Board Reporting – Less is More

Board packs should help the directors and not hinder their oversight role

Most board evaluations we have carried out indicate that boards do not spend enough time on reflecting on what information they need to carry out their job and what form they would like to see it.

What we see 

  • Board agendas that tend to be cut and pasted with limited thought given as what should be the focus of the meeting and how much time should be spent on each item. Most studies and our experience show that not enough time is spent on the future and too much time on the compliance and operational matters. Good use of committees can free up board time.
  • Board packs that are hastily put together, lack the coherence, consistency and integration by management in reporting to their board.
  • Limited focus on presenting information in a manner that makes the Board pack more digestible, …good use of graphics, trend information, external benchmarking information etc.
  • Boards being fed the information by a supportive executive who believe they are doing a good job and maybe they are

Board Intelligence, the London-based board performance specialist conducted research which finds more than half (56%) of board members surveyed saying that their board pack has grown to an average size of at least 200 pages, with some packs weighing in at around 1,000 pages.  While we have not seen any board pack of 1,000 pages in Ireland, we have seen plenty with 200 – 300 pages. How can a board member read all this? More importantly should they have to, to do their job. 

The study also revealed that 84% of the board directors want better focused board packs.

What we would like to see?

  • A Board review group sitting down once a year to determine the information they need to do their job and the form they would like to see it in. The group should reflect on the following questions 
  • What is the objective/ purpose of board packs and what story should it tell?
  • What are the biggest mistakes committed by executives in putting together board packs?
  • What are the mistakes made by the board in requesting information from executives?
  • How can the required information be summarised and presented?
  • What’s the best practice in putting together board packs?
  • What role should a chairperson play in guiding the executives in putting together a board pack?
  • How should boards review the board packs and what should be the frequency of review?
  • More education and training for those with the task of putting together board packs that are a joy to read
  • An editor close to the CEO’s office whose job it is to make sure the information in the board pack is 
  • Integrated, concise and coherent 
  • Jargon free and uses plain English, and if needed a glossary
  • Uses graphics to show trend information, for example market share against that of a competitor
  • Uses a tool like the balanced score card to report performance against the organisation’s strategy and business plan

Less is more!

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David W Duffy

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