The fast-paced digital landscape of the information age poses a challenge to the proactive general counsel (GC). How do you keep board members informed and engaged without falling into the information paradox of “analysis paralysis”? In other words, “how do you ensure that board members learn more from reading less?”. Four best practices stand out as being surefire ways for a proactive general counsel to keep directors in the loop.
1. Leverage Reputable Sources for Quality Information
Informed decision-making starts with quality intelligence. As a general rule, the intel and insights you present should come from a reputable source. Directors will be more open to exploring information if it comes from a trusted name in business journalism. This is especially true for providers of industry data and market metrics. Leveraging reputable sources also helps ensure that the content you use to articulate actionable insights isn’t “regurgitated” or derivative. Why waste directors’ time telling them what they already know?
Sourcing your intelligence from a well-respected provider is one of the best ways to avoid finding yourself in the embarrassing position of having to defend the quality of information provided in support of an insight or course of action. Should you draw from low-quality content or present intelligence from a questionable source, you may find—over time—that board members are less willing to entertain your insights; perceiving them to be less valuable or “actionable”. This deterioration of enthusiasm can be the downfall of a proactive general counsel in supporting engaged and well-informed boards.
2. Apply Best Practices in Passive Collection
Passive collection refers to the gathering of governance intel without an intended target (such as items on the agenda of an upcoming board meeting or in follow-up to questions, topics, or concerns raised during the meeting). Maintaining search filters and news alerts for a broad array of topics can be a simple and effective way to implement a system of passive monitoring. It also reduces the risk of important information going unnoticed.
However, effectively configuring filters and alerts can be challenging. Your goal is to monitor a range of topics that’s (a.) broad enough to include all pertinent developments, (b.) thorough enough to stop important news from slipping through the cracks, but (c.) not so thorough that you fall victim to the information paradox and are unable to extract actionable insights. You may find it helpful to strategically divide the focus of information monitoring and intel collection on a few select categories. This helps consolidate the inflow of information.
Consider the six categories and corresponding subcategories listed below:
- Executive Movements
- Insider Transactions
- Expansion and Contraction
- Supply Chain
- Attacks and Disasters
- Cyber Issues
- Stock News
4. Product and Services
- Public Sentiment
- Intellectual Property
- Product Liability
5. Partners and Competitors
- Mergers and Acquisitions
By focusing in on these categories, you stand the greatest chance of avoiding risk and identifying opportunities. They effectively provide a “blanket” of coverage—a “net” of intelligence—with which to track impactful developments at the company, competitor (or partner), vertical, or industry level. Focusing on these categories also narrows your stream of intelligence, limiting the amount of content you’re responsible for reading to only the most meaningful updates on a given topic.
3. Streamline News Alerts and Notifications
It becomes a chore to actively investigate the latest industry and market developments. While it’s perfectly acceptable to manually search for information ahead of (or following) a board meeting, much of the work involved in gathering intelligence can be easily automated. A proactive general counsel will stay on top of upcoming or recently-discussed items in a board’s agenda.
You’re not cutting any corners by configuring email alerts and mobile notifications to keep you in the know on the latest industry developments. Well-structured alert settings ensure that the time you devote to the manual collection of governance intelligence is necessary and worthwhile.
Be wary of scheduling updates in regular intervals, especially in rapid succession. It’s easy to tune out a “daily newsletter”. You risk missing out on valuable intelligence and actionable insights the second those emails start to become “background noise” in your daily routine.
Configuring news alerts to notify you in response to specific events or upticks in media coverage can keep you apprised of what matters most (and nothing more). A general counsel who fails to focus their own stream of intel is less equipped to supply board members with actionable insights.
The journey to reading less and learning more starts with you!
4. Share Insights First, Information Second
It’s easy to get caught up in an exciting new way to keep board members informed and, in the process, lose sight of “priority number one”. Intel means little if it cannot be acted upon. If the intel you present isn’t used to inform a board’s decision-making, then you’ve ultimately wasted your time.
Committing to an “insights first, news second” approach weakens the information paradox, reducing the effects of “information overload” and “analysis paralysis”. Your goal is to cut through the noise, giving board members exactly what they need to know to make informed decisions.
The ability to craft compelling insights can have a surprisingly substantial impact on director engagement and the effectiveness of boardroom decision-making. The information and metrics you do share must lend themselves to whatever insight or course of action you’re trying to present. You can think of each insight as a story. The intel presented in support of your insights make up the chapters of your “story”. Just as the plot of a story flows from one chapter to the next, aim to establish a logical flow as you structure content in support of an insight. This helps ensures that your insights are well-supported and logically-constructed.
For the proactive general counsel, keeping board members informed is no small task. It takes diligence, commitment, and an enthusiasm for helping directors make the best decisions possible. An eye for best practices and strong technological proficiency can streamline the efficiency and effectiveness of governance intelligence efforts on your board of directors.