Balancing Strategy & Tactics in a Board Meeting

When we join other people’s board meetings, there are bound to be a number of things that are different from the way that we like to run them. As we’ve done a few thousand, and we get to try different things and see good practice, it is inevitable in a way. One of those differences is how much time is spent on strategy.

Some CEOs or MDs see a board meeting as a much more tactical affair. They may have a separate set of meetings to manage strategic projects, perhaps. We would say that even if this were the case, the “Strategic Projects” need to be given an airing in the board meeting for a couple of reasons. Sometimes, it is the only way of getting the team members to put the time in to the project in the first place, and the opportunity to communicate progress to the wider board is benefit in itself. It is also an opportune time to get wider input in to the thinking around the design of the project and some of the key decisions that are being taken on how to implement it. Often times you can save a lot of wasted time when someone else on the senior team learns what is going on and offers you a shortcut, or assistance, or some valuable insight.


So how much time should you dedicate to it? In our world, a board meeting typically lasts 3 or 4 hours. The split is roughly 30 minutes on the Governance and Formalities, 90 minutes on the Departmental Reports (the tactics), and then around an hour or more on the Strategy section. This varies from company to company, of course. What is common, is that the time for Strategy is always the bit that gets squeezed.

For some reason we all love to dwell on what has already happened a lot more we do on planning what to do next that will make a difference. Perhaps this is human nature, but that is where a clear agenda, a confident chair person, and some live time-keeping all help. You won’t be surprised to hear us say that this is where Magic Minutes comes in – after all we designed it to help us with this exact same challenge.