Effective boards need well-presented information to do their job

Part of the challenge for any executive is to be able to present the information a board needs to do its job in an imaginative and concise manner.

Few board members will thank the executive if they have tried to dig out the key information that matters from the poorly assembled board papers.

One of the key findings from the board reviews that the The Governance Company have carried out is that very few boards sit down once a year and assess if they are getting the information they need to do their job. Many boards are happy to put their trust in the executives to provide the information they need.  This may work at times.  But it’s no harm to sit back and review it.

As a basic principle, the board information pack should enable the board to assess how the organisation is performing against the:

  • Strategic plan
  • Annual Business plan
  • Financial and operational targets

In a survey conducted by insyncsurveys.com in relation to board papers, the respondents said:

  • More thoughtful management recommendations evidencing analysis of underlying material rather than presenting all the underlying material
  • Revamp the monthly board report to reduce the volume of data and change the focus to KPIs, analysis/interpretation of major variances and corrective actions, commentary on future trends and expectations
  • More incisive commentary in board reports would help us focus on the real picture underlying the performance reports
  • Board papers being so structured that they focus more on the issues that are challenging management re the future

In constructing board packs, the following should be made very clear:

  • “Matters for Decision” papers
  • “Matters for Strategic Discussion”
  • “Matters for Noting/Information”

Bear in mind that non-executive board members will be nowhere near as familiar with the detail the Executive will be. Executive directors will have intimate knowledge of the business and live it day in and day out, so Executive directors need try to see things from the NED perspective and make it as easy as possible for them to reach a prudent decision.

I am a great believer in less is more. The challenge for the Executive is to be able to present information in a manner that can be easily understood by an 18 year old!

The best way to do that, of course, is to provide them with comprehensive information…but presented in terms and language that is clear and easy to understand. Use lots of visuals, clever graphics, trend charts etc.

Lastly, if you can’t explain what you want to say and document in simple terms, chances are you don’t understand it yourself”.

At The Governance Company our ambition is to make corporate governance a topic that is engaging, stimulating and fun for those who need to know.

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David W Duffy

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