Pugliese, A., Bezemer, P. J., Nicholson, G. J. (2014)
Exploring Directors’ Interaction During Board Meetings: A Video-Observational Analysis. In Academy of Management Proceedings (Vol. 2014, No. 1, p. 11134). Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510: Academy of Management.
Despite the growing interest in boardroom dynamics, difficulties in accessing participants has resulted in limited research on actual board behavior. These limitations have constrained our knowledge of how boards operate as groups. This study expands addresses this gap by providing a direct account of directors’ participation during meetings. Drawing on the small-group literature, we explore boardroom communication patterns as a key marker of information exchange and decision-making quality. By videotaping six board meetings at two organizations over a nine-month period, we could reliably map boardroom communication patterns including directors’ speaking time, turn-taking behaviour and discussion dominance. Path-analysis allowed us to assess the impact of different communication patterns on the quality of agenda item discussion. Findings show (i) the time allocated to the discussion of each item (speaking time) has a positive effect on the quality of discussion; beyond this intuitive result, (ii) directors’ interactions and participation (measured as turn-taking) is a key mechanism through which speaking time makes a difference during meetings, and (iii) the presence of a dominant contributor nul lifies the beneficial effect of directors’ speaking time and boardroom interactions. Our results add to the governance literature by elucidating a key aspect of how boards exchange information and take critical decisions: allocation of time is important insofar as it enhances group discussion and directors’ participation. Furthermore, discussions dominated by any single individual (either manager or director) inhibit quality decisions.