Take a CEO aside and many will admit to not getting a huge amount of value from board meetings, yet none are doing anything about it. Most CEOs will spend a minimum of 60 hours per year on preparing for and attending board meetings, so why have so many not done more to get more value from their meetings? Barack Obama wisely said, "change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time", so find out what you can do to get more value out of your next board meeting.
1. Shape your board agenda
The CEO should work with the Chairman to design how board time is spent. The best boards map out the most important discussions 6 - 12 months ahead and ensure time is safeguarded for those items. We recommend using our Six Conversations Model which considers the organisation's priorities across strategy, performance and governance and segments steering from supervisory conversations. From this, each meeting agenda can be planned allocating the right amount of time for each topic.
2. Clearly define your strategic debate
Board members talk about wanting to spend more time on strategy but what does this actually mean? A conversation about ‘what should our strategy be?’ is very different to ‘are our strategic projects on track?’. When discussing strategy creation, it is important to be clear on where you are in the process and what you want in response – is it a blue-sky brainstorm or an update on the previously agreed strategy? Often these conversations go awry because those around the table have different expectations on which of these conversations they are having.
3. Discuss performance implications
Many boardrooms have been characterised as a ‘reporting shop’. Ask what the board really want and it's discussions surrounding the over/under-performance, the implications of this and actions in response. Often this conversation gets crammed into the final minutes of any discussion, having spent the preceding minutes listening to a poorly presented update that should have been provided in a pre-read or taken as read.
4. Avoid box ticking
Good governance is about taking well informed decisions and managing an organisation in a risk adjusted away, it is not a compliance or box ticking exercise. What would I want to know as a board member? Are we operating in line with our agreed policies and culture? And I would want a hand in defining and shaping those parameters.
One of the most important things you can do to proactively achieve better meetings is be very clear on why you are having each conversation. Is it a decision? If not, what is the purpose? The biggest pitfall is a paper ‘to note’.
For more advice on effective agendas, download our Six Conversations Model by clicking 'Download Document' below or contact Natasha for a consultation meeting.