The Greek word σκέφτομαι (skéftomai – thinking) has the sense of contemplation, that is, more than just thinking as in this familiar image below. More like thinking with care or weighing up the impact of thoughts. From this word we get the word skéfto.
Over the years I have been on boards where strategy, its measurement and monitoring have been left to the CEO to lead; and where strategy was not a matter that was on the board agenda in regular (monthly) meetings.
I encourage us all to seriously think about how we can amend agendas to include strategy as a priority item on each board meeting.
Boards can learn how to ask questions of the executive team and management around matters rolled into their Strategic Plan. For example, if you have ten overarching objectives in your current strategic planning document, and your board meets ten or eleven times each year, you could consider a well thought out sixty minutes of discussion around each of these high level objectives at each Board meeting, and the entire Plan would be discussed throughout the year. To provide time for input from the CEO and executive team, even if the Board were to conduct that review of each item in the Plan over a two month period, the entire plan could be thoroughly discussed and re-invigorated every two years. This does not detract of course from the value of a formal annual Strategic Planning review.
However, too often we lay responsibility (blame) at the feet of the CEO and executive team if strategy is not achieved or seems to waver along the path the organisation sets. This is most unfair if the board itself is not taking care of the primary responsibilities of monitoring and oversight of the organisation’s strategy and strategic plan for which it is responsible.
In his well-known text on governance, Tricker describes the basic board functions working through management as:
These significant functions of strategy formulation and monitoring and supervising go hand in glove and cannot be left to the executive and management teams. They are the board’s responsibility.
A CEO’s life is a busy one and there would be few who would intentionally disregard the board established strategy and fail to act upon it. But if the board does not consider it of sufficient importance to regularly consider strategy at its meetings then perhaps both the board and the CEO/executive team would be well served to undertake together appropriate review and performance indicator analysis and reporting that ensures their organisation can move towards the goals it has set for itself.
As an aside, and while contemplation around these things is now at the top of your mind as we enter a new, complex financial year, in the past few weeks I have been beta testing an Australian designed strategic planning software platform called . It has been a delight to be working with this company and involved in bug finding, improvement suggestions, and the like. What I can say is that this platform has been very well thought through with strategic planning – including in the aged care sector – right at the forefront of its development. The developers suggest that “will enable organisational strategy through simple, integrated, actionable, and measurable planning.”
If only this platform were available twenty years ago … Measuring and managing your Strategic Plan’s objectives is made easier with this form of software tool.
For next time, some ways in which more regular, monthly and/or quarterly strategy review meetings can be conducted and utilised for the benefit of the organisation.
 Robert Tricker, Corporate Governance: Principles, Policies and Practices (Oxford University Press, 3rd ed, 2015), 168.