Advisor Insights with Patrick Lilwall: Corporatised Advisory Boards

Advisor Insights

Published 11 February 2020

Patrick Lilwall is a change agent, helping large organisations in the commercial and not for profit sector navigate the changes required to stay relevant, competitive and valuable to their customers.

Patrick’s portfolio includes strategic consulting, advisory and governance. In this Advisor Insights interview with Louise Broekman, Founder and CEO of the Advisory Board Centre, Patrick shares his experience supporting the Executive Team and Governance Board of a large organisation with a corporatised Advisory Board.

The Advisor Insights series are unfiltered conversations giving you a lens into real people and real businesses within the Advisor ecosystem.

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Louise Broekman: Welcome to Advisory Board Insights. I’m here with Patrick Lilwall, who’s a Certified Chair. Welcome Patrick. Looking forward to having a chat today about corporatised advisory boards which is an exciting space. But before we do, Patrick, would you like to share a bit about your story?

Patrick Lilwall: Okay, thank Louise. I think I’ve my career predominantly thing a change agents are the internal or external to organizations predominantly in the corporate and enterprise end of the spectrum. And that’s covered very much. A lot of the Marshall. And the last I also use particularly in the [inaudible] profit spice as well, which I found personally very rewarding. And so I’ll try to create us and military commercial consulting operational roles and the objective of CIO roles over about 10 years doing mostly last mile transformation work. And then a couple of years ago up stepped in exactly as a of this practice where I’m really working and what are, find a balance between, okay. Development and advisory. And what particularly appealed to me when I come across the you and the time we’re going there and they Polish what spice it really resonated with because I want them to understand that this as much insight that can be gained from working with the small to medium business sector and as well. And so some practice that could be, I can from there that can be applied today, enterprise into town and vice versa. And so the advisory board model, I think allowed me to continue to feed that balance. But I do enjoy moving upstream, which is about that strategy and planning, other than that it’s about execution on the details.

Louise Broekman: It’s quite interesting that you’ve worked in both the advisory boards for businesses as well as corporatized advisory boards, which is really an emerging space and you’ve been working in corporatized advisory boards now for awhile. And so do you want just share a bit about how that worked?

Patrick Lilwall: Certainly. About eighteen months ago I started engaging in a client space where I was asked to take on defining and leading a transformation program for quite a complex business. And, and it’s also I a sector that’s under a significant change and it’s got lots of challenges. Is the balancing the, the mission of the delivery versus and manage the margin and bringing that commercial practice to the client. And so with ensuring that it was Oh, really interesting dynamic to ensure that we balance the competence of the board with what was happening at the executive level then across the organization. So defining lady transformation, that spice was an instinct spice to navigate and is one way a lot of the other, as I said, conferences needed to be talked into consideration. And what are I recognize pretty quickly was that I felt that so, and show that the principles are transparency, flexibility and being able to really tap into expertise and have a guide that spice, the advisory board model would have been an ideal of why compliment the board governance and executive governance that we had going at the same time.

Patrick Lilwall: And so by establishing an advisory board with Bromley as an executive, both myself and my CEO is still fed the advisory board sessions and we led them through the model. Having external advisors to be able to come in to be able to challenge and to bring in so on and to really what I saw as a way of just really testing for those blind spots and bias points. So it’s really been a good model to help set that up and over the last first name months would really, or it through your lab. And, and it’s been great because we’ve been able to have some really good independent advisors who could give perspective to us on how to work through the discernment of coming up seeking some significant investment from a company that really needs to be quite prudent and where it spends its funds and, and how it never guides through the balance of strategy as well as operational impact.

Louise Broekman: So Patrick, it’s interesting where an advisory board is a problem-solving model and your road testing ideas. And the governance board being a decision-making model, how did you navigate the development of where it sits within the whole decision-making framework?

Patrick Lilwall: We put in place a regular rhythm of governance around defining, first of all, the why we were working through – does the strategy work? And that was very much a role for the executive to work with the board and testing that, that all the strategy, the direction on the priorities. The complexity of strategy to action phase of how do we then, what we saw as the key capabilities and the solutions that were available in the market. That’s where we really felt there was more risk in the biases by hand as also how to navigate the implementation, but we’re particularly in change management. And so what we decided to do was to set up an advisory board that when you, over the journey of the transformation period, it was going to be at different stages of that journey, different challenges and the stages that we would need to grapple with.

So we ensured that way. Used quotes in questions that really helped us to farm. One of the things that we need to test and wait, forge to predict as much as we could. And then we’d went and sought advisory board members that would make on a, on a monthly basis as a regular rhythm to help us address those because the boys are still meant to get context and background. So it’s types of few sessions for them to get the context to be all to then offer more insight and discernment themselves around how they, what I challenge and where I got that nice sense.

Louise Broekman: So what’s been the impact of the advisory board structure? How’s it supported the board and the executives?

Patrick Lilwall: Really well in the early biases about the advisory board, the, it was predominantly the CEO and myself. I’m meeting with the advisors and as it became really clear that the rest of the executive would also, I’d benefit well I think both the input and also exposure to that conversation. So it has written the value of that conversation because I think in the beginning it was a little bit of coalition around, well, is this just going to be another serious conversation? Whereas what became really clear was that the value in the conversations, he was a good wife for that an executive to count together and galvanise their thinking around particularly the change management. Because ultimately if you got another guide that and we’ve got an organization that spans really three sectors within the human services space and, or doing that. It’s how we navigate that. And so we found that the advisors were able to really give us some good perspective on that and we had to make some pretty challenging decisions along the way. And I helped us as an executive really think about that decision process. So the value kept on growing and that was really powerful for us too, work through some of those decisions.

Louise Broekman: Fantastic. So what tips would you have for corporate organisations contemplating an advisory board board structure, whether it’s right for them or not?

Patrick Lilwall: I think the key tips is show that you have defined the purpose of the advisory board around some key principles and transparent flexibility. And diversity were really key ones for us because we didn’t want more people. They just thought the sign was us. What’s the value in that we want to people who could really challenge. And I think the working through the sessions is really key that the executive itself does some good preparation to think about what’s the focus in questions that we need some input to and we need to test. I think you know particularly where we’re also trying to mindful for that. The board also, it came up with a level of confidence based on what we achieved because if ultimately the board needed to make a lot of these key decisions.

So we wanted them to say it’s not just ourselves, but we’ve also got an advisory board membership. That also provides that independence. Another tip is getting the board involved in nominations full that does advise board members so that if I’d want to have someone on there that I felt could also bring in some perspective, it helps not only society that executive is providing some decisions. I also know there’s an independent member that I also had trust. So that was the second check of independence and trust. And I think the final tip really is and show that prepared to embrace external challenges that come along so that if an advisor board member really starts to dig into a spice and provide feedback, tighten on board, reflect and understand that because I think sometimes as an executive there’s the potential for that groupthink and that galvanised we’ve got this don’t you worry, we’ll drive ahead. I was really pleased to say that our executive and embraced that and we’ve got a lot of value out of the process.

Louise Broekman: That’s great. Because it is a cultural shift in the way meetings occur. Governance boards are all about getting consensus, whereas a consensus can be a killer of innovation in an advisory board setting in a different way that conversations happen. Any tips for advisors sitting on corporatized advisory boards?

Patrick Lilwall: I think the similar to the tips that have been provided through some of the other interviews that you’ve been conducting in this spice, it’s bringing on advisors who are prepared to put an opinion forward. Then, it should be for the purpose of the don’t want just yes. People coming along. So having someone who’s prepared to I understand the dynamics of where they’re at and just as small business operators, we’ll be in a space, but I have to take things personally because the business executives are also committed in their journey to take an organisation through change. And so there’s always a lot of complex that comes with that. So I think the advisor still needs to take time to recognise that what’s behind the behaviors and where there is resistance within the executive, but at the same time, still not shy away from respectfully putting some thoughts forward about it.

What I say, and it might be the time when they’re no longer the right person on that and be willing to put the hand on the, I think, no, I think my value propositions are now diminishing. No, there might be other stupid animal value. And, and I think it’s that willingness at that point makes both a good advisor and an advisory board.

Louise Broekman: Terrific. Patrick, thank you so much for sharing this story and I look forward to hearing more about the ongoing success of this corporatised advisory board.