Is your paper really for ‘noting’?
I had a terrific question from a client today that highlighted a common strategic challenge.
How do we use a storyline to create a ‘paper for noting’?
These are papers that aren't asking for a decision but truly updating our audience on a topic. For example, they might do one of these things:
- confirm that something has been done
- explain that something is ‘on track'
Adrian was concerned that he didn’t have a ‘so what’, but rather wanted his Board to be aware of a problem so they were ready to hear about his business case in a couple of months’ time.
So, what to do?
I suggested that very rarely are papers truly for noting, but rather for endorsement.
We talked through three different options and landed on asking the Board to endorse the plan to prepare a business case.
Here’s why we made that choice:
Asking them to ‘note’ that we have a problem without any indication of what the team was preparing to do about it seemed lacking.
The team wasn’t ready to deliver a solution, but this option would leave the Board empty handed.
Asking permission to prioritise preparing the business case to find a solution to the problem was unnecessary.
Adrian had full authority, particularly when supported by the Senior Leadership Team, to prepare the business case without asking for permission.
So, we landed on a third path: asking the Board to endorse their plan to prepare a business case.
This strategy prepared the Board about the existence of the problem that required a solution, demonstrated early that the team was taking action and provided clarity around the next steps.
I hope that’s useful and look forward to sending more ideas through next week.
PS – If this topic interests you you may also enjoy the Board Papers MasterClass facilitated by my colleague and expert board advisor, Jane Stutchberry.