Providing directors with comprehensive, digestible information via board packs is crucial for productive board meetings. But that comprehensive information is almost useless if directors do not get the pack far enough in advance to read what is inside them and reflect on the information.
In today’s fast paced business environment things can change quickly, so how do we ensure board packs are up-to-date and relevant, but delivered within a timeframe that is useful to directors? And what is the optimal timeline for assembling these vital materials?
Below is an approximate schedule to ensure your board packs are assembled far enough ahead of time to empower informed strategic discussions and decision making. Remember each board is unique and the timeline, just like all aspects of board pack preparation should be tailored to the specific boards requirements.
~ 4-6 Weeks Before Meeting: Commence Agenda Planning
A thoughtful agenda providing focus and structure is the foundation for an effective board pack and meeting.
Agenda planning should begin around four to six weeks prior to the meeting by convening the chair, CEO and company secretary to align on priority issues warranting director attention.
Factor in guidance required around operations, risks, strategy, compliance, culture and other oversight areas based on the board’s role. Be selective - the agenda should focus on topics requiring the board’s expertise, not matters management can address. Carefully curate agenda topics and sequence a logical flow. Document conclusions to shape follow-on planning.
If using a board calendar you’re already ahead of the curve, as this will mean you’ve already mapped key topics for discussion to future meetings.
~ 3 Weeks Before: Management Assembles Initial Paper Drafts
With direction set on agenda items, management and committees should start compiling board papers conveying contextual insights on each topic. Initial drafts should be ready about 3 weeks before meetings.
The company secretary partners closely with the CEO (if separated roles) to spearhead development, ensuring drafts meet board paper policies and standards.
Papers should elucidate the specific guidance sought from directors and provide balanced background to inform their judgment. Data, alternatives, and answers to likely questions equip directors for productive discussions.
~ 2-3 Weeks Before: Secretary Reviews and Refines Drafts
The company secretary now reviews draft papers to strengthen arguments and ensure they directly address issues requiring the board’s attention. Constructive feedback aims to clarify purpose, refine points, and hone focus.
Collaborate with management to finalise papers based on this guidance over the next 1-2 weeks. Keep papers strategically aligned with the agenda and board’s needs versus management preferences. Allow time for multiple iterations to polish content.
~ 1 Week Before: Distribute Final Board Pack
The final board pack should be distributed to directors a minimum of 1 week before the meeting (2 weeks is even better) barring emergencies. This typically allows sufficient time for directors to thoroughly read and absorb the information they will be expected to discuss and make decisions on.
Delaying distribution closer to the meeting date compromises directors’ ability to properly prepare. Building in a week’s review window gets the right information to the right people at the right time for thoughtful participation in the board meeting.
Delivering at the right time
Which ever board pack preparation and delivery timeline you choose to use, the key to delivering board packs at the right time is:
to maintain a disciplined timeline for crafting and disseminating quality board packs
communicating with the board about the suitability of the timeline for their needs.
sets a professional tone.
respects directors’ time and the seriousness of their governance duties.
This results is engaged directors who feel empowered by timely access to pertinent information.
Finally, following a consistent board pack delivery timeline instills confidence in management’s capabilities and commitment to transparency.