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When to introduce the devil that is in the details?

 

"Should reporting details be provided to board members prior the meeting or upon request?"

This question was asked at a recent webinar, now available on-demand:

"The Role Finance Plays in the Boardroom"

Please add your thoughts about it below. Thanks!

Answers

Topic Expert
Blair Cook
Title: Partner
Company: Executive Finance
LinkedIn Profile
(Partner, Executive Finance) |

What level of credibility do you have with your Board?

If you lack credibility (which might simply be because they are unfamiliar with either yourself or the company or perhaps there are issues in the business which are causing concern), details help directors gain intimacy with the pieces that make up the business/issues.

However, as time goes on and the directors understand the business and its components, the details will only slow them down when its comes to talking about the bigger picture and the strategic perspective. But the existing business needs to be working right first before these sorts of conversations can productively happen.

I like the idea of an "appendix" because it provides the detail but doesn't focus on it. The board report needs to streamline the analysis to emphasize the really important matters for board deliberation. If you have a really good suite of performance metrics that are accurate predictors of performance, this too is better than giving directors mind-numbing tables of numbers.

I really like the idea of the "skittles" report as a replacement for the mind-numbing rows of numbers. Its attention grabbing and gives, as the CFO, an idea of where the questions are likely to arise.

Randall Bolten
Title: CEO
Company: Lucidity
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO, Lucidity) |

Blair’s points are all excellent. This is fundamentally a communications challenge, and that’s how you need to look at it. I particularly like Blair’s suggestion of an “appendix” to a concise summary report. Providing detail later, or only on request, risks making it look like you’re feeding the board information in a slow drizzle, can put you in the position of giving different information to different board members, and could be a logistical pain on top of all that.

Gary A. Pokorn
Title: Sales Enablement Manager
Company: Oracle I NetSuite
(Sales Enablement Manager, Oracle I NetSuite) |

Interesting discussion. I am not versed in working with Boards, but your comments stimulated two thoughts:
1. As a sales professional who is very process-oriented, I prefer a more positive spin about the details courtesy of this architect: "God is in the details." Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
2. I would think your Board members expect you to know the details. So to me, determining when and what level of details to share with them could be as simple as just asking - might impress some; surprise all. Thx, GAP

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