June 2010                                                                                                                    Issue 3
BoardWorks International

Welcome to Issue 3 of Board Works
How often does your board meet? In this issue we begin by examining a range of issues relevant to board meeting frequency (Key Considerations in Board Meeting Frequency).
We then review recent research that identifies particular opportunities for the chairs amongst us to improve our effectiveness (Board Leadership- Opportunities for Improvement in Chair Performance).
Our third article addresses an important (and perennial) issue in governance design - the purpose and accountability of board-established committees. Despite good intentions, too many boards set up committees to discharge operational rather than governance responsibilities (Is the Purpose (and Accountability) of Your Committees Clear?).

Finally, prompted by a recent US review of board risk management practices, we ask:
Is It Time to Tune Up Your Risk Management Thinking?
Good reading
Graeme Nahkies



In This Issue
Key Considerations in Board Meeting Frequency
Board Leadership - Opportunities for Improvement in Chair Performance
Is the Purpose (and Accountability) of Your Committees Clear?...
Is It Time to Tune Up Your Risk Management Thinking?...
Have your Say
Article1 Key Considerations in Board Meeting Frequency
 Board meetingsWe are often asked how frequently a board should meet.  Our typical answer is that 'it depends!'
Traditionally, boards have met on a monthly basis. In an article on this subject back in 2001 we reported that there was a growing trend to holding fewer, but longer board meetings (1). Is that still true? The additional expectations legislators and the courts have placed on boards since then have grown noticeably. Additionally, there has been widespread governance training and the promulgation of 'best practice' thinking on board effectiveness.  These seem to have made boards more aware of the 'quality time' they need to spend on the job.  While boards generally have become better at their job (both more effective and more efficient) in last 8-9 years, it is probable that their workload has increased rather than reduced.  It is timely, therefore, to review how often your board should meet.

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article22Board Leadership - Opportunities for Improvement in Chair Performance
Chair personHaving an effective board chair is a fundamental prerequisite for having a fully functioning board. A recent research study has pointed to areas where performance improvements seem likely to be needed   
article3Is the purpose Is the Purpose (and Accountability) of Your Committees Clear?
CommitteeRecently, it came to our notice that a client organisation had appointed each of its board members to chair one of a series of 'important' advisory committees. The other members of each of the committees who were from outside the organisation could mostly be described as users of the organisation's services. Upon further inquiry it became apparent that the primary purpose of each of the committees was to assist staff to connect effectively with important customer segments. The topics these advisory committees were dealing with were, therefore, primarily operational.
The problem of appointing board members to chair these operational committees was the considerable ambiguity it created for both the board and the chief executive. Which of the two 'owned' the committees, which was responsible for ensuring that the committees were effective; which should be listening to and taking notice of the advice received; which did they report to, and so on? 
article4Is It Time to Tune Up Your Risk Management Thinking?
Risk managementPeriodically, boards are exhorted by regulators and commentators alike, to look more closely at their risk management practices. This is usually after some sort of economic bubble has burst and companies have failed. Why wait? This is something that all boards should do from time to time. 

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"Leadership and character make the primary difference in the performance of a board - not a set of governance practices."

Jay A Conger in 'Boardroom Realities'

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