How Do You Increase the Strategic Focus of a Board? Four Guidelines

Situation: A company has a board which is uncomfortable with strategic issues. Faced with a strategic decision, they gravitate quickly to tactical issues. What can you do to increase the Board’s strategic focus?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Change the focus of your Board meetings.
    • Change the agenda of Board meetings. Start with a review of the Strategic Plan and progress toward meeting the objectives of the Plan. Over time, input to the Plan grows as Board members become more comfortable with the strategic issues addressed in the Plan.
  • Develop a Board Charter and annual objectives for the Board as a whole.
    • If you have an individual on the Board who models or nearly models the behavior that you wish to see in the full Board, ask this individual chair a Board subcommittee to work on the Charter. Devote time at Board meeting to discussion of the subcommittee’s recommendations.
    • Develop annual objectives for the Board, including both global objectives and specifically how you want individual members to contribute. Outline your most important expectations of the Board, what you need from them, and ask them to develop objectives to meet these needs and expectations.
  • Start to proactively educate your Board on how they can be most helpful to the company.
    • Gather benchmarking data from similar companies. Educate the Board on best Board practices.
    • Look at the best performing companies in your industry – preferably organizations that do not compete directly with you – and ask to attend their Board meetings as a guest. You may want to take one of your own Board members along. Look for practices that will augment your meetings.
  • Augment the Board with individuals who will help to steer it toward the strategic focus.
    • As you begin to bring the right talent to the Board, recommend the creation of Board subcommittees to work on key strategic areas. At meetings, after the Strategic Plan update, the Subcommittees can formally present their updates to the Board for discussion and consideration. Choice of subcommittee chairs is important to success.

Key Words: Board, Strategy, Tactics, Agenda, Charter, Objectives, Accountability, Best Practices

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