10 Tips for a Strategic Thinking Board

Most will agree that high performing boards are those that are strategic thinking entities. In fact, in Gazley and Bower’s book, What Makes High Performing Boards, they point out that “the greater the strategic orientation, the better for board performance.” Yet, only 13% of boards spend more than 50% of their meeting time engaged in strategic thinking and discussion (Gazley, Bowers). In a non-profit setting, it is the CEO’s responsibility to take a leadership role in transforming a board into a strategic thinking entity.

Here are 10 easy tips you can engage to start the process:

  1. Understand that although your board may be made up of seasoned executives, it may not be made up of strategic thinkers. In fact, few people are true strategic thinkers.
  2. Include strategic thinking capability in the list of attributes you use to evaluate potential board candidates.
  3. Include training on strategic thinking in your board development program.
  4. Create a governance structure that aligns with the organization’s strategy, not the organization’s operating functions.
  5. Use written committee reports, instead of verbal reports, and place them on a consent agenda.
  6. Make sure the discussion items on the agenda are truly strategic issues that really matter.
  7. Instead of or in addition to talking points, provide meeting chairperson with a few questions prior to the meeting designed to engage the group in a strategic dialogue on the subject at hand, rather than an operational level discussion.
  8. Protect against “group think” at board meetings by actively seeking out different views.
  9. Purposefully and selectively engage the board in generative thinking during board meetings.
  10. Engage your board, and others, in the strategy development process.

What practices do you employ to keep your board thinking strategically?

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