My name is Zita Unger. I am director of a private consulting company in Australia offering online corporate diagnostic tools. I also participate in a program for company directors that provides a confidential forum to share experiences of directorship and discuss current challenges faced by directors.
One recent company director session centered on a credit union board appraisal as the focus for discussion. The credit union questionnaires were a classic case where assessment forms lacked the bare essentials of good survey design, which included:
- Scant attention to the purpose of board assessment. Hardly inspiring or informative! Yet, the motivation for respondents to engage with, and complete, an assessment survey would be greatly enhanced by a clear description of its importance and value to board effectiveness.
- No mention of confidentiality. Would individual responses be accessible to others or reported as aggregated results? Who would have access to data? How will data be reported and debriefed? This is a sensitive area for board assessment where confidence in open and honest feedback among participants can quickly evaporate.
- No reference to governance standards or theoretic foundations. Rather, board performance was rated according to loosely defined “characteristics”. What are the major dimensions that represent competencies of governing boards? Board appraisal results should arrive at a composite profile of board effectiveness that enables appropriate debrief and follow-up action.
Hot Tips for a well-dressed survey: For the respondent experience to be meaningful and the survey process seamless, a number of elements should be in place that one cannot afford to ignore:
- A compelling introductory statement especially one that is endorsed by the Chair and CEO, showing commitment to the process.
- Branding and tailoring specific to the organization, building credibility for the survey.
- Hints and guidelines for providing constructive feedback, as a positive tool contributing to the continuous improvement process.
- Use of demographics and attributes, supporting in-depth analysis of data and personalizing the survey experience.
- Assurances about how the data will be treated, engendering trust in survey integrity and the board assessment process.
Board Assessment surveys should be easy and inviting to answer because adequate process, methodology, motivation, instructions, format and navigation have all been considered.