Advice for Board Members

Recently a CEO that I worked for in the past reached out to me. Like many successful CEO’s, he has “retired”. But do you ever really retire at that point? John now sits on the board of a few companies and does some consulting. He’s written a very insightful book about transformation in the industry we worked in. And he is an insanely successful guy in his entire career. I was very pleased and honored that he reached out to me for some advice.

His question revolved around what a board member should be asking to get informed about the security program of the company he was responsible for as a Director. This is a fantastic question. One I think more Directors need to think about. After all, they have a fiduciary responsibility for that company.

I wrote my former CEO a long (for me) email around all of this. After thinking about it a bit, I realized that this is something that should be shared more broadly. So, stripping the personal content out, I am including my answer to John in full for your reading pleasure.

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I think a board member’s focus should be on whether the security program has good governance, visibility at the right level and is addressing key threats and issues. Questions to ask, include the following. And you should follow up with more questions, based on the responses to these.

Q1 – to the CEO – how often do you interact with the security leadership of your organization. Do you know the top 3 security threats facing your organization? You and I interacted at least once per quarter the entire time I we worked together. There was great value in this.

Q2 – to the Leadership generally – How have you empowered the security leaders to address current security issues? How confident are you that you will not be the next Target, Community Health, Anthem or Premera?

Q3 – To the senior leader responsible for security – How is the security team organized? What level of the organization does the security leader report to? Is he/she buried too deeply in the leadership hierarchy?

Q4 – to the leadership generally – How is the leadership of the system assuring itself that they have a security program that meets their fiduciary responsibilities to the owners/sponsors, to the system itself, to the patients? Does the security leader meet regularly with leaders, with business unit leaders, with the Board, etc. Is there a system of measurement in place to demonstrate maturity and efficacy of the security program?

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In my experience, Board members are not having these conversations with senior management. If Board members don’t do this, then senior management is not going to dig in to security. It’s that simple.

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