You wont get good answers unless you have good questions. This rule also applies to board reviews where the importance of utilising well-crafted and effective survey questions cannot be overstated. The insights gained from board evaluations are crucial in improving organisational governance, enhancing decision-making processes, and fostering a culture of accountability and transparency. However, with the proliferation of online resources, finding survey items that have undergone rigorous testing and have proven to deliver reliable results can take significant time and effort.
While thousands of survey items may be available on the web, the truth is that many of them have only been used a handful of times, lacking the necessary validation and robustness. Relying on untested or unreliable questions can lead to skewed results, rendering the board evaluation process ineffective and potentially hindering the organisation’s progress.
To ensure accurate and meaningful outcomes from board reviews, it is essential to rely on sample board review questions that have been tried and tested. These questions have demonstrated effectiveness in various contexts and have undergone rigorous evaluation to ensure users receive reliable insights. By utilising such questions, organisations can have confidence in their results and make informed decisions based on the feedback received.
Well-designed versus poorly worded
Well-designed survey items are carefully crafted to focus on a single concept or theme, ensuring clarity and precision in the feedback received. On the other hand, poorly worded survey items can lead to confusion, ambiguity, and inaccurate responses, making it challenging to draw reliable conclusions from the evaluation.
One critical difference between well-designed and poorly worded items is their ability to effectively address a single concept. Well-designed items are focused and specific, allowing respondents to provide clear and targeted feedback. For example, a survey item that asks for a rating on the following:
“Management promptly communicates bad news to the Board (including ‘red flags’ and warning signals).”
By concentrating on one aspect at a time, people can provide accurate ratings based on their understanding of that specific area. This clarity helps boards to identify specific strengths and weaknesses and develop actionable plans for improvement.
In contrast, poorly worded items that combine multiple concepts within a single survey statement can be problematic. Take, for example, the item
“Directors have good relationships and ask probing questions.”
This item encompasses two distinct concepts, making attributing low ratings to a specific area challenging. If the rating is low, it is unclear whether it reflects poor director relationships, a lack of probing questions, or both. This ambiguity undermines the validity of the results, making it challenging to pinpoint the specific areas that require attention or improvement.
Organisations can better understand their board’s performance by separating these concepts into specific survey items. For example, having separate items like “Directors have good relationships with each other” and “Directors ask probing questions during board meetings” allows for more precise feedback and the results provide actionable insights. This approach ensures that each concept receives appropriate attention and evaluation, enabling organisations to identify and address specific areas for growth.
Other considerations for survey items in board reviews
Some potential problems highlight the importance of considering the expertise behind the design, the level of testing and validation, and the potential biases inherent in certain statements. Please consider:
- Lack of Expert Design: Many survey items found online or in generic templates are not necessarily designed by survey experts. Creating effective survey items requires a deep understanding of survey methodology, question construction, and governance and board review experience and expertise. Without expert input, there is a higher risk of poorly constructed or ineffective survey items that may not capture the intended information accurately.
- Limited Testing and Real Life Use: Most survey items available online or in generic templates have only been used a few times, if at all. These items lack the proven rigour and reliability that can only come from extensive testing and comparison of the relevant results. Adequate testing requires a sufficiently large sample size to ensure statistical significance, and very few pre-made survey items have undergone such rigorous testing.
- Lack of Psychometric and Statistical Validation: A robust survey instrument should undergo psychometric and statistical validation. This process involves analysing the survey items’ internal consistency, reliability, and validity. However, very few survey items found online or in generic templates have been subjected to such validation. This means that you can’t reliably conclude what you think is being measured.
- Ineffectiveness of Certain Statements: Some survey statements may cover matters that, contrary to their intentions, make a board less effective rather than more effective. For example, statements focusing solely on harmony or agreement among directors might overlook the importance of constructive dissent and diverse perspectives. It is crucial to carefully evaluate the content and implications of each survey statement to ensure they align with best practices, promote effective board dynamics and actually lead to an improvement in the board’s effectiveness.
Other ways to improve how you interpret survey results
You can enhance the board survey interpretation process with a well-calibrated response scale. The response scale used in the survey plays a critical role in capturing the nuances of respondents’ opinions. A response scale that allows for appropriate response differentiation helps gather more accurate and meaningful data.
For example, a yes/no response scale or a limited 3, 4, or 5-point scale might need to provide more granularity to capture the subtleties in board members’ perceptions. Consider implementing a response scale with a broader range or using a Likert scale that offers more response options, allowing respondents to express their opinions more precisely.
Benchmarking is another valuable technique that allows organisations to compare their board’s performance against external or industry-wide standards. Some survey items may be inherently easier or more challenging to respond to, leading to potential mis-interpretation of the results in the absence of benchmarking. Benchmarking helps address this issue by providing a reference point for comparison.
By comparing their results to those of other organisations or established benchmarks, boards can better understand their strengths and weaknesses relative to their peers. This comparison enables a more comprehensive and contextual interpretation of the survey results.
Benchmarking can be done by leveraging industry associations, specialised consultants, or existing data sets specific to board evaluations. It provides valuable insights into how the organisation fares and highlights areas for improvement or potential best practices that can be adopted.
Ensure a robust and reliable board review process
Engage the professionals at Board Surveys who have designed survey items based on thorough testing and validation, ensuring alignment with established best practices in board governance. Board Surveys also offers comprehensive benchmarking to ensure survey responses are not mis-interpretted.
Your goal is to gather accurate and actionable feedback that leads to tangible improvements in board performance and effectiveness, and we have helped many hundreds of organisations achieve this. Try our free trial today and receive your benchmarked report to understand how quality benchmarked survey items can lead to improvement in your board.