How to Write Effective Board Decision Papers

Board decision papers can be a valuable instrument for directors to make informed decisions. They are prepared to provide the information and analysis required by a board to consider and approve any proposed decision. They can be used to discuss major capital investments and subsequent revenue implications, acquisitions/dispositions, introducing new services or changing existing ones, organisational structure changes, budgetary decisions, granting contracts or joint ventures etc.

The best boards papers begin with a statement of their purpose, whether it is for information or to discuss. They also state the recommendations of the board. The document should contain an overview of the issue, an executive summary (ideally not more than one paragraph or four lines), and a detailed explanation, covering strategies, financial information and the risks. It should also provide an overview of options and the reasons why this option is best for the business.

Several board development experts and chairs we interviewed recommended that executive teams adopt a decision-focussed format for their papers. This is when the headings on the paper reflect the choice to be made rather than organizing them according to themes – as this helps boards to manage information more efficiently and encourages them to think about the best way to take each issue.

Edit your board documents until they are clear and concise. It is helpful to read your draft again the following morning after a restful night.

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