Dissent v Consensus

Setting up for success really does start in the board room. Otherwise, chances are the entity will flounder at least, and founder at worst.

More than that, a great board needs to be a great team. Achieving that is no mean feat and often calls for disagreement on complex issues – although, we hasten to add, that dissent should be expressed respectfully and collegiately among consenting adults!

Here the role of the chair comes into its own.  There are lots of things that a chair can do, but one that she or he must do: build the board into a highly functional team that is effective in setting direction for the enterprise.

In our experience, this is best and most enduringly based not on homogeneity, “recruiting by cloning”, and expecting or demanding unthinking acquiescence, but on seeking diversity, sound information, and mature debate, supported by:

  • the normal right for individuals to dissent, but here also duly based on principle and evidence rather than conjecture, prejudice, or uninformed opinion; and
  • the obligation – again moral, but for boards sometimes legal as well – of individuals to express dissent in an appropriate manner.

In this short paper, we highlight the role of dissent in great board performance.