Board packs are too backward-looking, internally focused and time-consuming to produce, according to a recent survey of governance professionals.
The report—Challenges to Effective Board Reporting, by ICSA: The Governance Institute and Board Intelligence—also suggests that the size of board packs is an obstacle to effective oversight and prevents board members from engaging in forward-looking and strategic conversations.
Indeed, 74% of respondents said that their board packs are bigger than necessary. This figure rises to 85% for the largest organisations (those with a turnover of more than £500m), where board packs average more than 250 pages per meeting—or in excess of 2,000 pages a year for main board meetings alone.
Some 68% of respondents overall and 86% of the smallest organisations (those with a turnover of less than £10m) said board packs are too focused on operational rather than strategic issues, while 59% overall and 71% of small organisations feel they are not sufficiently forward-looking.
Jennifer Sundberg, co-CEO of Board Intelligence, said the purpose of a board pack is to enable boards to discuss the important issues and take the decisions that have a bearing on the long-term success of their organisation.
“However, this research suggests that in many organisations board papers are a barrier to such discussions, rather than an aid,” she added. “Too often they are dominated by inward and backward-looking detail, rather than the sort of information that will help the board to plan its future strategy.
“Furthermore, the sheer volume of information that board and committee members are presented with makes it unlikely they can read it all, let alone absorb it or pick out the key issues.”
Peter Swabey, policy and research director at ICSA, said his organisation plans to develop a tool that will enable organisations to assess the length and balance of their board packs and identify ways in which they can be improved.
“We will also be producing guidance to help company secretaries and other governance professionals to address some of the challenges identified by this research,” he said.