Published: 06/01/2005, Volume III, No. 5937 Page 32

Which of the management practices that claim to deliver sustained performance actually work?

The Evergreen Project set out to answer this over five years and found that, to deliver superior performance, organisations have to excel at four primary management practices (strategy, execution, culture and structure), and any two of four secondary practices (talent, leadership, innovation, and mergers and partnerships).

The key to this is not what organisations choose to do, but how well they stick to it.

If sound corporate governance is necessary but not sufficient for sustained high performance, what actually makes a difference?

The events at Adelphia, Enron and Tyco have taught us that the answer is in the way board members work together.

Working with the NHS Confederation and the Leadership Centre, the Clinical Governance Support Team set out to explore what the learning from corporate America meant for the NHS. In a report due to be published this month, we found four characteristics of effective NHS boards:

A clear understanding of corporate and individual roles.

High levels of trust among board members.

A strong ability to scrutinize one another.

A capable chair and productive meetings.

In the boardroom, some tend to lead, others prefer to innovate and some like to analyse.

While these might be a director's greatest strengths, it is too easy for members of the board to become stereotyped.

The idea that people prefer to approach a task and interact with their colleagues in certain ways was first popularised by Belbin in the 1960s, but his work has since been criticised.

'Teamable', a new tool, has modernised Belbin's thinking and can now be accessed online.

Within any team there is a certain amount of flexibility, with people responding to the specific demands of a project.

This is closer to the reality of board life and helpful in supporting boards to identify strengths and needs.

Dr Jay Bevington is associate director of the CGST's board development team.

Nohria, Joyce, Roberson (2003).

Harvard Business Review, July. Readers interested in the implications for the NHS should e-mail Jay.

Bevington@ncgst. nhs. uk.

To register interest in the report on the characteristics of effective NHS boards, e-mail garyfereday @nhsconfed. org.

Teamable is published by Robertson Cooper.

Visit www.robertsoncooper. com