Effective board reporting: Writing

Dr Judith MacCormick FAICD
Principal partner, BoardFocus

In part one of our series on effective board reporting, Dr Judith MacCormick FAICD, principal partner, BoardFocus, provides five key tips for writing a board paper.


Effective board reporting informs better strategic decision making, builds trust and provides the platform on which boards can work with management to add real value to the organisation. Below are a selection of tried and tested tips that can contribute to better board reporting – and enhance your communication skills more broadly.

1. Before you start writing your report, employ the “PACKO” principle. Think about:

P What is the PURPOSE of this report? Why should a board member spend time reading it?

A Who is your AUDIENCE? What background and expertise do the board members have?

What are their expectations of style, content and presentation? What do they need to know for effective governance vs what management wants to share? Stand in their shoes.

C What is the CONTEXT for writing this report – what is the background, what has changed, what might change?

K What three to five KEY MESSAGES do you want board members to remember after reading your report?

O What is the OUTCOME you are hoping for? What are you asking the board to do after reading this report – make a decision? Note the key issues? Discuss and challenge the threats and opportunities you have identified?

2. Ensure your report makes a clear connection to the organisation’s strategy. Whether you are reporting on past performance, proposing a new venture, or requesting more resources, how do the issues in this report relate to the strategy and “what success looks like” for the organisation, e.g. KPI impact?

3. Schedule time to revise, revise and revise your report. Ask others to constructively critique your report and return the favour. Both constructing and critiquing roles will improve your writing.

4. Remember e= mc2. Indeed (mis)quoting Einstein “if you can’t make it simple, you don’t know the content well enough.”

5. Three C’s: Keep it clear, concise and complete. No jargon or big words (include a glossary for technical terms and new topics).

The more you work on improving your board reporting, the better you will become as a communicator (and leader). The board is always looking at the quality of talent in the organisation – make your capability evident in the excellence of your board reporting.