Beyond PowerPoint — making meetings meaningful, and integrating the board with the company’s operations and executives at Netflix:
At most companies, directors have a less complete understanding of the company than executives because of their limited exposure to day-to-day activities. The format of the information they receive does little to overcome this information deficit. The typical board book of a large corporation is a dense PowerPoint presentation spanning hundreds of pages in length. Some directors find these presentations heavy on data but light on analysis.
Furthermore, boardroom dynamics impede information flow, particularly in settings where the CEO maintains strict control over the content presented, when presentations are carefully scripted, and when presentations are made by only a limited number of executives.
Netflix takes a radically different approach. It incorporates two unique practices. First, board members periodically attend (in an observing capacity only) monthly and quarterly senior management meetings. What’s more, communication with the board comes in the form of a short, online memo that allows directors to ask questions and comment within the document. Executives can amend the text and answer questions in what is essentially a living document. We believe these two innovations meaningfully contributed to Netflix’s extraordinary performance in recent years.
Unlike the stiff, formalized approach to most director-executive interactions, Netflix encourages its board members to spend time watching the company operate “in the wild.” The company holds three regularly scheduled executive meetings to which board members attend.