Are you racing to put together your next board report and papers?
Do you worry that you are ‘hitting the mark’ and getting the balance right in your reports?
Or are you just looking to improve your reporting framework?
Answer yes to any one of these then the PWC Annual Director Survey provides some useful insights into what Directors are looking for.
I’ve put together some pointers to improving your board papers.
It seems that top among what Directors are looking for from reports are
Management insights are the advice and comments by the leadership team on issues before the board.
These should be focussed on how the organisation can maximize opportunities and minimize risk.
Insights are advice not direction.
Insights are the collective wisdom of the leadership team and should provide the board with key considerations for debate.
Tip: You might want to expand this section of your board paper template given the survey result.
2. Better highlighted risks of issues being discussed
Risk management is a key role of Boards but they look to the CEO and leadership team to identify and raise flags on key risk issues. Once raised the board can engage in a more detailed debate and provide more oversight and direction where needed.
Tip: If you don’t already include a risk heading in your reporting template it might be timely to include this.
Forcing the leadership team to include commentary on risk will ensure that the board is given insight into the actual and potential risks from the organisations perspective and how you are/would respond to these.
3. Presented with more lead time for consideration
The are a range of recommendations on the most appropriate lead time for the circulation of board papers ranging from 2 to 10 days.
This is a discussion you need to have with your board and once agreed every now and then ‘check’ that the lead time is still appropriate. Once a lead time is agreed every effort should be made to ‘stick to it’.
Tip: set a deadline for board paper distribution and stick to it. Evaluate this timeline regularly – check in with board Directors to see if it remains relevant.
4. Shorter and more summarised papers
This one is always a challenge as there is a tendency to want to add more and more background material to give the papers meaning but AVOID this at all costs – questions can always be asked if needed.
Tip: consider introducing a word limit on board papers and mandate this in your template. Word limits on papers focus the writer and ensure the most salient points are included.
Every industry has its ‘alphabet soup’ of acronyms and other jargon – . board members are not always ‘in’ your industry and shouldn’t be expected to constantly check back to a dictionary of acronyms.
Tip: consider a BAN on acronyms and jargon in all papers.
6. Reviewed to remove no longer relevant information
There is nothing worse than reading and considering a paper and later finding that the some of the content is no longer relevant.
Tip: Review and edit all papers before they get circulated to the Board.
Walk a mile in their shoes
It might be worth putting yourself in the shoes of Directors as you prepare the papers and consider the following – and from this vantage point revise all material.
- how is this matter relevant to the board and to the Director in their role?
- what use will a Director make of this information – is it really necessary?
- what board paper of strategic goal is this paper relevant to?
Material NOT to include in board papers
- material related to decisions or actions made by management – if it’s already happened and you have delegated authority what is the point?
- presentations on new initiatives or products – you might be excited by them but the board doesn’t need to know.
- Reports or papers with no interpretation or commentary – the board should have to guess why the paper is being presented.
FINALLY remember never suprise your board unless it is with good news