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The spirit of cricket

15/03/2019 1:40 PM

The spirit of cricket

The Spirit of Cricket

Mark Nicholas writing about the recent cricket fiasco and the Longstaff Report commented in an article – Respect and responsibility must be the core around which the game revolves

“Therefore, the simple idea that respect and responsibility for each other is the core around which the game revolves should be taken seriously, and action taken when it is not. The spirit of cricket, though not more than a title for direction and attitude, is a choice; a choice that any cricketer with a true feel for the game would make without hesitation.”

Much has been, and no doubt will be, written following the Longstaff Report. However, given the drama surrounding whether the board chairman should or shouldn’t resign, at the core must be what role does good governance play in all of this.

Perhaps, more critically might be the question of the effectiveness of the past governance, more so than any considerations of what constitutes good governance.

The word “effectiveness” means the extent to which an activity fulfils its intended purpose or function. In other words it really is about making sure that the organisation is about doing the right things, not just doing things right.
Effective governance means everyone is clear about the functions of the governing body. When the proverbial hits the fan, the impression one is often left with is that there has been no cause and effect relationship with the board and its governance practices.

That response does not seem to be reasonable any longer. But if it is to change, then maybe everyone involved in both a non-executive, as well as an executive role must be sure of what their responsibilities are and how they integrate into the whole of the organisation.

Many commentators raise the importance of the link between culture and governance and how the two work together. Yet, it still seems to challenge many directors as to whether there is a connection, and if so, what that means for their role.

It does seem like stating “the bleedin’ obvious” to suggest that effective governance must include the promotion of an organisation’s values as well as everyone, the board members included, demonstrating those same values through their behavior. In other words, talk less and act more to put those values into practice. In simple terms the unanswered question can often be how the directors behaviour demonstrated their upholding of effective governance.

One important aspect in establishing an effective governance regime is to find and maintain the right balance. The Longstaff Report spoke of

“Australian cricket has lost its balance …. and has stumbled badly.”

So, what is the right balance?

Of course, it is not really anything to do with cricket; it is more about the organisation’s leadership and governance. The Report commented

“The leadership of CA should also accept responsibility for its inadvertent (but foreseeable) failure to create and support a culture which the will to win was balanced by an equal commitment to moral courage and ethical restraint.”

One of the critical elements that tends to confuse the issue of governance accountability and responsibility is the notion of doing things with good intentions. The Report comments

“While good intentions might reduce culpability – they do not lessen responsibility … especially not for those who voluntarily take on the mantle of leadership.”

Hence it may well offer the insight into where to from here?

Does it mean that an organisation’s stakeholders need to be far more aware of making sure that the elected and or appointed board members bring with them the necessary skills, knowledge, motivation, commitment, experience and time to enable them to perform well.

One of the common themes found in nearly all of the examples of governance ‘disasters’ is that of accountability or the lack thereof.The Report commented 

“This does not excuse individuals of responsibility for their acts and omissions. However, there is a broader context of responsibility that needs to be recognised and understood. If accountability is to be a hallmark of Australian cricket, then it must be applied to all leaders, whether their primary arena is on, or off, the field of play.”

Two core elements need to be present if there is any chance for effective governance to operate. Apart from everyone being clear and fully onboard as far as the organisation’s purpose is concerned, there also needs everyone to embrace their key role and to accept the accountability to do it properly and effectively. It is all about doing the right thing.

Recently the Honourable Neville Owen reminded his audience of the words he used in the HIH matter back in 2003:

“Did anyone stand back and ask themselves the simple question — is this right?” Justice Neville Owen, Royal Commission into the collapse of HIH Insurance, 2003. “

He went on to say when recently interviewed:

“I have not changed my view since I wrote those words in 2003. When I look at what we’ve heard from the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, it is a classic example. Did anyone stand back and ask themselves the simple question — is this right? It is still very relevant today and it is where many in corporate Australia have gone missing in action. I said in 2003 that someone would be sitting here in 10 years doing something similar. I was right, although a bit out on the timing.”

Interestingly Justice Neville Owen commented on the ‘spirit’ in stating

As the statutes have got bigger, people have moved away from the spirit of the law. The continuous disclosure rules are a good example of this. They are now so complex that I don’t envy directors or their advisers having to make decisions about what is or isn’t part of the rules. It presumes a rational market, a theory I have never believed in. We are human, and the profit motive is pervasive. ‘Accountability’ should be at the heart of the decision-making process. People have gone away from the principle; forgotten what it means”.

Effective governance surely now requires the organisation’s leaders to better understand how accountability operates and assume a far more active and planned approach to responsibility to stakeholders when discharging their responsibilities.

What could be changed to improve our current governance practices is an important and useful challenge for all boards to embrace. A couple of critical questions may now be:

  • Is your governance framework both sufficiently integrated and supportive of the organisation’s purpose; and
  • Is your organisation’s performance balanced by having effective governance practices in place?

DISCLAIMER: This article is general ONLY in nature and is not advice

Anyone wishing to discuss the above or seeking to evaluate their governance practices please contact:

For more information contact Damien Smith on smithdj@enterprisecare.com.au or 0418 325 781.

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