Committing to the formation of strategy, developing that strategy and communicating it are significant responsibilities of any board.
How best can the developed strategy be measured, reviewed, and managed?
I will leave the measurement of strategy performance for the third in this series of short essays. This short essay focuses on the board’s management of its strategy through the Chief Executive (howsoever titled).
There is nothing that quite replaces the annual board get-away for deep, focused strategic thinking about its role, its responsibilities, and the organisation in which its fiscal duties and fiduciary responsibilities are invested. These can be richly rewarding times, and if well facilitated, can bring long term, positive momentum to the board and senior management, with a renewed focus on organisationally important things to be achieved. But if your board’s last strategic thinking and planning session was, say, in November 2019, you know now that the world has almost completely changed within one calendar quarter.
Your board no doubt meets several times each year. But do you meet to drive an Agenda to get the business done or are you meeting to drive a transformational and winning organisational culture? There is a world of difference between these two outcomes. Without detracting from the value of still getting away for an annual, thorough review of strategy, there are useful alternatives that make more frequently inclusive focus on strategy at regular “any time” board meetings, and more formally on a periodic basis throughout any given year. Whether conscious or unconscious, you and your board drive the culture of the organisation in how you use the opportunities of your governance meetings.
Essentially there can be three types of meetings in which strategy can be given a dedicated place on your board agenda for its appropriate diligent review:
- The any time, or monthly meeting;
- A bi-monthly, or quarterly meeting; and
- The annual review.
A specifically targeted Agenda that allocates a healthy proportion of time to meeting types 1 and 2 above can enable much of your board’s strategy discussed and deliberated over well considered questions and prepared responses. As I noted in an earlier essay, you might be able to have an in depth review completed every two years through monthly and/or quarterly reviews – depending on how much diligent attention your board is prepared to give on each occasion you meet. You can require of course that your executive team prepares themselves and the board with relevant information that enables robust discussion on such strategic matters.
When it comes to settling the Agenda and including the Review of Strategy item, please ensure that you allow 60 to 90 minutes duration in your meeting for the item and be very specific about the discussion being to make a decision and secure the board’s commitment around the respective strategic goal under review at that meeting. Nothing else, just that one goal. Although the impact of any decision should alert those present at the meeting that there might be a broader impact of change, a decision made that impacts other goals in your organisation’s plan can be picked up for later discussion at a subsequent board meeting. The three critical steps in your strategic review are:
- Debate and discuss;
- Decide and commit; and
- Define next steps.
I strongly recommend that for your annual get-away review session, you engage an independent facilitator to work with your board and senior executive, providing a fresh set of eyes to the processes that you apply, and note any potential examples of unproductive group think.
The internet has an abundance of useful resources. The Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Governance Institute of Australia both have substantial resources on board effectiveness. Organisations such as Lucid Meetings, based in the USA, also have a plethora of useful materials that can be accessed from the internet, for example, their blog piece at https://blog.lucidmeetings.com/blog/4-meeting-agendas-that-drive-strategic-execution.
Please don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.
Next time – performance indicators, and how they might be used.
 Aaron Burden. Accessed at https://unsplash.com/s/photos/notebook-and-pen, 14 July 2020.