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Questions for the Board

While working with a new director, I was asked; how do I (we) know if we are doing the right things at our meetings? Rather than answering, I asked the director if he or the board (led by the Chair), asked questions of their own performance? Do you personally reflect on your own contribution?

He answered; “no, normally at the end of the meeting everyone has things to do or places to go and so the post meeting discussion we have is limited or non-existent.” With that established, I offered the following as a starting point.

I have personally found the questions below, both thought-provoking and good discussion starters. These five questions are drawn (and modified) from Parker (1990). Who first outlined the full set in an article titled “Letter to a new Chairman." I find them as relevant today as when they were first penned. There is one rider in answering these questions either personally or as a board; you and fellow directors must be brutally honest in your assessment of your own, and the board's performance. If there is any doubt, then the answer must be no.

  • Has the board devoted significant time (more than one meeting) and thought to long-term strategic issues and their achievement?

  • What has the board worked on today that will add value in five to seven years? (Review the meeting).

  • Has the reporting that the board received for this meeting (or others), allowed it to effectively govern and have oversight of the organisation?

  • Does the board regularly review the CEO’s plans and budgets and are the results then measured against these?

  • When the board has, or needs to make a major decision on future objectives, strategies, policies, etc., does it have adequate time and knowledge to make a sound reasoned decision or is the board overtaken by events and left with no choice but to follow the pre-determined plan of the CEO?

If the answers to these questions are all positive, then your board is a long way toward being truly effective, however, if there are grey areas or definitive “No” answers, then work is required. Once identified, the areas of concern can be added as an item at the board meeting, perhaps in the board only time, and work can begin on correcting them or if required outside assistance can be sought.

The first step is the hardest, answer these yourself after the next board meeting and see how you and your board rate.

This is not the definitive list or necessarily, exactly the right questions; however I have found them useful as a starting point. If you have any questions that you or your board use that you have found especially helpful, I would be very interested in hearing them.

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