The Board of Directors of surveyed companies by McKinsey want to spend more time on Strategy,Risk and Talent than they are doing. According to the McKinsey study the the time spent on these things have not gone up since the economic crisis. So where is the problem?
Most times the Board of Directors just go by the agenda set out by the CEO and keep peace by approving whatever is proposed. It is considered "unfriendly" to challenge strategy assumptions of the management and it is almost sacrilege to challenge the talent assessments made by the top operational leaders.
However, given the lessons of the financial crisis the C-Suite need to consider Directors as well wishers and not people who need to be just impressed with the last quarter's results. Directors should be seen as people who can add real value to the organization – only if the top managers let them do so. Frequently though, Directors that offer contrary views to the majority or the management are marginalized and edged out of the Board.
The McKinsey study surprisingly finds that the problem of "not excellent" Board performance is more on family owned and privately owned companies. Extending this finding we can safely say that the situation is much worse on non-profit Boards where Directors are unpaid volunteers and somehow try to find time to volunteer.
In other words, things need to change at Boards across the spectrum from listed companies to family owned private ones and non-profits. A first step is for the CEO to allow and promote discussion on contrary opinions on high level issues like strategy and risk and genuinely involve the appropriate committees for talent. A bit like Jack Welch and his approach of letting Board members play golf with different candidates to understand them and their motivations better.