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May 4, 2020 37 min

Planning for a crisis is not a luxury and boards must be a very good at crisis management - we’re seeing just how important that is right now.  For this topic, we’ve assembled an incredibly experienced panel - our first panel episode - to delve into the role that boards are playing, and must play, during a crisis. 

Jay Lorsch Bio

Jay Lorsch is the Louis E. Kirstein Professor of Human Relations at Harvard Business School. For the past 35 years he has specialized on the functioning and operations of corporate boards and is widely recognized as Recognized as a leading expert on the subject. His full bio here:

Ellen Richstone Bio

Ellen Richstone is a former Fortune 500 CFO and former CEO of a private company. She has been sitting on public company boards for over 15 years- on micro caps up to Fortune 500 in size.  She is currently sitting on the board of three public companies in : Technology; Industrial and Clean Tech. Her prior board experience includes companies in: Consumer Products, Bio Tech, Financial Services and Pharma. She also sits on the Board of NACD New England and is both an NACD Board Leadership Fellow and also received the first Distinguished Director Award from the Association of Corporate Directors.

Rick Williams Bio

Rick Williams is Managing Director of Williams Advisory Partners, LLC. He has a breadth of experience as an executive and board director for technology companies including medical technology, software, and financial services. Rick is a nationally published thought leader. His soon to be published book entitle “Create the Future – for your company and yourself” is a is a “how to field guide” for leaders who want to think creatively about where to take their organization. Williams Advisory Partners provides CEO and board advisory services for middle market technology companies. He was Chairman of the Board of Point Care Technologies and formerly was Chairman of a quasi-public bank/VC firm. Rick is on the board of an ocular drug delivery company and a leading company in gene therapy. Rick is past President of the Harvard Business School Association of Boston. He was a management consultant with the global consulting firm Arthur D. Little, Inc. He is a physics graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.


“Clearly, number one is the focus on employee health and employee safety. The takeaway I would give on this area is the need to balance empathy, safety and yet execute where execution is still critically needed.”

“There is a demand for increased communications with all parties promptly, clearly with increased transparency, and this is all stakeholders - employees, customers, supply chain, and of course shareholders.”

“How does all of this change our long-term strategy - or not? What pivots should we be making within our strategy for the long term?”

“I think it's very, very important to have board leadership and to recognize that one of the board's primary duties is to make sure that leadership is in place and functioning effectively, not only with the board but with management.”


“I think  the “trick” of being a lead director or a chairman is to figure out how to build a relationship with management through the CEO and how to maintain cohesion within the board so that the two groups, that is management and the board, can work in a collaborative way for the good of the shareholder, for the good of the company.”


We're going to rethink the reliance that companies have on their supply chains and critical resources: are they exposed to getting cut off in the kind of crisis that might happen over time?


In today's world, boards have to be ready to move in and deal with a crisis - whether the crisis is externally generated like this one is or whether it's a CEO who suddenly has a heart attack or decides he wants to quit, the board has to be very good at crisis management, and that really goes back to the leadership of the board.

Succession planning is being done very differently than the way we traditionally have done it at the board level, given that you need to really dive down into many levels, which the board doesn't usually do.  The reason we must do that is because, as people get sick, you need to make sure that the critical areas are covered.  We’re learning lot about management at levels below the very top.

Has there ever been a time when honest, authentic communication has been more important for a company?

Messaging must be realism about the challenges facing the company, a message of brutal honesty as to what is going on and what the threats are - and at the same time, a message of hope.

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