Board decision papers supply the details and data that enable directors to understand, shape and make decisions that shape the future of an organisation. They can also be a source of legal action if they are poor-written or contain inaccurate or insufficient information. It is difficult to overstate the importance and value of high-quality decision papers.

What are the most important aspects to writing a successful board paper? The flow of information is essential. This means managing the amount of information available to boards, as well as the manner the information is presented. Board papers should be concise and comprehensive, while also conveying the clear message of a call to action.

The challenge for writers is avoiding the temptation to include excessive detail in a paper. This can eat up valuable board-time and distract from the main message of the paper. Another issue is writing the paper in a manner that is understood by everyone who is on a board. This includes those who have little or no knowledge of the subject of the paper. This is where an official board paper process that has clear guidelines, and a system to check the papers before they are distributed could prove very beneficial.

Making use of a formal writing style and the use of plain English is important to ensure that the information in the board papers is accessible to all board members. This is especially true in the case of boards that include members with different areas expertise such as marketing and finance. A glossary of acronyms and terms can be useful. Getting peer feedback and commentary on the paper is also extremely helpful since it allows fresh eyes to review the document and to spot any ambiguity.

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