An independent Board evaluation will – should – deliver an added-value report for the Chairman and the Board. Getting the most value that you can from this exercise depends on many factors, but here are the main ones.
- Choose an evaluation partner which offers the best ‘fit’ for your Board and your company. This is not the same thing as choosing someone who has in-depth experience of your sector. This may be important to you, especially if your activities are highly regulated and you want to appoint someone with that same experience. But in fact, an evaluation is not looking at what you do as a company. For example, it is not our place to comment on the validity of your strategy, but rather to assess the processes you use, and to check on the alignment of Board members. It is more important to choose an evaluator whose style is compatible with your Board.
- Make sure that all Board members and any other people who will be taking part, are fully committed to the process. We can always tell at once if individuals on a Board do not ‘buy in’ to the process – and rarely, we have met Boards where all or most of the participants clearly did not want to do it. This is rare nowadays. It is also a complete waste of time and money. The more effort and commitment the Board puts in, the better will be the outcomes. A good evaluation team will make the process as easy as possible for your Board, so really, all that is asked of you is to help shape the format, read and prepare – and turn up, ready to fully engage.
- Use the opportunity to really think about the way your Board operates. Aside from being a corporate governance requirement, a Board evaluation is a chance to reflect in some depth on many areas of your activities and behaviours. In the busy annual cycle of Board and Committee meetings, this opportunity may not always be present. But this is that chance. Make sure you use it fully.
- Tell the evaluator about known areas of Board difficulty, if there are any. We are not looking for trouble, and it is rare to unearth issues that are a shock or a surprise to the Board. But if you are aware that there is an aspect of your Board’s operations or behaviour that needs focus, tell us. This will enable the team to draft the questions in order to tease out these issues and will certainly make sure you get the best value you can from the evaluation.
- Don’t see the evaluation as a static piece of work. Like all Board activity, an evaluation – a good evaluation – can be dynamic and offer forward-looking approaches for you to consider. This is not a shameless pitch for re-appointment, because if you have had the benefit of a good, down-to-earth report with practical suggestions, you can drive it forward. Don’t be afraid to ask your evaluating team to offer bench-marking points as well. Again, this is not about sector or activity, but is about Boards that are of a similar size, or composition, for example. We have experience of hundreds of Boards and it is entirely possible to offer you invaluable insights without in any way breaching client confidentiality.
- Don’t appoint an evaluator and expect a ‘tick-box’ outcome. Good evaluators take the work very seriously and your evaluation should be designed as a bespoke exercise. You should check that the evaluation is being tailored specifically for your Board, based on your input in conversations before the questions are drafted. And you should definitely check that your report will be written by the interviewing team and not be churned out of a programme-generated piece of software.
These are my top six. Contact me to talk about your Board.