Setting deadlines for board papers that work

Last week I blogged about negotiating deadline extensions if you are unable to meet deadlines set by other people.  But one issue that comes up time and time again during mentoring and coaching sessions is “how do I ensure that the Board pack goes out on time without a late night in the office?”.  A key element of this is of course setting deadlines that your executive team respect and meet.  On this one I admit I do not have a magic solution, but here are a few suggestions:-

  • Get support from the Chair. If he or she is willing to back you up so that if authors do not meet your deadline their paper is pulled from the board agenda then not many are willing to risk that.  Without this consistent support from the Chair, things get a bit more tricky, but not impossible!
  • Make your deadlines clear and known well in advance. If you have good relationships with the executive team personal assistants, ask them to diarise the deadlines and to allocate time for their boss to write the paper if possible.  If you don’t have good relationships with personal assistants, develop them!
  • Deadlines will inevitably appear to be too far in advance of the board meeting because paper authors do not appreciate what checks, comments, formatting, labelling etc have to take place before the paper is ready for despatch, and how long this takes. Educate them about the value you add at this point and how long it takes.  But also best to resist the temptation to set really ‘baggy’ deadlines because this will not encourage respect for the deadline.
  • Meet everyone else’s deadlines (see my blog last week).
  • Set a deadline for close of play on the day before you plan to work on the papers rather than the day itself. This allows an overnight buffer for those paper authors who can’t write until the last minute.
  • Encourage paper authors to let you know as soon as possible if they are not going to meet your deadline. Be willing to negotiate with them – e.g. can you see an early draft so you can comment simultaneously or can they complete all the formatting, numbering etc for you so the paper is ready to go when it arrives?
  • Enforce the use of paper templates so all papers arrive almost ready to go, subject to sense and content checking.

If you have a fail safe way of setting board paper deadlines that everyone respects please do share them – I know there are lots of Governance Professionals who would love to know how you do it!