The heart of good governance is effective board meetings. Great meetings can bring foresight, new perspectives and wise judgements. Poor meetings get bogged down in the details of the past.
Attending to four basic disciplines brings great results. Rigorous agenda planning, done jointly by the chair and chief executive, is essential. The majority of board time should be allocated to understanding key changes in the external environment, anticipating opportunities and exploring ways of achieving the mission.
Agreeing regular matters in one 'consent' item, unless members have raised a concern before the meeting, helps to minimise time spent on routine reports. Points of detail should be dealt with outside the meeting.
Top quality board papers are also essential. Papers should be vetted by the chief executive and crucial ones by the chair as well, to ensure they pinpoint the key governance issues the board needs to debate.
Finally, setting the right tone is crucial. It should be focused and energised, always expecting members to make contributions of the highest standards. Boards that are on top of their meetings spend most of their time creating an inspiring future for their organisations.