resolution and a presentation of their informed decision.

The ultimate goal is to provide some personal experience, some engagement with boardroom problems and the decision-making process that underlies quality governance decision-making.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Gorilla in the Room

How do you know there's a 900 pound gorilla in the room?  Because there's no room for anything else. That's how it feels sometimes as we read articles in the media about women leaving the finance industry or women NOT in some leadership category or women copping out.  That describes this huge, gigantic thing that blocks out everything else -- our thinking, our potential, our attention. 

When I first started writing my book about women on corporate boards of directors, I was going to call it The Nine Hundred Pound Gorilla in the Room -- Why Women Haven't, Can't, Won't or Shouldn't Succeed.  It was going to be based on the thousands of articles of that subject which I had discovered or which others had too-generously shared.

The book was to have three parts. The first was to be titled, It's All HIS Fault -- dedicated to all the explanations, behaviors, actions and chemicals that explained why men were the source of all the problem(s); why it was the men, their bias and discrimination that kept women back.  The second part was to be titled, It's All HER Fault, explaining all the things women did that kept them from achieving their true potential, what parts of women needed fixing, and why women were to blame for all the failings.  The final chapter was to be called, There Outta Be A LAW, again, dedicated to all of the solutions everyone decided would come from enacting one or more new law, rule, regulation, creation of some new office or the addition of one more police officer to the gender equity beat.

After assembling all those supposedly erudite articles, the 900 pound gorilla was still there in the room.  There was nothing else.  The gorilla just sucked the life, the very air, out of the discussion.  All that was left was the statement:  There!  SEE???? Theres the Gorilla! No more elbow room.  No more conversation.  No options. No mobility. No choice.  Just this huge thing staring us all in the face. 

The only solution was to challenge the gorilla.

So what if men have testosterone and women have estrogen?  Do we really expect that to change?  Are we going to find some other planet with different chemical-free populations to make decisions for us?  Or might we possibly gain some benefits as society and organizations from the internal factors that make us different and motivate us differently?  And, by the way, over time, each side of the gender equation modifies its chemical makeup inside their human beakers.  So, what difference does it make, over the long term?

So what if some people like numbers and others like words, or if some are better in math while others are better at communication? Are we that positive we can identify or predict peoples behavior or choices based only on gender? Last time I looked, human beings had a total of five basic senses plus a whole slew of external appendages to tap into their environment and a huge brain to assimilate all that received input. There are centuries of evolution wrapped up in our cerebral cortexes in addition to the core competencies of our limbic system. Why not use all of our intellection and emotional resources to comprehend our collective universe and address our combined challenges?

So what if some people are satisfied by playing with children while others are satisfied by playing with things?  There truly is no innate goodness in either -- there is choice.  All kinds of work are required to sustain and maintain life and lives.  Why not let people decide for themselves rather than bless one choice or another or dictate one choice or another because he or she is a he or a she.

This is not a contest to see which is the more perfectly evolved being: man or woman.  The answer is they both are works in progress, requiring great refinement, improvement and enhancement.  This holier-than-thou perspective from either one is intolerable and offensive.  Nobody elected either of them to be God or Gaia All Mighty.  We have a responsibility and an opportunity to work together.  When we do so, we make amazing  opportunities possible.  When we work against each other, it's not pretty.

So, how do we get rid of the 900 pound gorilla in the room? First, stop feeding it.  Stop giving credence to journalistic tripe that fosters a futile debate just to sell us more stuff.  For my part, I tore up the chapters to that first book and threw out all of the articles that people had "shared" with me like the plague.  Great firewood.  Let us all stop letting the gorilla suck the life out of our lives.  Show the gorilla the door and tell the gorilla to leave the room.  We need a little fresh air in here.