Blog post by Andrew Harvey, non-executive director at Registers of Scotland
Having joined the Registers of Scotland Board in the summer (after four years as a member of its Audit and Risk Committee), I’ve now been to my first meetings. It’s been great to get to know the organisation better and to meet so many of our people in recent months.
I’m pleased to have joined a board that works really effectively yet, at the same time, is always looking for opportunities to improve – that seems just the right balance to me.
Most of my career has been in marketing and communications leadership posts, most recently in professional services firms, but for the past five years or so, I’ve worked in a range of non-executive director roles. That gives me a chance to compare and contrast, as well as suggest ideas that I’ve seen work well in other places.
A big focus at our November board meeting was our scheduled review of our corporate plan, along with the supporting budget and KPI data. The reality is that, however good a plan is, it will never quite be capable of predicting what actually happens to an organisation. In some ways, RoS is more exposed to external factors than many, not just movement in the property market, but a whole range of other issues.
What’s really reassuring to me as a non-executive director (NED), is that the RoS leadership team has a strong understanding of the ‘levers’ of the business – so can react quickly and assuredly when there are changes in the mix of work we are seeing.
In short, our review told us that, despite some unanticipated changes in the mix of work coming to us, we were broadly on budget and our performance against KPIs was continuing to improve in most areas. That’s a good place to be.
Alongside ‘business as usual’, we try focus on a particular part of RoS at each meeting. In November, that was understanding better our Learning and Development offer. Whilst I’m by no means an HR professional, I do chair the HR Committee of a Government body in England and Wales, so am always interested to see what other organisations are doing.
From my point of view, this is an area in which RoS makes a considerable (and justified) investment of time and money. It was good to see the team committed to continuous improvement in what it does and to offering everyone at RoS a broad range of development opportunities.
Sticking with people matters, we received an update on this year’s Civil Service People Survey. It won’t be until the New Year that we get the full results, which will allow us to respond to the survey and work through areas for improvement that colleagues have identified. That’s so important for making sure we focus on what really matters to people.
We always take a short time to look ahead to what business we are going to cover in the next few meetings. We’ll be focusing on the RoS People Strategy early in the new year, reviewing our 2020/21 budget (and challenging ourselves to do better, as you’d expect) and giving some attention to our development as a board.
Finally, at the end of every meeting, one board member feeds back to colleagues on the meeting what went well and what we could do better. It was my turn to do this at our most recent meeting. I reflected that our NEDs had put some real challenges to the Board, that the Board had responded well to that and that our plans were better as a result. Jennifer and the Executive Management Team asked us to ‘challenge and comment’. We’d done that in a supportive way, which is just what our role should be.
If you want to get in touch about any aspect of the RoS Board and its work, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org