Do directors prepare well for board meetings?

  • Thirty per cent of directors surveyed believe their colleagues are not adequately prepared.
  • Thirty-two per cent of directors the papers are sent too late.
  • Ten per cent of directors are undertaking additional research and reading due to the poor quality of the board papers.

There are many factors that underpin good decision making around the board table. One that receives little attention is how individual directors prepare for meetings. VUCA Trusted Advisors undertook a research project engaging with directors to gain a greater insight into how directors prepare for board meetings. The directors who participated were experienced with 75 per cent having two or more board positions and 85 per cent were professional (paid) directors.

The topic was initiated by a letter from Martin Kriewaldt, chair of Central Petroleum in the Australian Financial Review (4 October 2019) that stated that the rule of thumb is that one reads board papers three times before a meeting, with some days between to allow for reflection’. While reading papers is clearly essential there are other components to preparation that underpin good decision making, such as additional research and preparation, seeking external advice, raising issues with the chair, clarifying or seeking further information from the CEO or executive team, testing thinking with fellow directors, reflecting and ideation or innovative thought.

The results were positive, with 90 per cent always reading their board papers. We gained some insights to why the 10 per cent don’t always read their papers and why papers aren’t read multiple times. There was diversity with how deeply papers were read. 

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