How to align independent operations? – a dilemma

Sections of this topic

    Kate is a director on the board of a large national not-for-profit company. The board is comprised of well-intentioned and conscientious professionals who bring diverse viewpoints and bountiful energy to their board discussions. None of them are qualified in governance or have experience on other boards but all take their responsibilities seriously and strive to meet or exceed the governance guidelines for best practice that are published by their national regulator.

    The company has several branches that operate in in distinct geographic regions across several state government boundaries. Labour laws are state-based rather than national and, when attempting to develop a corporate HR and remuneration policy, the board discovered that different branches have different employment practices and wildly different remuneration structures. Branch managers are quite independent and resist any moves that would align operations nationally with the argument that they must be free to respond to local needs.

    Nationally the OH&S laws are being revised to bring the state laws into harmony and Kate’s board would like to use this fact to develop some consistency in their HR practices. Kate has been delegated the task of making this happen but doesn’t know where to start. She is aware that, as of now, the national directors could be held personally liable if the OH&S laws are breeched in any of the branches.

    What should Kate do?

    Many readers of this blog will be familiar with my newsletter The Director’s Dilemma. This newsletter features a real life case study with expert responses containing advice for the protagonist. Many readers of this blog are practicing experts and have valuable advice to offer so, for the first time, we are posting an unpublished case study and inviting YOU to respond.

    If you would like to publish your advice on this topic in a global company directors’ newsletter please respond to the dilemma above with approximately 250 words of advice for Kate. Back issues of the newsletter are available at where you can check out the format and quality.

    The newsletters will be compiled into a book. If your advice relates to a legal jurisdiction, the readers will be sophisticated enough to extract the underlying principles and seek detailed legal advice in their own jurisdiction. The first volume of newsletters is published and available at

    What would you advise?

    Julie Garland-McLellan has been internationally acclaimed as a leading expert on board governance. See her website or visit her author page at