The importance of effective boards : Sarah Prescott: Interim Chief Operating Officer

The role of a board of directors is to lead an organisation, to provide high-level oversight of its activities and performance, and to create an environment that allows the wider team to succeed. An effective board is critical to organisational success, particularly during challenging economic times like we’re currently experiencing.

We welcomed six new members to the Be First board this Summer, so I thought this would be a good time to reflect on how to build good working relationships between Board Members. This can make an enormous difference to the effectiveness the wider organisation.

The first point is ensuring everyone understands the Board’s operating model. Smaller organisations may require Board members to be more ‘hands on’ while larger, more complex entities will need a different approach with clear, effective controls in operation

Secondly, we should consider what information and insight the Board needs to support that way of working – more is not always more when it comes to management information! Many organisations drown in information and jargon and it can be hard for Board members to distinguish between the signal and the noise. Judgement is required to prioritise and highlight the right information.

To help overcome this, the best reporting structure will be future proofed and aligned to core risks and opportunities. In Be First’s case,  this means including in both internal and macroeconomic factors.

Finally, it’s worth spending time considering how data and information is presented to the Board. What key exam questions are we hoping to answer? What decisions need to be made? Being focused on the outcomes enables us to provide the right information to guide that conversation. It is important to think through and prepare the messages given to the board, rather than simply churning out information for them.

For Be First, bringing our new Board members up to speed in a complex external environment is critical, as is using their considerable skills and expertise from the outset.