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Looking Back In Order To Move Forward: What Boards Should Ask Themselves Now

April 8, 2021

Posted in: WATSON Views

As spring returns, we naturally feel hopeful; after all, it’s known as a time for new beginnings. And as the COVID-19 vaccines roll out, we may even feel emboldened to put 2020 behind and look ahead.

If we want to position our organizations to blossom through spring and summer, the truth is that we need to pause and look back; take a moment to reflect and learn. Did the pandemic shine a light on areas that need strengthening? Think risk register, or business continuity plans. What about board engagement? Be honest, how well did the board navigate what was likely a changing line between what is within the purview of the board and of management? Are our leaders at all levels healthy, engaged and ready?

Let’s also look at where we are today. Are we paying sufficient attention to the future of work, the anticipated tough road to economic recovery, or even the opportunity to evolve the board’s practices?

At WATSON, we have used the emerging research paired with our work helping organizations through this extraordinary time to identify eight dimensions of board performance through COVID, and created practice points for an assessment framework. This is what best-in-class boards are paying attention to today, as they learn from 2020 and look forward to what comes next.


1. RESPONDS DECISIVELY AND EMPATHETICALLY – Takes action to navigate a complex and changing crisis, with care for people and community in mind

2. ABILITY TO OPERATE IN A NEW CONTEXT – Adapts to a new context for work with safety, security, privacy, and effectiveness

3. MAINTAINS ORGANIZATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY – Balances and supports multiple “bottom lines”

4. CHARTS A COURSE – Adapts plans and strategies to manage today while positioning for the future

5. POWERS UP LEADERSHIP – Ensures leaders are strong, supported and engaged

6. CHECKS THE COMPASS – Keeps the most important values and principles at the heart of the organization

7. ENVISIONS THE FUTURE – Explores forces of change and adapts strategically and operationally

8. GOVERNING WITH INTENTION – Provides effective oversight and guidance through response, recovery, and ramp


Start your spring by taking the time to reflect and learn, click here to download the full framework of the eight dimensions and a self-assessment tool. Use it to guide your own thoughts and reflection, or as a tool to start an important conversation in the boardroom. We would be pleased to assist and welcome your reflections and questions.

Let’s proclaim the silver lining of all of this to be learning and growth. With that, we will be able to look back in five years and say that it was the tough lessons of COVID that positioned us for strength and success, and to be better poised for an ever-changing world.

WATSON Webinar Coming Soon!

WATSON will be hosting a webinar on the topic on Thursday, May 6, 12:30 PM ET/9:30 AM PT; details and registration will be available soon. If you would like to receive more information or secure a spot, please email