As the business and operating environment changes, there has been a greater demand for transparency and accountability as to the integrity of internal control. This has become very critical today as businesses drive to enhance the likelihood of them achieving their objectives and be able to adapt to changes in the global business environment.
The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) released in 1992 the Integrated Internal Control Framework that will enable organizations to effectively and efficiently develop and maintain systems of internal control. It also includes enhancements and clarifications that will provide organizations the ease of using and applying the Framework.
An Overview of the COSO Framework
The COSO Framework is the globally recognized framework for designing, implementing, conducting, and assessing internal control. It is recognized as the definitive standard against which organizations measure the effectiveness of internal control systems.
If we look at the internal control, this is not a serial process but a dynamic and integrated process. It is a process effected by an organization’s Board of Directors, Management, and other personnel designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of objectives relating to operations, reporting, and compliance. It can be considered an enabler when it comes to achieving Operational Excellence.
The COSO Framework provides for 3 categories of objectives. These categories allow organizations to focus on different aspects of internal control. It ensures that the internal control system is operationally efficient and effective, reporting reliable data, and remain compliant to laws and regulations.
The 5 Components of the COSO Framework
In an effective internal control system, 5 Components of the COSO Framework must be present to support the achievement of an organization’s mission, strategies, and related business objectives.
Component 1: Control Environment. This is a set of standards, processes, and structures that provide the basis for carrying out internal control across the organization.
Component 2: Risk Assessment. This forms the basis for determining how risks will be managed. It involves a dynamic and iterative process for identifying and assessing risks to the achievement of objectives. It determines the possibility that an event will occur and adversely affect the achievement of objectives.
Component 3: Control Activities. The 3rd component ensures that Management’s directives to mitigate risks to the achievement of objectives are carried out. These are actions that are established through policies and procedures. It may be preventive or detective in nature.
Component 4: Information and Communication. This component focuses on the generation of relevant and quality information to support the functioning of other components. It is a continuous iterative process of providing, sharing, ad obtaining the necessary information. This is necessary to enable businesses to carry out internal control responsibilities to support the achievement of its objectives.
Component 5: Monitoring Activities. Monitoring activities, as a component, ascertains whether each of the 5 components of internal control is present and functioning. It includes the conduct of ongoing evaluations, separate evaluations, or a combination of both.
The 5 Components of the COSO Framework are essentially important as they represent what is required to achieve the objectives and the organizational structure of the organization. Each component has its underlying principles and key elements to better guide organizations in putting the components in place.
Additional Key Considerations
The COSO Framework sets the requirements for an effective system of internal control. An effective system reduces, to an acceptable level, the risk of not achieving the organization’s objectives.
There are additional key considerations that organizations must take note of. One consideration is that each of the 5 components and relevant principles is present and functioning. Present refers to the determination that the components and relevant principles exist in the design and implementation of the system of internal control to achieve specified objectives. Functions refer to the determination that the components and relevant principles continue to exist in the operations and conduct of the system of internal control to achieve specified objectives.
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The amount of time the Board of Directors spend on their work and commit to strategy is rising. Directors say they dedicate more time now to their Board duties than ever before. In fact, since 2011, the directors have cut in half the gap between the actual and ideal amount of time they spend on Board work.
In the newest McKinsey Global Survey on Corporate Boards, the results showed that strategy, on average, is the main focus of many Boards. Yet, directors still want more time for strategy when they consider their relative value to their companies. This is more than any other area of the Board work.
The Evolving Trends Influencing Board Work
In recent years, the amount of time the Board of Directors spends on Board work has increased. Compared to 2011, directors now spend five more days per year on Board work. Another trend that is happening is the increase in time. As the number of days has grown, so has the amount of time spent on strategy.
Based on the survey, a total of 772 days was spent on Board work in 2013. This has increased to 1,074 in 2015. Subsequently, 8.91% was spent on strategy in 2015 compared to 7.85% in 2013. With an increased focus on strategy, directors are dedicating more time on Strategic Planning and to discuss strategic issues.
In the next three years, directors would like to dedicate more time to Strategy Development and on organizational health and talent management. Directors want to increase the time spent on strategy due to its relative value to their companies.
The 3 Types of Boards
Performance of Boards based on overall impact, performance, and operation showed that there are 3 types of Boards.
- Ineffective. Ineffective Boards report the lowest overall impact and non-performance of tasks. They have the lowest overall impact on long-term value creation. Ineffective Boards are least effective at the 37 tasks required of the Board and they do not execute some of the tasks at all. Only a few are found to be effective at any one task.
- Complacent. Complacent Boards have a much more favorable view of their over-all contributions. Half of the directors considered their Board having a very high impact on long-term value creation. Complacent Boards have been found to be effective in the performance of tasks on management review of financial performance, setting the company’s overall strategic performance, and formally approving the management team’s strategy.
- Excellent. Excellent Boards are the most well-rounded of the 3 types of Board of Directors. Their overall impact is very high. Significantly, they project greater effectiveness in the performance of tasks than peers on every single task. Further, they are effective in strategy and performance management.
Achieving Board Excellence: What Does It Take
Those boards that reach Excellence are found to be effective at 30 of the 37 tasks undertaken by the Board. Compared to others, they stand out in the ways they operate. They have an especially strong culture and mechanism for feedback. They are more than twice as likely to conduct regular evaluations and ask for input after each meeting.
While this may sound daunting, achieving a value-creating Board is achievable. There are just fundamental principles that the Board needs to follow to achieve Board Excellence. One of these guiding principles is spending more time. Across-the-board increases are often achieved with more time spend on Board work.
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Many Boards have improved their structures and processes. Yet, despite all the corporate-governance reforms undertaken, many Boards failed the test of the financial crisis. This shows that even if the Board of Directors is stacked with high qualified members and best practices, these are not enough.
Human Dynamics has come to fore in today’s highly volatile business environment. Without the right Human Dynamics, there will be a little constructive challenge between independent Directors and Management, no matter how good the Board’s processes are.
Without Human Dynamics, the Board’s contribution to the company’s fortune is likely to fall short of what it could and should. This is also a concern for executives who are not Directors but report to the Board. Without Human Dynamics, it makes it difficult for them to develop healthy and productive relationships with their Boards. This can have a dire effect on Strategy Development or when organizations are undergoing Business Transformation.
The Importance of Human Dynamics
Human Dynamics is an organizational state where collaborative CEO and Directors think like owners and guard their authority. Without the right Human Dynamics, there will be a little constructive challenge between independent Directors and Management.
Why is Human Dynamics important? When there is a lack of Human Dynamics between CEO and Directors, this can lead to an ineffective performance in the Boardroom. Board’s contribution to the company’s fortunes will fall short of what it could and should be. Non-director executives will have difficulty developing a healthy and productive relationship with the Board. Most importantly, aspiring Directors will be unable to learn what it means to be a good corporate Director.
This can be detrimental to the organization and can direly affect its competitive advantage. However, achieving the right Human Dynamics is not easy. Understanding and identifying the contours of such a fluid interpersonal exchange can be a challenge to both the Board and the CEO.
The 3 Tests in Assessing the Board’s Human Dynamics
While it may be a challenge, building the right Human Dynamics between the CEO and the Directors is essential. There are 3 Tests executives can use to guide them in assessing the Board’s Human Dynamics.
- Board Ownership Mindset. Currently, outside Directors continue to be passive participants. They do not challenge Management beyond asking a few questions during Board meetings. This test is focused on building Boards to be vital stewards of the organization.
- CEO Collaborative Mindset. CEOs nowadays are failing to inform or involve the Board on critical developments such as merger discussions. As a result, there can be a breach of trust which can cost the CEOs their job. The second test ensures that a collaborative CEO is in place.
- Board Authority & Independence. The third test is focused on enabling the Board to protect its stand and independence. This is necessary when the authority of the Board is being chipped away as the CEO experiences greater success. There is also less robust questioning of Management’s proposal or worst, the readiness of the Board to agree to unreasonable demands on executive remuneration.
The 3 Tests for Boards is an effective guiding principle in developing the right Human Dynamics between the Board and the CEO. When it comes to well-functioning Boards, best practice structures are not enough. It is essential that the right Human Dynamics exists as it can help the Board and Management to fulfill their potential.
Interested in gaining more understanding of Board Excellence through Human Dynamics? You can learn more and download an editable PowerPoint about Board Excellence: Human Dynamics here on the Flevy documents marketplace.
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When things go wrong on a grand scale, often we direct our attention to the role of the Board. Debate exudes and often gets heated up and intensifies. This often happens when the Board spends more time looking in the rearview mirror and not enough scanning the road ahead. When this happens, governance suffers.
Often, the Board of Directors spend a bulk of its time on quarterly reports, audit reviews, budgets, and compliance. However, with the change in the business environment, there is a greater need to redirect the Board’s attention on matters crucial to the future prosperity and direction of the business. One of this is Strategy Development. Achieving this requires the development of a dynamic Board with a long-term mindset capable of creating forward-looking agenda and activities that get sufficient time over a 12-month period.
The Changing Board Agenda
The Board Agenda is changing. It is becoming more dynamic and it has increasingly highlighted forward-looking activities. Long-term economic, technological, and demographic trends are radically shaping the global economy. The second Industrial Revolution now requires the Board to shift focus. The Board is now challenged to focus on matters crucial to achieving Operational Excellence and the future direction of the organization. Directors must devote more time to strategic and forward-looking aspects of the agenda. They must cease seeing the job as supporting the CEO, but instead, be strategic in making sure long-term goals are formulated and met.
Having a forward-looking Board has now become every organization’s imperative. However, this can only be achieved if there is a solid foundation that is anchored on three guiding principles. Organizations must have the right Board Member, a clear definition of the Board’s role, and greater time commitment from members. At this time when a long-term mindset has come to a fore, these have become essential.
Developing a Long-term Mindset: The 4 Essential Tactics
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu
Organizations can undertake 4 essential tactics to encourage the Board to have a long-term mindset.
- Study the External Landscape. This is the starting point of creating a forward-looking mindset. The primary purpose of this tactic is to expose the Board to new technologies and market developments relevant to the company’s strategy. Studying the external landscape will challenge management with critical questions.
- Participate in Strategy Development. This tactic focuses on making strategy a vital part of the Board’s DNA. Participating in the Strategy Planning process will strengthen the Board’s role in co-creating and ultimately agreeing on the company’s strategy.
- Focus on Long-term Talent Development. The third tactic, this tactic focuses on unleashing the full power of the people. It will effectively reallocate skills and experience to a business with more potential. To achieve its expected result, the key is the Board must agree with management on a sensible approach to reviewing executive talent.
- Identify Existential Risks. This is the tactic that focused on the Risk Management of existential risks. Because of accelerating technological progress, existential risks have become a recent phenomenon. Existential risks have a great detrimental impact not only on business but also on mankind. The Boards have the duty to ensure that management teams pursue bottom-up investigations, identify key risk areas, and act on the results.
The 4 tactics are essentially effective in creating long-term mindsets. When this is achieved, Board Excellence is never far behind.
Interested in gaining more understanding of achieving Board Excellence via a Long-term Mindset? You can learn more and download an editable PowerPoint about Board Excellence: Long-term Mindset here on the Flevy documents marketplace.
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