The ideal frequency and duration of board meetings is a vexing question. The answer depends on a combination of the maturity of the Organisation, the level of change in the business / market, and the confidence within the governance team to ‘steer the waka’ forward at and between board meetings.
Here are 3 areas of consideration to work your way through to the optimal outcome for you and your circumstances.
Optimal time allocation (for everyone)
- Boards (and their members contribution) work best when there is an agreed format of management reporting, material preparation and dissemination received ideally a week in advance, and clearly assigned and time bound actions recorded in circulating minutes (this time ideally a week following the meeting).
- Board member preparation, meeting time, follow up / actions are usually around one-third of time each in a board meeting cycle. Strategy should outweigh compliance in board focus.
- A board often has an annual workplan to ensure that key topics have time set aside for a ‘deep dive’. You should allow sufficient time to make these worthwhile (generally around 40-80 minutes each depending on the size of the company and complexity of issues).
- While board roles come with fiduciary responsibilities there is inevitably budgetary considerations that come into play not only for directors but the often overlooked time of those charged with preparing and approving reports that make up the board pack. Focus!
Focus on strategic issues
- Review your time allocation within your last 3 agendas / minutes to determine where you spend the balance of your meeting time between strategic and compliance issues.
- 1 to 2 Strategic deep-dive items should be covered at each meeting. Pre meeting articles and management’s desired outcomes from the session should be included in papers.
- Tackle it while you are fresh at / near the beginning of the meeting to get the most of the benefit. This can further maintain the energy through the residual of the meeting.
- Take the opportunity to invite in / canvas stakeholders so you get a fuller picture that supplements the considerations of management.
Use of communications technology
- Once you know each other and are working efficiently, do you all need to be in the same room for every meeting?
- Technology has improved efficiency and effectiveness from Company performance perception (e.g. Net Promoter score) to board meeting software.
- Consider the practicalities where people reside in different towns / countries. Might you better meet physically less often, and perhaps in different locations when you do come together?
- Allocate time in your annual schedule to physically meet with a varied group of stakeholders i.e key shareholders, partners etc… Ideally this will take place in their environment. Coincide this to occur either on a board meeting day or whenever the most practicable.
There is no one size that fits all. By working through your situation a range of options will likely emerge that could well ignite your next strategic topic.