New Year Health Check – 10 things to ask your Board 

As we enter 2019, we are presented with an opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future. After what is likely to have been a short break from their Non-Executive responsibilities, no doubt your Board will be returning to their duties with a refreshed energy and a desire to contribute effectively in 2019.

January is a great time to reflect on the past, and help inform the objectives for the forthcoming year. The following 10 questions are a great way to get your Board thinking objectively about how they can improve and ‘be better’ in 2019.

How do you think your Board would respond to the following questions?

Why not share these questions with them and ask them to bring back their responses to your next meeting? It may help you shape some objectives for the forthcoming year, take a fresh view on how you review the effectiveness of your Governance arrangements and support a journey of continuous improvement!

  1. How representative is your Board? The majority of Boards would agree they find achieving true diversity very difficult. Ask your Board how diverse it thinks its membership is, and how well it represents the communities you serve. If your Board states that the membership isn’t diverse enough then what are you doing to address this?
  1. Are all Board Members fully committed and contributing effectively? Be honest. Do all Board Members ‘pull their weight’ and add value? If not, then how are you seeking to address this? Long gone are the days where Boards can afford to carry passengers and any underperformance needs to be addressed.
  1. Are your collective and individual appraisal processes truly objective, appropriately challenging and constructive? What outcomes are derived as a result, and are any agreed targets or objectives followed through? If not, then how does this process need to improve?
  1. If the regulator landed tomorrow, could you talk confidently about how your organisation manages risk, and could you evidence how the Board has a real grip and effective oversight across the business? Could all Board Members talk confidently about their engagement, the risk appetite of the business and how this is managed? Has your Board been involved in stress testing the business? For example; do all Board Members know where you sit financially. If not, why not? 
  1. Is the way that performance is reported to the Board fully effective and appropriate? Do all Board Members understand your costs, and how you compare to others? Are your homes safe and how do you gain appropriate reassurance? How is the information shared with the Board independently tested? If your Board feels that there are gaps here then how can this be improved, and what steps do you need to take to address this?
  1. How well supported are the Board in performing their role effectively? Are your papers well-constructed, and are the areas for consideration and decisions clearly identified? Do they get given sufficient time to discuss and challenge key business decisions and impacts or are items presented as a fait accompli? How well Chaired are the meetings? Is the environment conducive to effective meetings? Concerns in any of these areas mean that there is room for improvement.
  1. How well do you know your Senior Team and Non-Executive colleagues? Are you aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses? Do you know each other well enough to work effectively as a team? Are they dedicating time to ‘oiling the machine? If not, then how can this be addressed?
  1. How do you influence the culture of your organisation, and is it a thriving and positive one? Do the Board drive this, and give it sufficient priority? If not or you don’t know, how can you address this?
  1. Is your Governance structure effective and fit for purpose? Does it meet the business now and will it in the future? Do Board Members understand what sits where and who has oversight over what? Is it overly complex or disjointed? If you haven’t reviewed or tested this recently then when will you next take time to review your position?
  1. Finally, it’s always healthy to ask your Board a general question as to what can be done better or be improved. So – What three things would you like to see improved in relation to the Board or Governance arrangements over the next 12 months, and why? 

Don’t forget to tell us how you get on!