At the Top of Your Board Agenda 150 150 MAKE IT BETTER TABLE

At the Top of Your Board Agenda

Last week we discussed that boards – although crucial to organisational governance and success – can be frustrating places to serve. One way of addressing this is to take Dr Judith McCormick’s advice from Company Director’s March 2021 edition, and focus board meetings on ‘the organisation’s purpose’. 

One of McCormick’s suggestions is to use the board agenda as a ‘strategic pillar’. What does she mean? Here’s an example: we all know boards where regulatory compliance, previous meeting minutes and the minutes of other sub-committees reporting to the board are ‘ticked off’ at the top of the agenda. What this suggests is that these elements – while necessary – are the primary foci of the board. Too often than not, these items eat into quality time and energy at board meetings. 

McCormick doesn’t want boards to ignore these issues, but suggests supplementing them with a ‘single page for the front of every board paper that summarises the vision, purpose, values, strategic pillars and core KPIs’ which is then used to ‘calibrate all discussion, decisions and behaviours’ (italics mine). This single-page document becomes a strategic grid used to focus decision making, and shapes the agenda and meeting so they offer real value to the organisation. 

This one-page document gives the board a means by which it can determine how much time, and when, the board focuses on issues critical to the organisation. On a practical level, it best utilises the energy of the board members at a meeting – rather than spending time on typos in the previous minutes, for example, it allows the board’s best energy to be devoted to strategy, meeting KPIs and the culture of the organisation, for example. 

McCormick also offers advice on what is brought to the meeting: ‘Frame reports around, “what does the board need to know?” – succinct, concise and restricted in length’. If the board knows its purpose, then reports to the board need to fit that purpose. ‘Good decision making relies on receiving quality (not quantity) insights and open, honest communication.’ Many of us would welcome such reports to our board meetings. 

So, here’s a few questions to conclude this week’s blog: 

1. What’s at the top of your board agenda? 

2. What’s the primary focus of your board? 

3. Have you got a one-page document that can serve as a focal point for your board? 

4. What does your board ‘need to know’? 

Craig Brown 

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