The Problem with Board Packs and what to do about them

4 min read
Sep 5, 2022 12:00:00 AM

Have you ever been preparing for a board meeting, skimming through the board pack only to find out a portion of the material is irrelevant to the meeting?

You’re not the only one. A recent study into governance found that 64% of boards had to work with board packs that didn’t support focused conversations or priority issues.

BoardPro’s recently released ebook, The Problem with Board Meeting Packs, teaches you how to combat inefficient board packs and improve efficiency in board meetings. Covering topics from why board packs fall short, to how the shortcomings can be fixed, this ebook will help you cut excess from your board packs, streamline their creation and establish a template that helps you make better strategic decisions at your next board meeting.

One of the most common issues arising from board packs is a lack of clarity over materiality. In other terms: Why is this in front of me, and why does it matter to the board?

Question from a recent BoardPro online discussion: How do you shape your board packs so they give enough focus and context?

“For each agenda item, ensure the 'why' is answered in the first line. This can be succinctly summarised in bullet points. An effective chair should be the gatekeeper/triage of where the focus of the board lies and provide the context for the same. Keep the agenda to a maximum of 12-15 items but allow enough time for robust discussion of the items requiring decision. Another important aspect is ensuring board members are inducted and trained where they understand their governance role and responsibilities”
viv

Managing Director, HSG

 

Why do board packs fall short?

There are several reasons why board packs often fail to meet board standards. One of the biggest reasons is that board packs contain more material to be reviewed and absorbed than can reasonably be expected.

Other reasons include that too much of the content lacks relevance and accommodates too much detail, or perhaps much of the report is backwards-looking, focusing on topics that can no longer be changed and influenced. Either way, too much irrelevant information takes up precious space in board packs, leading to board packs becoming too cluttered.

According to research, the average board pack today is around 250-300 pages long, yet board directors only spend around 3 hours reading their packs — which suggests they are not getting through the information.

Question from a recent online discussion: How do you focus your board papers down to a readable size?

“We ensure that we provide a considered board briefing paper and ensure that the key issues provide detail around why the Board is receiving the paper (i.e. delegations, strategy, discussion for future direction). We also include links where possible and utilise the Governance documents section of BoardPro to place key documents that require reference”
belino

Board Secretary, HSSO

Sometimes, the board packs also lack a clear purpose. It could be because they are poorly written, there is too much data and too little analysis or the content is poorly presented and formatted. This not only eats up precious time while the board tries to decipher the contents of the report, but it may also lead to decreased motivation and thus attention among readers.

Why are good board packs essential?

Like many individuals in their day-to-day lives, directors and board members can become overly optimistic about what they can achieve in a given time frame.

Governance theorist John Carver said in his book, Strategies for Board Leadership, “most of what boards do either does not need to be done or is a waste of time when the board does it. Conversely, most of what boards need to do for strategic leadership is not done.”

With the minimal time that boards have to spend on reviewing board packs, it is crucial that they invest their precious time on what is efficient and on conversations that matter.

In any report, whilst it’s important that relevant metrics are acknowledged and discussed, future focused board packs are essential to keep the board looking forward strategically

Question from a recent discussion: What approach do you use to focus the board pack on future discussions and actions?

A Board pack should be a summary of the current and a focus on the future. The focus on the future, is the value being created and the actions occurring in the business, now and into the future to deliver the future value. In these times of uncertainty the future needs to be planned and prepared for on a worst case, predicted and best case perspective

How can board pack shortcomings be fixed?

This ebook will help you improve board alignment and discipline by giving you practical guidance on how to establish and agree on performance metrics. It will also help you  understand the board’s core responsibility to direct and control the organisation. This ensures all members are working on the same page.

problem with board packs and how to fix them

Click to download your free copy

Another important step is assembling a board pack to a clear brief and following a template can also save time and future frustration, so that there is much more clarity and consistency in presenting relevant information.

Your organisation and management team will undoubtedly benefit from putting together an efficient board pack. It will provide board meetings with focus by steering the board towards a clearer, much more defined strategy and plan.

 

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