How well is your board performing?

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Looking at Board Self-Assessment

A board’s responsibility is to continually improve its governance practices and effectiveness. Regular evaluation of the board is a governance best practice. Evaluations may focus on different points like:

  • The performance of individual directors,
  • The overall board,
  • The board chair,
  • The board committees
  • The orientation and training among other aspects of the board’s work.

Right now, let’s focus on how the board might evaluate its own overall performance – assessing how well the board is meeting its responsibilities, from strategic direction and oversight to board efficiency and effectiveness.

Increasingly, boards are turning to self-assessment tools that may be administered annually.   Some boards design their own survey or questionnaire; others use questionnaires created by other organizations or consultants. Generally, such self-assessment questionnaires evaluate the board in areas that include:

  • Board composition and structure
  • Board systems and processes
  • Board committees
  • Board meetings
  • Board performance and effectiveness.

Boards should carefully tailor their assessment tools to the items that are important to them and include some reflection on their goals and objectives over the last year. The self-assessments can be easily administered through an on-line survey or by any other vehicle that suits the board members. Whatever tool a board uses, a good self-assessment needs to ask relevant and clear questions; collect input from across the board and potentially others; and make use of the information for developmental purposes, identifying and addressing areas that might need attention and improvement in the coming year.

One might ask who on the Board should steer this self-assessment process. It will often be the role of the governance committee to design or select a self-assessment tool, review the results of the evaluation and present the results to the board along with a work plan to ensure that any areas for improvement are acted upon.

Looking for samples of board self-assessment questionnaires? Numerous samples can be found on-line. McKinsey and Company provides a free version on-line.

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