Boards grapple with leading culture and compliance

December 2020

Despite corporate culture’s clear impact on business results and long term value, few boards bring the same rigor to their oversight of culture that they apply to strategy, operations, or CEO succession. During companion meetings on December 1 and December 8, 2020, directors and senior executives —including chief ethics and compliance officers—met virtually to discuss board oversight of corporate culture, ethics, and compliance. The following key themes emerged from those conversations:

  • Success often obscures problems in corporate culture, but cultural issues will ultimately reveal themselves in performance or crisis.

  • Boards struggle to identify trends that indicate emerging problems and to find explanatory narratives to guide their oversight.         

  • Boards often underestimate the time needed to lead culture, ethics, and compliance.

  • Senior leaders need to model the values they want to see in the company’s culture.

  • Crises created by culture and compliance issues shift the relationship between the board and management.