21st century governance can sometimes seem overwhelming. Funders, staff, volunteers, clients … all demand more of Boards these days and, particularly if our Board role is a voluntary one, the demands can seem onerous. The best Boards we know simplify things by investing some time in planning and review. Planning the year in advance enables everyone involved to have all Board and Committee meetings in their diary, and helps managers to know when proposals and reports will be needed.
The Board Away Day is an ideal opportunity to reflect on the past year and learn useful lessons for the future. It is also a great time to step back from a crowded agenda and think more strategically, prioritizing the actions needed to take our governance forward in a way that best meets the needs of the organization. While the risk of Coronavirus remains, Away Days can take place by Zoom (or similar), focusing our thinking into a shorter time frame, and increasing the importance of independent facilitation to get great outcomes.
The Board and Chief Executive should engage the services of someone capable, trustworthy and independent to facilitate the session. That enables everyone involved to fully engage and contribute to the thinking and conversations that need to happen to move things forward as appropriate. Clear outcomes should be agreed in advance with the Chair and Chief Executive.
Remote meetings need to be shorter than traditional workshops if we’re to avoid the headaches caused by too much screen time. In order to achieve the agreed outcomes, it is useful for the facilitator to speak briefly to each of the participants in advance, to hear their views on what’s going really well, priorities for change, and feelings about the Away Day and how it will add value. Depending on the agreed purpose of the day, tailored pre-reading in advance is helpful (eg) the Governance Code, Strategic Plan, Risk Register.
The agenda (agreed and circulated in advance) shouldn’t be too busy, and may include some of the following:
- High level thinking about key strategic priorities and key risks
- Review of board effectiveness or previous Governance Action Plan
- Board / management roles, responsibilities, relationships
- Board skills audit, leading to board development planning
- The delegation framework
The outcome should be a clear and concise Governance Action Plan for the year with buy-in from all involved and clarity about who will lead on each of the priorities.
Clearly focused steps for continued development of governance can really boost the motivation and commitment of everyone involved. Having honest and open conversations about learning from the past and focus for the future can also improve relationships and make the boardroom a more comfortable and productive space.
Is this an area of concern for you? Contact Leading Governance for more help.