Two Questions for Boards 150 150 MAKE IT BETTER TABLE

Two Questions for Boards

Just like that, and we’ve entered the last quarter of the financial year. No doubt there’s a board meeting or two coming up in your calendar where the agenda will be focused on setting budgets and assessing a year of unpredictable events with ongoing risk management from both a financial and personnel perspective. These are challenging times. How do we work our way through them?

Perhaps these two questions can help. They are not a cure all. What they can do is get to the heart of managing the risks that organisations face. 

If you attend board meetings to report to the board – ask yourself this: What does the board need to know?

This is not a question designed to withhold information from the board but, as Dr. Judith McCormick suggests, it’s an opportunity to “frame reports around ‘what does the board need to know?’” which should result in board reports that are “succinct, concise and restricted in length”. Note well – this is not ‘restricted’ in the sense of limiting the board’s knowledge, but restricted to focusing on what matters to the board during that board meeting. 

Cut the fluff. 

Cut the diversions that may show your expertise in unrelated topics. 

Focus on what matters. 

If you come to these meetings as a board member – consider asking your EO: What keeps you awake at night?

Risk-management systems and templates are now prolific in the boardroom – sometimes to the point of being so comprehensive that they’re impractical to read. This question is an excellent way of cutting through often well-meaning length to get to the heart of the risks your organisation is facing. In response, the board needs leave meetings satisfied that these key risks are being well managed. McCormick reminds us that the board’s “good decision-making relies on receiving quality (not quantity) insights and open, honest communication.”

What keeps you awake at night? is a question that can lead to honest communication. If it doesn’t, then the board you are serving on possibly has trust issues, which will hinder both the progress of the organisation and implementing board reforms (see last week’s blog).  

Hopefully, using these questions can focus you and your board on the key issues. 

Craig Brown

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