One subject that can be depended on to crop up time and time again in boardrooms is the quality of board papers, and in particular, the level of detail contained within them. Much frustration often prevails in boardrooms over the matter of whether certain board papers are too detailed or not detailed enough. Nor can there be any question about the importance of this subject, given that the amount of detail in such papers can set the tone and direction of discussions.

Not only can the important strategic issues become obscured because of strong focus on this aspect of a board’s operations, but meetings can become less dynamic if directors are wallowing in too much information and critical points are lost amid more detailed debates. Conversely, if board papers are insufficiently detailed, discussion can be rendered superficial, NEDs simply not having enough information to work with. Evidently, it is vitally important that the right balance is struck.

One of the best practices for dealing with the often contentious subject of board paper detail is to recognise that different people have different ways of handling information. Whereas some people need to start with a high level of detail before building up to the bigger picture, the tendency for others may be to start with the big picture and occasionally drill down to more detailed information. With everyone not handling information in the same way, no amount of reprimanding will make a big picture person out of someone whose style is to build up detail.

It would be good to consider how your organisation’s board papers can be structured to accommodate the needs of different directors without undermining the paper’s impact. An effective summary should be the basic, essential starting point, after that, you can begin figuring out how to include more detail while not reducing the papers’ clarity and ease of use. Don’t give in to pressure from those demanding more detail to such an extent that the paper is no longer succinct – after all, effective summaries can still be maintained, with any extra detail being included in the appendix.

Indeed, there is a wide range of procedures by which the most appropriate balance between succinctness and detail can be achieved – from taking an exacting approach to appendices and making extra detail available elsewhere, to minimising the use of PowerPoint slides and ‘weeding out’ unnecessary information in board papers on a periodic basis.

Board papers will always be a subject of intense debate throughout the UK’s boardrooms, but they are far from many UK firms’ only source of anxiety. Talk to London Registrars today about how our services relating to the latest employment law for care homes could provide important peace of mind for your organisation.

May, 2016.