Board Task Evolution: A Longitudinal Field Study in the UK

S. Machold, S. Farquhar

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Manuscript Type

Research Question/Issue
Several studies have investigated the antecedents of board tasks but there are disagreements about the number of tasks, their content and how they are operationalized. Moreover, the question of how board tasks evolve is under‐researched. This study seeks to map the patterns of board tasks over time and the contingent conditions under which they evolve.

Research Findings/Insights
By means of a longitudinal observation study of six UK boards, this study shows how board task profiles can be categorized according to (1) the range of tasks boards engage with, (2) the degree and mode of adaptability of board tasks to changing strategic contexts, and (c) the extent to which boards are passive.

Theoretical/Academic Implications
Traditional governance theories such as agency and resource‐dependency perspectives provide insights to the content of board tasks, but do not explain how and why these tasks change. Combining traditional conceptualizations of board tasks with a process‐based theoretical lens offers new insights into board tasks and how effectively they are performed.

Practitioner/Policy Implications
The results show how boards can better structure their activities to make effective use of scarce meeting time. Activities such as dissemination of information should be curtailed to leave more room for board debate on strategic issues. The study also highlights how board evaluations may benefit from having a “fly‐on‐the‐wall” observer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-164
Number of pages18
JournalCorporate Governance: An International Review
Issue number2
Early online date4 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


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