PMI-Montréal project management blog

Chantal Bernier shares a book on governance: “The Imperfect Board Member” by Jim Brown

Author : Micheline Bourque, Club de lecture Affaires

We had the privilege of sitting down with Chantal Bernier for our first interview during the PMI-Montréal's Symposium. Bernier’s professional journey is impressive: not only is she a lawyer at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, but she was also Privacy Commissioner of Canada. It should therefore come as no surprise that her expertise in privacy has garnered worldwide recognition.

Bernier gave us a preview of the conference she presented at the Symposium, titled “Un modèle de gestion de risque organisationnel pour la protection de la vie privée.” “Given that PMI is about project management, I’ll be sharing the best practices to integrate personal information management into your project from the very beginning. Collecting personal data early on is key, because completion of the project is usually contingent on data protection, and users’ expectations must be respected.”


Bernier shared a book with us, surprisingly overlooking a book on privacy in favour of “The Imperfect Board Member – Discovering the 7 disciplines of Governance Excellence” by Jim Brown, an expert on world reputation.



It is of note that the book’s preface was penned by none other than Patrick Lencioni, author of the project management classic “Optimiser votre équipe : Les cinq dysfonctions d’une équipe,” a cautionary tale presented by Jeanne Estelle Thébault at the 2014 Symposium. (Everything is connected!)


How is a book on governance relevant?


I read the book this past summer while preparing an article on the role of boards of directors in protecting personal data. I’ve been part of executive boards for a long time, and it’s revealed itself to be a basic, recurring challenge, and one that is actually totally normal, because it’s inherent for boards of directors to draw a line between their duty to supervise, and their duty to intervene without interfering. I’ve read a lot about this topic, and I have a lot of experience since I’ve been privy to these situations. This summer, I found this book that makes the solutions to this dilemma accessible, and that’s why I think it’s relevant for me to share it with you.”


Jim Brown, the author, is Canadian. Is the book applicable globally?


I’m the president of an international board of directors, the Centre international pour la prévention de la criminalité (CIPC), and it can definitely be applied to a larger scale. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you about it. Essentially, Jim brown argues that as board members, we fulfill our duties of overseeing things without interfering, and we understand when an issue becomes the board’s responsibility, and isn’t just a management issue. When the issue at hand can prevent an organization from respecting its mandate, the board has to step in.”


“Here’s an example. Many years ago, I was part of a semi-public board called La Société d’aide à l’enfance d’Ottawa. At one point, more than 100 employees took part in protests. I had just been elected to the board and I asked about the reasons behind the protests. I was told that it was a management issue. And I realized that I didn’t see things that way at all. When more than 100 employees are protesting, and in this case that was more than half of the employees, the board has to be diligent, but reasonable. So we worked towards a solution with that in mind, but the fact that we had to make that effort and becoming aware of this demonstrates how difficult it can be to master this issue.”


Another book about governance, “Women on Board,” was also reviewed by the Club de lecture Affaires panel. The book is aimed at those who aspire to occupy a position in management, and pairs well with “The Imperfect Board Member.”


To conclude, Chantal Bernier offered some advice: “Anyone who wants to be a member of a board of directors, or who must answer to one, would be well advised to read books that outline boards’ mandates in order to understand how they can better fulfill their role, and if they must answer to a board, to better support it.”






The Imperfect Board Member: Discovering the Seven Disciplines of Governance Excellence, Jim Brown. Éditeur Jossey-Bass, San Francisco CA, 2006, ISBN: 9780787986100






Author’s Website: