“Experience on Board of Directors”

Throughout my career, I’ve seen thousands of job ads with the sentence “Experience on Board of Directors is a must”. Years ago, this concept was totally irrelevant to me, but today, on the crest of the wave of organisational transformation, it is rather shocking to use this expression to filter a candidate’s skills. What does the recruiter understand by “Board of Directors experience”? The number of hours that person has spent at meetings around a XXL-sized table? Or is the recruiter looking for specific skills? If this is the case, to detect skills, you have to meet the candidate; what kind of organisation recruits candidates by qualification rather than by skills?

Let’s be clear. “Board of Directors” as a concept drives us directly to a hierarchical company, the oldest model we know. Institutions such as the army or the church are built around this structure, with several management levels and a top-down communication style. Hierarchical companies work in silos and struggle to be flexible and productive (they also have never-ending bureaucracy). Everyone minds their own work, without much to be said, and this is the way companies have been working for decades. But this was before the birth of concepts such as employee experience or collaborative workplace; before new talent showed that lateral growth broadens our horizon much more than moving on up; before we all realised that the generational clash only exists for those who feel threatened by everything new (who are usually those who feel comfortable in a hierarchy). Taking into account the social and organisational change we now face, what sense is there in keeping the hierarchical model?

Flat structures are far more appealing and interesting than monolithic hierarchies, which are definitely in their last days. In fact, a head-hunter told me flat organisations never use agencies; they attract talent naturally, and talent willing to relocate if needed (which they will not have to do, since they will work in remote mode). Out of curiosity, I browse the webs of flat companies and I check their structures; they are an inspiration for those corporations seeking a transformation (if they really want one). Oddly, I cannot find the “Board of Directors” concept anywhere. For such companies, it is like calling the People Dept. “Personnel”, asking your secretary to send your wife flowers, or drinking and smoking at the office, Mad Men style. These are just vintage concepts. They disappeared a long time ago.

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