Yesterday’s vote marks the nadir in political decision-making process in UK’s recent history.
The vote is, in business terms, the equivalent of a CEO failing to get their business plan approved by the main board after two years trying.
Business boards have contributed to the problem by failing to lobby Parliament strongly enough to ensure that Leave and Remain voters, who are equally entitled to a properly led and managed Brexit process, get one.
That’s because some businesses are not properly led and managed. Their leaders don’t know what they don’t know about leadership and safe decision-making.
It’s also because some wealthy business leaders will be insulated from the negative impact of a poorly led and managed Brexit. They don’t have to care.
But chiefly it’s because of our willingness to tolerate Executive Chairs, whether they hold that title formally, or not.
Instead of acting as the equivalent of a CEO of an Executive Committee or Operating Board reporting to Parliament, which is the equivalent of a main board, Mrs May has attempted, sometimes successfully, to convert the Cabinet into the main board acting as its Executive Chair.
Mr Blair was heavily criticised in The Chilcot Report for using a similar tactic – the “sofa” approach – during the Iraq crisis. If the current crisis turns into a similar catastrophe, Mrs May too should expect an enquiry into her behavior.
Few would contest that the vote was a vote on Mrs May’s deal and not one on her Cabinet’s deal and, manifestly, not a vote on a deal negotiated over time with Parliament.
No organisation can make good decisions, sustainably, through the force of the personality of one person, no matter how hard working or well intentioned. Mrs Thatcher learned that lesson to her tearful cost.
Nor should they be permitted to do so when stakeholders needs are at severe risk.
But few will be surprised or unfamiliar by and with this behaviour. Many readers will sit on boards where the Non-Executive Chair is anything but a non-executive or, in flagrant breach of good governance, holds formally the title of Executive Chair.
Furthermore, readers will know of many CEOs who act as Executive Chairs in the presence of weak but formally appointed Non-Exec Chairs surrounded by equally weak and supine non-executive directors.
The upshot is that in business and in politics we continue to ignore good corporate governance. This leads to poor decision-making and dangerous decisions.
Whether you voted Leave or Remain you can’t deny that the decision-making process over the last two years was deeply flawed. The outcome, consequently, is dangerous for all stakeholders.
So, are you currently tolerating an Executive Chair on your board, or a Non-Exec Chair behaving as one?
If yes, vote them off.
And if not now, when?