Executives who write board papers sometimes fall into the trap of detailing all the specifics to demonstrate their understanding and mastery of a topic, but neglect expanding on the importance and the significant insight of the issue and why they’re talking about it. This includes delving into what conclusions can be drawn from the information but also, why it matters.
Reporting for the sake of it
It is easy to simply change minute details to reflect updates on recurring reports. Over time, these repeating agendas can become routine, or even worse, disconnected from the main objective. Instead, it is much more important to take the time to address and expand on issues that need clarification rather than just reporting on simple updates.
Papers with too much emphasis on the past are not telling the full story. Sure, they help a bit in understanding past performance, but on its own, it’s not sufficient. Boards need to marry this with the present situation all the while, looking ahead and understanding future risks and opportunities with other relevant data and information.
Too long to read
Research shows that most board members only spend a few hours reading their reports before the meeting. If the papers are too long, much of it goes unread.
No clear sense of materiality
It is important to identify the key points and topics of a report. Is it to update the board on minor changes? To prepare the board to discuss a crucial new development? A report without a clear, concise executive summary that fails to draw out the key insights can undermine the board’s effectiveness. A clear executive summary can pinpoint key questions, conclusions and input sought, saving the board time on determining what information is important and needed.
No clear ask
Even if board packs contain important information and state the purpose of the material, a pack without clear questions may not evoke clear recommendations from the board. And thus, it is important to specify what is required. Asking comprehensive questions is the surest way to receive clear and considered recommendations from the board and therefore with their input, maximise the chances of getting the most fruitful advice on how to take the organisation forward.
Not enough strategic discussion
Without strategic insight and conclusive considerations of options, a board may still have difficulty conducting effective strategic discussions. Just basing discussion off of conclusions is not enough to have effective meetings. Strategy is a key part of any board’s mandate, so insight and conclusive considerations help increase the effectiveness of the whole discussion. On top of that, these insights help ensure that the entire team understands how the conclusions were drawn and thus are just as important as the actual conclusions themselves.
The impact of these mistakes
Board pack sizes are ballooning, which means the investments required to produce it are growing as well.
Only one-third of organisations are satisfied with their board packs – far from the ideal 100%. Substantial amounts of money, time and effort are put into creating board packs that fall short. Fortunately, these mistakes can be addressed easily.
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