The art of shapeshifting : facilitating strategic foresight to independent non-executive directors - a strategic approach to corporate governance in SA

Engelbrecht, Marianne (2012-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.


Corporate governance has become an issue of global significance. The improvement of corporate governance practices is widely recognized as one of the essential elements in strengthening the foundation for the long-term performance of countries and corporations. This study suggests that companies wishing to remain profitable and sustainable in the future should take a strategic and anticipatory approach to corporate governance. Anticipatory corporate governance requires companies to change short-term orientated decision-making practices to long-term profitable and sustainable policies with insight, vision and strategic foresight. The best candidates to shape a strategic and anticipatory approach towards good corporate governance practices are those who are expected to implement it – the board of directors. Taking an anticipatory approach to governance means that the board must co-design the future of their company by making decisions based on informed trends, evidence-based quantitative analyses and the expert opinion, experience and insight by its directors. The independent non-executive director plays a vital role in this process, as he/she provide specialist skills and bring objective reflection, constructive criticism and external judgment on issues of strategy and standards of conduct and evaluation. Strategic foresight has the potential to assist and empower independent non-executive directors in taking an anticipatory and strategic approach to corporate governance as it provides them with the capability to understand, interpret and respond to current challenges, and to conceive and explore as yet unimagined approaches and solutions to these problems to ensure a profitable and sustainable. The study put forward an instructional intervention – The Art of Shapeshifting – aimed specifically at South African independent non-executive directors by providing them with the skills, knowledge and foresight that will eventually translate into increased personal development awareness of the need for sustainable development and good corporate governance. The basic premise of this intervention is that a change in corporate law and corporate governance recommendations needs to be matched by a change in human behaviour. A new mind-set is required by directors to anticipate and prepare for the future. The researcher proposes a process of “shapeshifting” that requires a futures orientation, with strong strategic foresight capability and capacity, founded on flexible and adaptable systems within an anticipatory governance framework. Thus, the main aim of the research is to design, develop and implement the shapeshifting framework as an instructional intervention in order to assist South African independent nonexecutives in taking an anticipatory approach to corporate governance using strategic foresight as core competence. It consequently evaluates whether participation in the intervention would lead to a change in the knowledge, altruism, attitude, values, socially responsible behaviour, skills, behaviour and empowerment of independent non-executive directors with regard to directorial duties and good corporate governance practice. This in turn would contribute to an increased awareness of sustainable development, and the need for futures-orientated anticipatory approach to corporate governance. The research results show that the shapeshifting intervention is seen to make an overall positive contribution to improved knowledge, altruism, attitude of independent non-executive directors with regard to sustainable development, their duties and responsibilities, and a more futures-orientated approach. The shapeshifting intervention also has an impact on changing attitudes and values towards sustainable development, corporate citizenship and corporate governance. The results also indicate that the shapeshifting intervention assists in the empowerment of independent nonexecutive directors through the use of strategic foresight to initiate and sustain good corporate governance in practice. Stellenbosch University

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