You’ve had the evaluation, the report has been delivered. Now, what do you do with it?
This post-evaluation period is arguably the most important. We certainly think it is. Assuming that you have entered into the evaluation in the spirit it is intended and not simply paid ‘lip service’ to the process because you had to, you will be keen to see the evaluation and decide what actions you will take. We always include practical action points for Boards to consider, and we also include bench-marked information that we think will help a client to see itself in the context of others.
Your report probably won’t – and should not – contain any startling revelations. So, if we have identified issues that we think need to be addressed, you will probably already know about them, or at least have considered them, and then had this suspicion confirmed. What may happen is that an issue which you thought was a minority view, may in fact be shared across Board membership, which will sharpen your focus. Or, other matters may feature less; this is usually the case if one or two Board members feel very strongly about an issue, and therefore you may hear a lot of ‘volume’ around it, but in fact others may not share that view, when pressed, by us. So, in either of these cases, you can hasten action, or delay or defer it, depending on the outcome.
Practical steps that we may suggest such as ways to improve Board packs, presentations and meeting conduct, are usually the ‘easy fixes’, once the Board has grasped that nettle.
Areas that may be a little more difficult could include a lack of unity around some key Board responsibilities. This is where the whole Board will need to discuss the subject, with the same candour which we met, ideally. A Board evaluation is a ‘safe space’ where areas of concern can and should be shared with the neutral third-party. Once we have opened that channel, in our report, the Board can feel more confident about open and frank discussions, if this is needed.
We suggest that you consider:
- Thinking about whether you want us to attend the meeting at which the report will be discussed. We are always happy to do this, and sometimes it makes it easier for the subsequent conversations to kick off. We can also clarify areas for you, and add some ‘colour’ that a report, however well-crafted, may have to have diluted simply because of space and time. If there have been any difficult messages, it is sometimes easier to have us there to open the conversation.
- When you meet, we suggest that you isolate the main action points that we have suggested, and form a priority list, assuming that you agree with our conclusions and wish to address them. A time-line or target for implementing these is also highly recommended.
- Reviewing the process itself, as a Board. We are sometimes told that talking to us is cathartic, even from Boards where there is largely good news. It does help to have an independent person to talk to, who is also very experienced at this. So, we suggest that you also have a brief discussion about the process, how it felt, and if you agree about its degree of accuracy and practical use.
- Don’t be surprised if a strongly held view that you may have expressed in person, appears in the report in a moderated tone. We will never exclude a view-point, but we are also mindful of not chucking a time-bomb onto the Boardroom table, and also of the need to weight the things we hear. Very strongly held views will, almost certainly, be discussed between us and the Chair anyway, so nothing is lost or left out.
- Review progress on the action points you decided to adopt well before your next evaluation, which will be a year away and may be internally handled. We suggest doing this after 3 and 6 months, but this will also depend upon the timetable you may have set yourselves. We think this review should include focusing on areas that we highlighted, not just to see if you implemented them, but what impact they have had. Modified behaviour, if we have suggested that, is the hardest area to discuss, and therefore to monitor, so ‘soft’ behavioural issues may be best dealt with away from a Board meeting. But practical areas such as revised timetables, and changes to the way papers are presented, can be discussed much more openly. Some of our suggestions will be long term and these may be areas that the Board will return to over a longer time-frame.
- If you have areas that, in the next few months, remain difficult or opaque, by all means come back to us for further dialog. We often talk to (typically) Chairs or Company Secretaries after the report has been delivered and well into the implementation phase.