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Interview with Professor Tom Measham

Embedding good governance for our strategic research program

Empty boardroom table and chairs

Our Research Director Professor Tom Measham recently completed the AICD Company Directors Course. We caught up with him to ask about the experience.

Two men standing in front of banners.

Tom with John Sing (left), one of the instructors of the course.

What was your intention in choosing this course?

As the leading course in Australia on world-class governance, it made sense for me to choose the AICD Company Directors Course. A large research program like CRC TiME requires a strategic approach with good oversight and due diligence: we have $30M of Commonwealth funds and matching funds from partner organisations, plus of course in-kind support. That is a significant fiscal responsibility across our ten years.

Earlier in my career, I served on the governing body of an academic society (the Institute of Australian Geographers) and I learned first-hand just how much responsibility boards have. More recently I have been serving on an advisory board for the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA Queensland Research Advisory Committee). These roles have brought home to me how important good governance is and they have deepened my appreciation of the amazing work of the CRC TiME Board.

I’m increasingly interested to extend my experience of governance and apply my governance skills in a way that complements my CRC TiME role. I’m currently considering taking on a non-executive director role which would help me gain a perspective from the other side of the table.

Can you share a few things you learned?

I learned a lot more on the nuances of the relationship between Board and Management. One way to view the distinction between management and Board is that the former works ‘in the business’ and the latter works ‘on the business’. Throughout the course, we were repeatedly reminded that Boards need to be ‘noses in, hands out’.

The relationship between boards and management works best as a symbiotic relationship. It was often said that Boards have the ‘helicopter view’ with a focus on the horizon and the landscape. Meanwhile management are on the ground driving the vehicle towards the chosen destination and navigating any obstacles along the way.

I’ve always had a strong interest in strategy and this course reaffirmed its critical importance. When we looked at examples of strategies, it was a reminder that strategy doesn’t need to be complicated.

I learned a lot more about finance than I expected to. The course was highly effective at delivering a crash course in financial literacy for cooperative governance.

How will you bring these learnings back to CRC TiME?

I already spend a lot of time working with our Board and its committees to ensure that our research program is strategic, and this course has provided new insights to progress this crucial aim.

It was also a good reminder about the Board’s role in the wider perspective – what they do and do not need to know, and their role in helping steer CRC TiME towards its north star.