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Owning Up

The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask

Ram Charan

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0470397675
ISBN-13: 978-0470397671

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Your world as a director has suddenly changed. You’ve seen members of other boards take the heat when their companies imploded. The managements of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Washington Mutual clearly failed, but so did their boards. Now the board of every company beset with problems is coming under scrutiny.

The pressure is on. Your board must own up to its accountability for the performance of the corporation. Governance now means leadership.

Boards must change their modus operandi to address the new and complex issues that are emerging. These include:

  • Ensuring liquidity in the context of the global financial crisis.
  • Setting CEO performance targets in a very uncertain economy.
  • Assessing strategy and enterprise risk under extreme volatility.

So what should boards do now? What should they be talking about in their meetings and executive sessions? What decisions must they make? How assertive must they be regarding company priorities and operating goals?

In Owning Up, business advisor and corporate governance expert Ram Charan answers these and other burning questions on the minds of directors and business leaders. He describes best practices that are emerging in boardrooms he has observed firsthand. And he provides practical recommendations on a range of issues, from compensation to dealing with external constituencies. Wisely attuned to the human side, he confronts the need for some boards to refresh their composition and for others to rebalance their board dynamics.

Directors, CEOs, general counsels, and operating executives will find in this book the guidance they need to meet the new and rising standards for corporate governance in this demanding business environment.

“This book is a most important contribution for both new and experienced directors, addressing contemporary corporate governance. The 14 practical questions represent the most vital issues that boards need to proactively address and are particularly crucial now as boards deal with the aftermath of the global financial tsunami.”

—Thomas J. Neff, chairman, U.S., Spencer Stuart

“If Corporate America’s board members had answered these questions, the crisis of ’08 would have been avoided. The book is that powerful. It should be required reading in every boardroom, executive suite, and business school on the planet. This book with its singular wisdom could change the face of corporate governance—with huge dividends to shareholders and society.”

—Ralph Whitworth, principal, Relational Investors LLC

“Ram Charan always seems to get it right. Owning Up not only asks the right questions, it gives answers that can make a real difference for improving board performance.”

—James M. Kilts, former chairman and CEO, The Gillette Company

“As always, well-reasoned, insightful, and thought-provoking. A work that every director will find of value, particularly given the intense pressure of these unprecedented economic times.”

—Professor Charles M. Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware

“Here is the book that every corporate director needs today. With his decades of insider experience, Ram Charan brings more wisdom and insight to this subject than anyone else I know.”

—Geoff Colvin, Fortune editor and author, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

“What [Ram Charan] has found, and catalogues so well in this book, is a number of cutting edge practices that are exactly right for the times.”

—From the Foreword by Jack Krol, former Chairman and CEO, DuPont

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Owning Up

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