As a board member, preparing for the upcoming board meeting, you have lots of information to review and want to get to the important stuff quickly!
You don’t want to be nine pages in and still wondering if the new marketing programme is delivering results. Nor do you want to be forced to search old minutes for the performance targets you agreed to. Unfortunately, with poorly structured and unfocused CEO reports this sort of scenario is all too common.
Wouldn’t it be great if the first pages of the CEO’s report provided a concise summary of the business’ performance and needs, then it clearly outlined the key areas you need to prepare for? It would certainly reduce some of your frustrations and make things easier going to the next meeting.
Producing a CEO Report that delights the board, is very achievable, with a few key principles:
1. Get the meeting structure right
Directors often think the main purpose of a board meeting is to be briefed by the chief executive about “what’s going on”. Whereas, the main role of the board is to ensure the organisation is achieving what it should. The Agenda is the centrepiece of every board meeting and should focus on key discussions and decisions, with supporting papers laying out context and relevant information.
A CEO Report is the ultimate supporting paper, laying out the general business context from which the reader can drill into more specific information for key decisions. The primary purpose of the CEO Report is therefore to provide a context whilst the agenda and specific supporting papers provide the detail to drive decisions.
2. Be clear about governance-level targets and concerns
For the CEO to produce a report that provides real value, the board (in conjunction with the CEO) must first clearly define the targets and outcomes that mark “success”. These measures guide what information is needed from the CEO and stops the CEO heading down a side alley.
It also ensures the CEO Report is future-focused, enabling the board to be more effective in supporting the CEO based on what might happen, rather than reacting to what has already happened – which usually leads to ‘steering by looking in the rear vision mirror’.
3. Develop a CEO Report structure that works for your organisation
Once targets have been clearly defined, the CEO should be able to produce a report that clearly and easily gives the board the information they need. As a rule, the first two pages should be enough for board members to gather a broad understanding of the position of the business, without having to read any further.