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Understanding Board Surveys’ WhatWhoHowDo Framework


Board studying on desk to understand board surveys framework

One of the reasons why so many organisations benefit from our board surveys is our board benchmarking survey methodology which is based on our world recognised WhatWhoHowDo Framework.

The WhatWhoHowDo Framework was designed based on a deep analysis of the four most important dimensions of a high performance and highly effective board.

Read on to learn more about this framework and how it can help your board succeed today.

The four elements of the WhatWhoHowDo Framework

The WhatWhoHowDo Framework is divided into four factors, or dimensions, which are as follows:

  1. What
  2. Who
  3. How
  4. Do


These four factors are all crucial if you want a high performance. You can’t just be first class in three of these areas. All four are essential.

“What” — Board structure and role clarity

The “What” dimension includes a clear charter of the board’s responsibilities, those of the Chair, individual directors and importantly, how those roles differ from the role of the CEO and executives. This dimension also encompasses the roles and responsibilities of board committees, the appropriateness of the size, structure and independence of the board and its committees, and clarity around performance expectations for individual directors.

“Who” — Board composition

The “Who” element fittingly relates to who is on the board, focussing on the overall mix of  director skills, competencies and attributes and the extent to which such fit the current and future strategic needs of the organisation. How new directors are recruited, their induction and opportunities for education and development are also factored in. This section explains and measures the extent of gender, ethnic and age diversity. It also assesses whether there is appropriate ongoing board renewal which includes succession planning for the replacement of the Chair, Committee Chairs and important skills and experiences that need to be replaced.

“How” — Board process

The “How” section focuses on the board’s processes and the internal working of the board. It is essential that these processes work well if the board is to function well. When these processes don’t work well the board is often described as dysfunctional which unfortunately is a lot more common than it should be.

The board’s processes (the How) includes the following factors, all of which need to be working well if the board is to function well:

  • Board Chair leadership
  • Individual director behaviours/dynamics
  • The way the performance of the board is managed
  • Board relationship with management
  • How meetings are operated
  • The quality of the information received and internal reporting


Whether board processes are working well or not is determined behind closed doors – or inside the boardroom. This makes it tricky to understand whether a board is effective at the How from outside the boardroom. This is also why our board surveys are so important at helping measure and improve what is otherwise unseen.

If the How is not working well it is unlikely that the board will be completing its main  tasks (the Do) very well either.

“Do” — Board tasks

The “Do” section deals with the board’s main tasks and how they are performed and how the board adds value. Many board surveys and board reviews don’t sufficiently cover these crucial areas of a board’s effectiveness.

Our board surveys asses the following main task of a board:

  • Direction, strategy, and planning
  • Board priorities
  • Oversight of organisational performance
  • Organisational culture and integrity
  • Governance of risk and compliance
  • Executive talent and succession planning
  • Value add and continuous improvement


By carrying out its tasks (the Do) well, the board can significantly impact the long-term performance and success of the organisation. Conversely, if the board is asleep at the wheel the organisation can be put at significant risk.

Benefitting from the WhatWhoHowDo Framework

Board Surveys have assisted organisations worldwide in their assessment and ultimate improvement thanks to the WhatWhoHowDo Framework. Our proven surveys and the processes we have built around our surveys work well for boards of all sizes. They are also designed to be used annually to ensure your trajectory is in the right direction.

Ask about applying the WhatWhoHowDo Framework and Board Surveys surveys and processes to your organisation’s review and data collection efforts today, and reap the benefits tomorrow.


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