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Moving your Board toward Strategic Mode

Updated: Jul 4

Boards, in our experience, find it naturally easier to default to operational mode than strategic mode in terms of the focus of their role. Here are a few tips to get you started on shifting your Board from operational to strategic mode:

  1. Establish clear governance rules and roles. Boards need to have well-defined boundaries between their oversight responsibilities and the company's day-to-day operations. This includes setting term limits for board members to bring in fresh perspectives regularly. It's also great to have clear policy and role descriptions in place for both Board and CEO roles that explain the relationship between the two in relation to delegations of authority. A delegations policy should move from being predominantly about the finances to a much broader scope to make it clear who is responsible for what.

  2. Streamline meeting agendas to prioritise strategic discussions. Many boards spend too much time on operational and financial reports about past events rather than future-focused topics. Sending materials in advance and handling routine matters offline can free up meeting time for strategic conversations. Your Board meeting time is precious - save it for strategic decision and discussion as much as possible.

  3. Utilise technology effectively. Providing board materials well ahead of meetings via digital platforms allows members to review and analyse information thoroughly, leading to more meaningful strategic discussions during meetings. Resolve work with both BoardPro and OurCatHerder platforms as good Board Portl options to consider.

  4. Refocus management reports on strategic matters. Reports should address governance-level concerns and achievements rather than just operational activities. This helps steer board attention to higher-level issues. Consider moving operational reports provided for noting to a different part of the agenda, and leave management reports redesigned to present the key areas needing resolution and Board focus at meetings.

  5. Develop an annual board work plan. Creating a yearly agenda of priority topics ensures meetings stay focused on strategic matters and the organisation's "change agenda" rather than getting bogged down in day-to-day operations. It also provies the freedom to explore different agenda's throughout the year - moving for example to a quarterly rather than monthly financial report to make space for other business.

  6. Control agenda content rigorously. Screen proposed agenda items to ensure they align with board priorities, add value, and require active engagement from directors. Items that are purely informational can often be handled outside of meetings.

  7. Enhance board member education and onboarding. Providing thorough orientation and ongoing education about the organisation, broader sector, and strategic issues helps board members contribute more effectively to high-level discussions.

  8. Sequence agenda items strategically. Place the most important and strategic items early in the meeting when energy and focus are highest, with operational reports at the back end of the meeting. We recommend designing the agenda with the first priority being Governance and Board matters, then matters for decision, matter for discussion and lastly matters for information.

We hope that some of the above tips will help your Board in its journey to get a better balance between the strategic and operational.

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