A new study reveals 84% of board directors want better focused board packs
London, 25 April 2017 - A new study from Board Intelligence, the board performance specialist, has found bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to the bundles of papers presented at board meetings. Its latest research found that large tracts of board information are going unread, and that directors are devoting more and more time to risk and compliance matters, rather than focusing on strategy.
The study was timed to coincide with the Government’s recently published Green Paper on corporate governance reform.
Board Intelligence polled board members from over 60 organisations, including directors of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, privately-owned businesses and public sector organisations, repeating a study it first ran in 2011.
The research found that over half of respondents (53%) said their board pack had increased in size, although the length and duration of board meetings had remained the same compared to previous research.
More than half (56%) reported that their board pack had grown to an average size of at least 200 pages, with some packs weighing in at around 1,000 pages.
Directors reported that they are spending 33% more time reading their packs in preparation for board meetings. But the growing mountain of paperwork does not correlate with an increased focus on more strategic issues likely to benefit the organisation.
There are two reasons for the increase in board pack lengths. The first is the amount of attention now devoted to compliance and regulation, with 92% of respondents reporting more focus on these issues.
The second reason is risk, with almost nine in ten (88%) saying this issue now takes up more board time.
Interestingly, nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents whose packs had NOT grown in size noted they do have a greater focus on strategy.
So what are directors looking for, given that almost a third (33%) said they are spending more time reading board papers before meetings?
The majority (84%) of board members are calling for more succinct and re-focused board packs. When asked for their thoughts on how this challenge could be addressed, the most common response was to provide more education and training for those compiling board packs.
Pippa Begg, a founding Director of Board Intelligence, commented:
“Directors are dedicating 33% more time to preparing for board meetings than 6 years ago in direct response to increasing pressure to fulfil statutory duties. Board papers are getting longer and much goes unread – we are waiting for the next corporate scandal to happen.
We either need to:
- be much more realistic about what directors can achieve and pare back expectations of their role (unlikely with the current spotlight on governance),
- or they need to spend vastly more time on the job at hand (this has been happening over the past 10 years but would need to step change again),
- or organisations need to start to take their board packs a lot more seriously and ensure they cover all of the information that Directors need, in a readable number of pages. We shouldn’t have to wait for failure for this to become a priority.”