Category Archives: Management

Management’s Role in Productive Board Meetings

Kelly LeCouvie
Kelly LeCouvie

We often hear from management that board meetings are “a waste of time” where directors “don’t really understand our business” and “don’t contribute much to enhancing our strategy.”

That is unfortunate.

Yet in many cases, the primary source of the problem is not poor director choices, as much as poor management preparation for board meetings.

Directors generally are sincere in their wishes to add value and make a difference for management and for the business. They also typically bring deep experience across multiple businesses and industries. So how is it that they attend board meetings without bringing significant value? There are a number of things that directors expect (or at least hope for) from management in order to help ensure that they can contribute real value.

Below is a list of considerations for management as it prepares for board meetings:

  • Is enough time allotted for the board meeting? (Most effective board meetings are at least a full day in length.)
  • Does the agenda indicate enough specificity in terms of what directors should give thought to before the meeting?
  • Do you allot sufficient time for strategic discussions (versus financial review, operational problems, or regulatory issues)?
  • Have the directors received the completed board packet information at least one full week (and preferably 10 days) in advance of the board meeting?
  • Is there a cover page to each section of the board packet which summarizes the key issue(s) and the key questions that management would like directors to be prepared to discuss?
  • Is management prepared to discuss the issues without running through slides that the directors have already read in the packet?

Directors aren’t perfect and sometimes, poor director choices are made. On the other hand, it is probable that management can step up its game in terms of equipping directors to contribute more meaningfully in board meetings!

Back to school

David Ransburg
David Ransburg

I realize that kids have been back in school for a couple of months now, but I recently ran across something inspired by one school in particular, and that something has direct value for family businesses.

The KIPP Foundation was founded in 2000 with the purpose of creating “a respected, influential, and national network of public schools that are successful in helping students from educationally underserved communities develop the knowledge, skills, character and habits needed to succeed in college and the competitive world beyond.” Much has been written about KIPP, and their many successes are remarkable.

KIPP has many chapters, and each chapter is governed by its own board. KIPP’s Colorado board was recently provided guidance to help them understand which issues the board should deal with vs. those that are better left to those who manage the schools day-to-day. While specific issues were not delineated, the KIPP Foundation provided the following list of questions to help board members make their own decisions along these lines:

Governance Issues vs. Management Issues

  • Is the issue strategic?
  • Is it about the future?
  • Is it central to the mission?
  • Is a high‐level policy decision needed to resolve a problem or disagreement?
  • Is a significant change in firm performance, either positive or negative, in evidence?
  • Is the board’s performance dashboard signaling a need for greater attention?
  • Does the CEO want and need the board’s support?
  • Has a new risk factor for the firm become evident?

What other questions would you suggest to help family businesses in particular distinguish between governance issues and management issues?