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Are your boardroom discussions effective?


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Scott Goddard

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Key Takeaways

How much time does your board put aside for future-focused discussions, and acts to prepare for upcoming risks and capitalise on opportunities? It can make all the difference!

Here you will receive:

  • Practical Tips for Fostering a Culture of Strategic Thinking
  • Practical Questions for Board Members
  • Strategies for Appropriately Raising Challenging Questions in the Boardroom

Future-focused discussions and asking the right questions at Board meetings are becoming increasingly essential for boards as they navigate the complexities of today’s business landscape. By prioritising forward-looking conversations, boards can drive innovation, oversee and assess if risks are managed effectively, and setting the organisation up to capitalise on emerging opportunities. This discussion paper explores the importance of future-focused discussions in shaping strategic agendas and offers practical tips for fostering a culture of strategic thinking and scenario planning within the boardroom.

The Importance of Forward-Looking Board Discussions

Future-focused discussions play a crucial role in driving innovation, managing risks, and capitalising on emerging opportunities for organisations.

Driving Innovation: Future-focused discussions enable boards to anticipate market trends, technological advancements, and changing consumer preferences. By exploring emerging opportunities and disruptive forces, boards can through specific questioning can foster a culture of innovation and guide strategic decision-making to stay ahead of the curve.

Managing Risks: Proactive risk management requires boards to anticipate and prepare for potential threats to the organisation's success. Future-focused discussions allow boards and management to identify and assess risks, develop mitigation strategies, and build resilience against future challenges, ensuring the organisation's long-term viability.

Capitalising on Emerging Opportunities: In today's fast-paced business environment, opportunities can arise unexpectedly. Future-focused discussions empower boards to recognise and seize these opportunities, whether through strategic partnerships, market expansion, or new product development, driving sustainable growth and competitive advantage.

Practical Tips for Fostering a Culture of Strategic Thinking

To foster a culture of strategic thinking within the boardroom, consider implementing practical tips such as encouraging open dialogue, investing in education and training, utilising scenario planning, benchmarking against peers, and establishing strategic committees.

Encourage Open Dialogue: Create a boardroom environment where directors feel comfortable sharing diverse perspectives and challenging conventional wisdom. Encourage open dialogue and debate, fostering a culture of constructive dissent and critical thinking.

Invest in Education and Training: Provide directors with ongoing education and training opportunities to enhance their understanding of industry trends, emerging technologies, and strategic management principles. Equip directors with the knowledge and skills they need to contribute meaningfully to future-focused discussions.

Utilise Scenario Planning: Incorporate scenario planning exercises into board meetings to explore alternative futures and their potential implications for the organisation. By considering a range of possible scenarios, boards can develop robust contingency plans and adapt their strategies to changing circumstances.

Benchmark Against Peers: Benchmark the organisation's performance and strategic initiatives against industry peers and competitors. Analyse industry trends, best practices, and successful case studies to identify opportunities for improvement and innovation.

Establish Strategic Committees: Create specialised committees or task forces within the board to focus on specific strategic priorities, such as innovation, digital transformation, or sustainability. These committees can conduct in-depth research, formulate recommendations, and drive strategic initiatives forward. These committees could be strengthened with expert advisors constructively challenge existing business models and strategies and identify new business opportunities.

Practical Questions for Board Members

Directors can ask various types of questions to foster a culture of strategic thinking and scenario planning within the boardroom. These questions are designed to stimulate critical thinking, encourage exploration of alternative futures, and facilitate informed decision-making.

Here are some types of questions directors can ask:

Exploratory Questions

  • What are the emerging trends in our industry or market?
  • How might technological advancements impact our business in the next 5-10 years?
  • What are the potential disruptors that could affect our industry landscape?
  • Are there any untapped opportunities or unmet needs in the market that we should be considering?
  • How do we compare to our peers in terms of our customer value proposition, product profitability, operating capital management and other key metrices.  

Challenge Questions

  • What assumptions are underlying our current strategic plans?
  • How might our competitors respond to our current strategy?
  • What are the risks associated with our proposed course of action?
  • Have we considered alternative scenarios and their potential implications?

Future-Oriented Questions

  • Where do we see our organisation in 5, 10, or 20 years in terms of key metrices for example market share, product profitability, return on investment and assets?
  • What are our long-term strategic objectives, and how do we plan to achieve them?
  • How can we position ourselves as industry leaders in the future?
  • What steps can we take now to ensure our long-term sustainability and success?

Scenario Planning Questions

  • What are the different possible futures that our organisation might face?
  • What are the key drivers of change that could impact our business?
  • How resilient is our current strategy to various potential scenarios?
  • What are the best-case and worst-case scenarios we should prepare for?

Risk Management Questions

  • What are the primary risks facing our organisation, and how do they align with our strategic objectives?
  • How can we mitigate the risks associated with our strategic initiatives?
  • What contingency plans do we have in place to address potential disruptions?
  • What are there any emerging risks that we should be monitoring closely?

Alignment Questions

  • How well do our current strategies align with our mission, vision, and values?
  • How do we know that all stakeholders adequately considered in our strategic decision-making process?
  • How can we ensure alignment between our strategic objectives and our resources, capabilities, and culture?
  • What measures do we have in place to track progress towards our strategic goals and adjust course as needed?

Learning and Improvement Questions

  • What lessons can we learn from past successes and failures? And how are we sharing these across the organisation?
  • How do we foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement within our organisation?
  • What feedback mechanisms do we have in place to solicit input from employees, customers, and other stakeholders?
  • How can we use insights from scenario planning and strategic discussions to refine our strategies over time?

By asking these types of questions, directors can stimulate strategic thinking, encourage robust discussions, and enhance the board's ability to anticipate and navigate future challenges and opportunities.

Strategies for Appropriately Raising Challenging Questions in the Boardroom

Navigating the traditional and hierarchical culture of the Middle East when raising challenging questions in the boardroom requires tact, cultural sensitivity, and strategic communication. Here are some tips to appropriately raise challenging questions:

Build Relationships: Invest time in building relationships with key stakeholders before the boardroom meeting. Establishing rapport and trust can help mitigate potential resistance when raising challenging questions.

Respect Hierarchy: Acknowledge the hierarchical structure of the organisation and show deference to senior members. Approach them with respect and humility, recognising their authority and expertise.

Seek Permission to Speak: In some cases, it may be appropriate to seek permission from senior members before speaking. This demonstrates respect for the hierarchy and ensures that your contribution is welcomed.

Frame Questions Respectfully: Start by acknowledging the expertise and authority of senior members in the room. Frame your questions carefully and in a respectful manner, emphasising your desire to contribute to the organisation's success and seeking their valuable insights.

Choose the Right Time and Place: Select an appropriate time and setting to raise your concerns. Avoid public confrontations or situations that might cause embarrassment. Instead, opt for private meetings or informal discussions where you can address the issue discreetly.

Use Indirect Language: In hierarchical cultures, direct confrontation may be perceived as disrespectful. Use indirect language and subtle cues to raise concerns, such as posing questions as hypothetical scenarios or seeking clarification on specific issues.

Seek Consensus: Emphasise the importance of collaboration and consensus-building in decision-making processes. Encourage open dialogue and invite input from all members of the board, fostering a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect.

Present Evidence-Based Arguments: Support your questions with factual evidence and data-driven insights. This demonstrates that your questions are based on objective analysis rather than personal opinion, making them more likely to be taken seriously. Demonstrating a thorough understanding of the issues at hand can lend credibility to your concerns and facilitate constructive discussions.

Leverage Diplomatic Channels: If facing resistance in the boardroom, consider leveraging diplomatic channels outside of formal meetings. Engage in one-on-one discussions with key decision-makers to address concerns and garner support for your viewpoints.

Highlight Potential Benefits: When raising challenging questions, emphasise the potential benefits of addressing the issues at hand. Highlighting opportunities for improvement and growth can encourage buy-in from stakeholders and foster a more receptive atmosphere in the boardroom.

Adapt to Cultural Norms: Be mindful of cultural norms and etiquettes when raising challenging questions. Respect hierarchies, avoid interrupting senior members, and maintain a calm and composed demeanour throughout the discussion.

Listen Actively: Be prepared to listen actively to the perspectives of others, especially those in positions of authority. Show that you value their input and are open to alternative viewpoints, even if they differ from your own.

Encourage Diverse Perspectives: Encourage diversity of thought and perspectives in the boardroom. Acknowledge the value of different viewpoints and experiences, fostering an environment where challenging questions are welcomed and respected.

Follow Up Appropriately: After the boardroom meeting, follow up with relevant stakeholders to address any lingering concerns or questions. Reiterate your commitment to the organisation's success and offer support in implementing constructive solutions.

By employing these strategies, you can navigate the traditional and hierarchical culture of the Middle East effectively while raising challenging questions in the boardroom, fostering constructive dialogue, and driving positive change within the organisation.


Future-focused discussions and asking the right questions at Board meetings are critical for boards to shape strategic agendas, drive innovation, and navigate uncertain terrain successfully. By fostering a culture of strategic thinking and scenario planning within the boardroom, organisations can anticipate emerging trends, manage risks effectively, and capitalise on opportunities for growth and success in an increasingly dynamic business environment. A critical role of a Director is to ask the right question to the Board and Management to facilitate innovation and long-term success of the organisation.

Contact us if you need more information or advice.


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