Saturday, February 05, 2011

Inside Housing’s board performance survey: cause for concern?

This week's Inside Housing has a survey of governance in the social housing sector. My initial reaction (or rather tweet) was: Shock! Horror! 82% of board members in #socialhousing think they do a good job - "only" 71% of chief execs agree

More important that some mismatch in satisfaction with board performance is the level (and again) some mismatch in the level of dissatisfaction with board performance: about one in ten board members was "dissatisfied or very dissatisfied" with board performance and a little more than that among chief executives, company secretaries and governance officers.

Arguably more serious than all of this is the problem of weak boards not realising that they are failing and not doing anything about this. (History shows us that often such weakness is only diagnosed after the event by regulators for all sorts of reasons.)

In the world of corporate governance good practice, external facilitation of board performance reviews are increasingly seen as important. I doubt many housing boards have accepted that challenge. Maybe something for the next Inside Housing survey?

The notes to the survey report need to be read:

95 valid responses were recorded. 62% were from board members, 9% from chief executives and 22% from company secretaries and governance managers.

I struggle to get those percentages to get anywhere near 100% - even allowing for roundings on all the figures. Am I missing something or is there a typo? (The percentages in the report are different from those in the article but do still fall short.)

The fact that we are talking about a survey of 95 must mean that we have to treat the findings with some caution. You do not need to be a statistical boffin to recognise that the margins of error may be somewhat substantial – possibly bigger than some of the mismatches between executives and non-executives. If 9% of the 95 were chief executives and 22% were company secretaries and governance officers, we are talking about 29 people.

Inside Housing should be applauded for commissioning the survey. However, a larger survey might have allowed some of the issues to have been probed more effectively and robustly.

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