During a recent strategic planning project, the members of a public retirement system board expressed a desire to Mosaic to revisit their agenda development process. The board met monthly as a requirement of applicable law. The meeting calendar and agendas had followed a similar sequence for some years. Approval regarding investment manager decisions had evolved from requiring action by the plan sponsor to being made by the board.

While its meetings were productive, this continuous improvement-minded board wanted to examine constructively, and be intentional about, how to optimize the board’s time and involvement instead of simply continuing with the current routine. They wanted to ensure that the board could not only address required items but also have the time to regularly engage in strategic discussions about the organization and its future. Mosaic was retained to design and facilitate a structured discussion for the board, its advisory committee, and senior staff to exchange ideas and build consensus.

The Approach
We analyzed the system’s current applicable law, by-laws and policies. Board responsibilities were examined in light of Board requirements and best practices. We conducted interviews with all of the members of the board, advisory committee and senior staff to uncover individual sentiment about what was working well and what might need to evolve. We then designed and facilitated a discussion with the board, its advisory committee, and senior staff, presenting compiled themes from the pre-meeting interviews to advance the discussion. We drew out perspectives and preferences about how the organization collectively ought to move forward. Mosaic recommended and was directed to develop three key deliverables to capture the discussion outcomes and board direction: 1) a board charter, 2) a formalized statement of delegation from the board to the executive director, and 3) a board work plan for the next full year of board meetings.

The Results
The board reached consensus on and approved the implementation of all three deliverables. Several additional ideas stemming from the facilitated discussion were also implemented. First, the new board work plan codified the board’s decision to receive quarterly, instead of monthly, investment performance reports. Second, the board delegated additional investment responsibilities concerning investment manager due diligence and selection. Third, an amendment to the organization’s applicable law was successfully sought to provide the board with more authority and flexibility concerning the frequency of its meetings. The board now has fewer meetings, yet they are optimized in alignment with the consensus preference to provide ample time for required reports and actions, planned focus topics, and strategy discussions.