Delivering what directors want – productive, strategic meetings | Aprio
March 5, 2017
Ian Warner

Delivering what directors want – productive, strategic meetings

Researchers with the Rotman School of Management performed a comprehensive study of credit union boards to uncover what behaviours and governance practices by the board led to better organization performance overall.

Effective board meetings came through as the top factor to improved organization performance.

And what makes an effective board meeting? Turns out that it’s strict awareness around time management and tuning agendas to spend more time on strategy.

Rotman’s researchers report, “… boards are struggling to optimize their board meeting agendas. In many cases, board members feel that a significant adjustment in time allocation is needed to maximize the effectiveness of their meetings.”

While this research is focused on credit unions, we hear this feedback from directors across all the organizations that Aprio serves.

Some useful guidance on how to streamline your board’s priorities to maximize impact is offered by CUNA director’s newsletter.

The newsletter reports, “Based on board packets, meeting agendas, and executive oversight, today’s boards focus much more on historical and current performance, structure, rules, and corrective actions than on creating and executing strategies to enable the organization to take advantage of future opportunities.

“Exploration of the future, by its very nature, is inefficient and unknown, and it generates an increase in the number of bad ideas or inaccurate forecasts. But without continued and sufficient emphasis on exploring the future, firms facing change likely will fail.”

Yes, part of the board meeting needs to be reviewing essential updates – which are largely backward-looking reporting. But being prepared for change, risk and growth demands bigger discussions.

Aprio tools to help:

  • Survey your board – ask are directors satisfied with the strategic focus at meetings? Ask them to grade your board on a scale relative to your organization’s primary focus, ranging from “1” (value preservation – present focus) to “5” (value creation – future focus). Ask if directors are satisfied with the current focus – yes / no? Discuss the findings at a board meeting and if you’re falling short, ask directors for ideas on what to do about it?
  • Agenda assessment – Review your last 5 agendas. What was the weighting of topics between status updates or historic performance review and strategic risks and issues? There are always current operations realities that can take over the agenda – don’t let yourself off the hook. Skip the excuses and score yourself fairly.
  • Better agendas – Create a go-forward agenda template that includes one strategic topic. Realize the discussion need may be just 30 minutes and might focus only on asking directors perspectives on how to assess the problem, core things to consider, perhaps offer resources or contacts of assistance.   Do not use the entire time giving the context on the issue – use Aprio to provide a synopsis as pre-reading and ask directors to come prepared with input.

Curious? Find out more.

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