Regular evaluation is one of the most important ways of managing board committees, according to Liesel Wett, CEO Pathology Australia, who is a director on boards including Osteoporosis Australia and Goodwin Aged Care Services, the largest NFP in Canberra.
How do you choose committee members?
"We’re just going through an exercise at Goodwin to look at our skills gap. It’s quite a structured process but the first thing is to understand the skills, experience and backgrounds of committee members. Then you can see where the gaps are and how to fill them to ensure you can make the best decisions possible.
"It also depends on the focus of the organisation as well, and what you need at the time. The skillsets of committees shouldn’t be allowed to stagnate – they need to be refreshed regularly depending on the current strategy and politics."
Is there a danger of too many committees?
"Getting the right balance is always the trick. What’s going to give you the best outcome from a policy and governance perspective?
"In a previous organisation, we had so many committees, the staff were tied up in knots servicing all of them and nothing got done. So you can have too many and that diverts from the main game."
How often should the committee system be reviewed?
"Probably every couple of years although if you’re going to review your strategy significantly you probably need to do it earlier.
"In the meantime, evaluating the outputs and the contribution of committees is important. Otherwise you can have a lot of people meeting but not actually doing!"
What’s the best way to handle committee reports in the board meeting?
"We try to direct committee reports into one of two pathways: one is for noting that certain work is happening, and the other is where a decision or action is required.
"A smart chair will place those two different reporting styles from committees onto the agenda appropriately. You don’t want to discuss things that are for noting, but you might want to discuss something that’s for decision.
"So be clear about what you’re asking the board to do."
Already a member?
Login to view this content