Getting the most from departmental Boards
New Board structures have sprung into existence all across Whitehall. Some work well; others are ineffective, lack strong team leadership, with the key decisions being taken elsewhere. Andrew Jackson, talks to leading civil servants and non-executive directors to explore just how Boards can live up to their promise.
Departmental Boards sit somewhere uneasily between policy, strategy and delivery. The idea that departmental Boards can mimic the boards of companies just doesn’t hold. We need different, or even new, models of governance in Whitehall that will enable Boards to play an effective leadership role for their organisations, and add value that is commensurate to the increasing amounts of time senior people are dedicating to Board work.
Recent Capability Reviews have exposed a surprising range of shapes and sizes amongst departmental Boards, as well as many different ways of utilising non-executive directors (NEDs). Models of governance
appear to have been shaped more by personalities, political agendas and history rather than by a clear understanding of what makes a departmental Board effective and ‘fit for purpose’.
However, there is potential for change.